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‘Firings at Petrotrin a ploy to fool people’
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley has accused Petrotrin of trying to hoodwink the public by firing six employees over the devastating Gulf of Paria oil spill. Speaking to party supporters in Couva on Tuesday night, the People’s National Movement political leader said he was taking the same stance he took with Udecott which resulted in him being fired as a government minister in 2008.
Rowley butted heads with then prime minister Patrick Manning over the corporate governance of the state entity and its then executive chairman Calder Hart. He insisted that he was fired because he questioned management and accountability in Udecott and not because of his conduct.
Recalling that he called for a commission of enquiry into Udecott, Rowley said: “And I said if that inquiry shows that all is well in Udecott I will resign my seat in Diego Martin West and I will walk away from public life...And the same stance I took against Udecott I take that same stance against Petrotrin today.
“And maybe if the lessons of Udecott were learnt, we would not be where we are today with Petrotrin where the Cabinet and board and the management are trying to pull wool over the eyes of the people of T&T by firing two, three, four people under questionable circumstances and threaten the country with serious industrial relations problems.”
Accusing the Government of deceiving the population and keeping secrets, he claimed: “The Government of T&T has been forced after they lost arbitration over the methanol plant in the Clico business, they have been forced to sell the methanol shares to the German minority shareholder. And one of the reasons they have been forced to do that as set by the arbitrator is because of the behaviour of the Government of T&T in the arbitration.”
Instead of telling the population that, he said the Government was telling PNM supporters who to vote for in PNM internal elections. Urging supporters to re-elect him as political leader in the party’s internal election on May 18, Rowley said he did not turn his back on the PNM even when he was fired. “If you want committed, strong, effective, competent leadership with a track record look at me and my team,” he said.
Labour relations officer Jennifer Baptiste-Primus debunked claims of racism by Rowley and the party. Among several Indo-Trinidadians who served with distinction in the PNM, she said, were Kamaluddin Mohammed, the first assistant general secretary and the longest serving PNM government minister, and Errol Mahabir, the third longest serving PNM minister.