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Activist calls for global action against T&T

La Brea oil spill
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Residents of La Brea listen to Mike Singh of Greenpeace International during his visit to the area on Monday. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

As La Brea residents lined roadways to protest the continued effects of last December’s oil spill, Greenpeace International activist Mike Singh called for an international movement against T&T over the environmental disaster. Accompanied by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union on Monday, Singh met with La Brea residents and members of the Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) at Coffee Beach, where oil-stained rock and leftover oil booms remain an eyesore. 



Despite claims that residents still suffer from rashes, nausea, diarrhoea and chest pains, visitors to Queen’s Beach and Carat Shed beach continue to swim in the water. Walking through the area, Singh said, “This is a crime being perpetrated by Trinidadians against Trinidadians. This has nothing to do with politics, this has nothing to do with race, colour, creed or class. This has to do with the basic assault on the environmental rights of poor people, who use the sea for their daily sustenance and for their daily survival.”


He said if Petrotrin were under sanction by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there would have been grave consequences. However, because Petrotrin and the investigating agencies were government entities, he said, there was unlikely to be any fair compensation. He said Petrotrin’s board should be replaced, just as the board of directors at First Citizens had been.


“I am dumbstruck by the fact that so many thousands of barrels of oil continuously leaked into this Gulf of Paria, which is not only Trinidad’s water, but also Venezuela’s. The currents go south, so we are also concerned about the long-term implication of this marine damage for the waters of north-western Guyana. 


“What has gone on here would not be permitted in any self-respecting society. In the United States, the EPA would have already shut down Petrotrin and the leaders of Petrotrin would have been arrested and thrown into some dark dungeon somewhere. “Because the perpetrators of this crime against the environment are those who rule, [and] the leaders of justice are one and the same, I have no confidence that you’re going to get a fair legal redress in the courts of this country. 


“This, based on what I have seen, based on what I have read, based on what has been shared with me, constitutes a legitimate cause for an international environmental movement against this country. Because it is not only restricted to your waters, it has gone internationally into the gulf and as such, even Venezuela can become party to any potential international litigation.” Singh arrived in T&T on Sunday night at the invitation of local Greenpeace representative Judith de Verteuil. His trip was sponsored by the OWTU. 


Singh said he will embark on a fact-finding mission, as the activist group is considering launching a chapter in T&T. During his seven-day visit, he is expected to meet with those affected by the oil spill, with the HRM over the Debe to Mon Desir leg of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway, and with the Save Our Green Space Committee (SOGSC) in relation to the Orange Grove Savannah in Tacarigua.


He said since December 17, he had catalogued all local and international articles on the oil spill, which he later presented to Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo. He also announced that he will participate in the Joint Trade Union Movement’s “Mother of All Marches” on Friday.



Roget repeats: It’s a cover-up

Describing the oil spill as a tragedy of enormous proportions, OWTU president general Ancel Roget said Petrotrin’s board and Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine were being supported by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in trivialising the disaster. “There is cover-up involved simply because there are people in high places who wanted to protect themselves. “This thing goes right up to the minister and certainly, it is correct to say the board is culpable and the senior management is culpable in that regard,” Roget said.


Roget said an unspeakable level of disrespect was being meted out to La Brea residents. Leading the placard protest yesterday by the La Brea Environmental Protectors Organisation, La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey said Petrotrin and the Government had been tardy in compensating oil-spill victims.
He said people in the area still complain about ailments and are calling on the Government to implement a health programme to monitor the long-term health effects caused by exposure.


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