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OWTU calls for public inquiry on Petrotrin

Roget: Hassanali must go
Published: 
Monday, August 4, 2014
Petrotrin workers carry out clean-up operations at the Guaracara River in Pointe-a-Pierre. PHOTO:RISHI RAGOONATH

President general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget says Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali must go and a public inquiry into the operations of the company must be launched. This as he expressed dissatisfaction with the suspension of Petrotrin’s vice president of refining and marketing, Mado Bachan. Bachan’s suspension was announced on Saturday by Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette after last week’s oil spill.

In an interview yesterday, Roget said the decision to suspend Bachan was not good enough and called for Hassanali to be removed. “Nobody is pointing to the fact that it is the president who has ultimate responsibility for the operations. Were this BP Amoco, British Gas, Repsol, any one of the multinational corporations or any serious company the president would have long gone. We continue with him when he has to take ultimate responsibility before his VP and top managers and so on. He seems to be an untouchable,” Roget claimed.

Last week Tuesday a ruptured oil tank (MP 6) at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and the bund wall, which was supposed to contain the spilled oil from the tank, collapsed leading to oil escaping from the refinery and entering the Guaracara River. Last December oil was spilled into the Gulf of Paria along the southwestern peninsula. Roget said Petrotrin’s top management should not have allowed to remain after having presided over two major oil spill disasters in just under one year. 

He called for an independent public inquiry into the operations of Petrotrin, including the company’s hiring practices. He alleged that the company was recruiting unqualified personnel for top positions and that is “hurting and harming the company.” The OWTU, Roget said, has placed blame for the current “fiasco” in Marabella squarely at the feet of the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

He explained that the OWTU wrote to the Prime Minister requesting a meeting on a matter of urgent national interest with pertinent information that, if not acted upon, there would be a repeat of the disaster that occurred in La Brea on December 17. 

“The Prime Minister refused to meet with us and as a result of that Tuesday’s situation happened. We could have predicted that. Our point is if they did not take action on a matter of urgent requirement or make remedies to the aging infrastructure that threaten the limbs and lives of workers and the environment, if they did not act on it with a proper and aggressive programme then we would continue to have disasters of that nature repeatedly,” Roget argued.

He said Persad-Bissessar’s failure to deal with the root cause of that December spill and who caused it has the country back to where it is today. “After that major disaster this country should not have to be going through another disaster again. We went through it because she protected her friends on the board and her friends in management at Petrotrin. She appointed a national taskforce. Where are the recommendations from that taskforce?” Roget said.

Roget said the La Brea situation was not properly dealt with and now in Marabella people lives are turned upside down. “Their livelihood is affected they cannot cook or provide a daily meal for themselves. Businesses were shut down. All of those things occurred, but you have a president of a state enterprise remaining. We will have many more disasters like that unless we remove Khalid Hassanali and the top management of Petrotrin,” Roget argued. 

He said the OWTU has evidence in its possession which will reveal to the public on the real cause of the oil spill. Roget has promised to meet with Marabella residents to hear their concerns today.