Gail Alexander and Joel Julien
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Mass demonstration over oil spill today
Petrotrin is bracing for a mass demonstration today outside its Pointe-a-Pierre administration offices as Marabella residents and the Oilfields’ Workers Trade Union (OWTU) unite to protest against the company’s response to last Tuesday’s oil disaster. The residents, who will be led by OWTU president general Ancel Roget, have vowed to come out in their numbers to register their displeasure at Petrotrin’s alleged failure to address their health concerns and calls for compensation.
The residents’ lives were disrupted by the oil leak last week, which happened after one of Petrotrin’s tanks (MP6), containing slop oil, ruptured at its base. The oil escaped from the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and made its way into the Guaracara River. Yesterday the pungent smell of oil hung in the air at Silk Cotton Road, Sixth Street Extension and Mango Alley, as Petrotrin workers cleaned up the oil-stained river bank.
Roget, who met with the residents to hear their concerns and took a tour of affected areas in Marabella, hinted Petrotrin employees may be part of this morning’s demonstration at 8 am. “You got to leave something for the element of surprise. We do not want to forewarn them. What I will say is, the employees are also at risk of both their health and their safety, lives and limbs,” Roget said as he addressed the media during his meeting with the residents.
He said the situation in Marabella was the tip of the iceberg and “indicative what we were complaining about all of the time.” People living in Marabella were at serious risk, he said, calling for them to be evacuated from the area immediately until it was safe for them to return. Hydrogen sulphide gas, which was being emitted from the oil, he said, “is such a tricky and dangerous gas that when you cannot smell it again, that is when it is most dangerous.
“When you become accustomed to it, that is when it is most deadly and therefore the residents who they left in the environment continue to be a risk,” he said. The OWTU, he said, was demanding that residents be respected and relocated, “as they will do any other citizen.” He said for the residents to get that type of respect they had to show and demand that they deserved it, as he called on them to join the OWTU and stage a mass demonstration at Petrotrin’s administration building at the Pointe-a-Pierre roundabout.
That, he said, was the first step. “If they did not respond adequately, we are going to take it to another level. We are not today going to expose what that level is. “The OWTU has a responsibility not just for the workers and their pay but for all of T&T and all of those who are in the direct impact,” he said. His declaration was greeted with cheers from the residents, who are calling for relocation.
While some of those affected by the oil leak were squatters, Roget said, thats should not be a matter of concern. “These residents are human beings deserving of proper and decent attention and respect. “It has nothing to do with regularisation, it has to do with human lives and their health and the highest level of disrespect meted out to them. “Right now our priority is not to check residential status as to whether they are regularised or not,” he said.
Roget dismissed Petrotrin’s planned independent probe into the oil leak, saying he had no confidence in any such investigation. He also alleged that Petrotrin had been threatening certain media houses, saying it would pull its advertising if they continued to publish adverse reports about the state-run oil company.
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