Eighteen civil society organisations are expressing concern about what they say is the lack of transparency in the decision to close down the Petrotrin Refinery and are demanding answers from the Government on the process used to arrive at the decision which they fear will have significant fallout in terms of the social impact on vulnerable groups and which may also result in an increase in violence against women when the majority male-dominated workforce is sent home.
Speaking on behalf of the civil society organisations Folade Mutota said, “We really need to halt on the decision,” and review the process by which it was taken to allow for one that is more participatory.
Mutota, who is the Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), said no one is immune from what is happening and everyone should be concerned, “we the people must speak on this issue, what is happening to the workers of Petrotrin is happening to all of us, the population of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
She said civil society organisations are not interested in the politics of the matter “but we are very concerned about the process and the possible fallout of the Petrotrin decision.”
She expressed concern that “at the heart of the problem is governance,” and the model of governance which “leaves the population out of the decision making process,” which they believe has to change.
The civil society organisations came together recently under the handle #IAmPetrotrin, and agreed that the Petrotrin situation demonstrated the need for an agreement between the State and the population to formalise a mechanism to trigger citizen participation in key decision making to be undertaken by the government.
The eighteen groups lamented the absence of “unbiased analysis” of the process which led to the decision to discontinue the operations at the Petrotrin refinery, noting there has been no dialogue with the population to allow citizens to get answers to some critical questions.
Those questions, according to Mutota, include what factors beyond the economics were taken into consideration in making the decision, what was the process for arriving at the decision, what consultative process was used for deciding on the course of action to be implemented, who were the persons or organisations consulted in analysing the social impact of the closure, was a social impact assessment done and what are the results, how will the social costs of the decision be mitigated, and what is the human resources plan to humanely manage the exodus of staff?
Mutota said the civil society organisations are also concerned whether any thought was given to the impact of the proposed unemployment of the majority male-dominated workforce on the rates of violence against women.
She said civil society is asking that there be a “national consultation around this issue so that the population could get the facts outside of the biased perspectives that are being presented by all the stakeholders.”
Mutota said the groups are as yet to decide whether they will seek a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in light of their stated concerns, or whether there will be protests. “I can’t say whether it will take us to the streets or not,” she added.
But, she said, the civil society groups want the Government to make public the reports that led to the decision to close the refinery, “that is a good first step in transparency and good governance.”
She said while the decision was being presented to the population as one that was “steeped in the economics of an unprofitable refinery,” consideration must also be given to the fallout in terms of the social impact, “good public policy making must actively seek to be informed by the mitigation of such fallout.”