Land and Marine Construction Services (LMCS) managing director Kazim Ali Snr has doubts over the process and final report of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the Paria/LMCS diving tragedy, questioning the evidence given by some witnesses.
Speaking to Guardian Media on the telephone on Thursday, Ali Snr, whose son Kazim Ali Jr perished in the incident, said he was interested in the CoE findings.
“I have my doubts because I do not see how it could be honest if the main players in Paria were kept in their jobs. I do not see how people could give their evidence freely if I knew that those people were still in their jobs,” Ali Snr said.
Ali Snr recalled two questions to Chairman Jerome Lynch, KC during Wednesday’s final sitting on why the CoE did not call former Heritage Petroleum CEO Arlene Chow and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young to the evidential hearings.
He said Lynch dodged the question, saying Chow entered the event, but he has evidence that she was there from 5.30 pm.
“If you look at WhatsApp that was in the commission from Arlene Chow and Walker, from 5.30 pm, they were involved. They were more or less instructing Piper what to do.”
When Guardian Media contacted Paria chairman Newman George, he was in a board meeting and could not speak. Asked if he would comment later, he said, “I do not know what is in the report, so I cannot give any statement.”
Last year, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley ordered a CoE into the tragic incidents when LMCS divers Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Christopher Boodram were executing maintenance work on Paria Fuel Trading Company’s Sealine 36 at Berth No 6 in the Pointe-a-Pierre harbour on February 25, 2022.
The divers were inside a hyperbaric chamber when they removed an inflatable plug from the 30-inch diameter line that triggered a Delta P event, which sucked them in. Boodram crawled and swam back to the top of the line, where rescue divers pulled him out. However, the others remained in the line after Paria prohibited further rescue attempts and changed their response from a search and rescue to a recovery.
Within days, Paria flushed the remaining divers’ bodies out of the line.
During Wednesday’s sitting, Lynch announced that the report was complete and ready to be submitted to President Christine Kangaloo yesterday.
Communications adviser to Kangaloo, Cheryl Lala, confirmed that Lynch and Commissioner Gregory Wilson visited the President’s House yesterday at 10.30 am and handed over the document. However, Lala could not say when Kangaloo would forward the report to the Government.
Responding to the final hearing, Ali Snr said they lost 21 months awaiting the report.
He said he would not like the issue to drag on longer as there was nothing much he could do until the report became public.
“Everybody has been holding their hands pending until they publish it. So yesterday was not really a big thing, I mean, because unless the report is not made public, he might as well keep it to himself.”
Ali Snr said most people were only now aware that the Government has the authority to publicise or keep the report private. He reminded people that the Clico enquiry report was not public.
“I hope they do, but I do not know what will come of it.”
Ali Snr said the final sitting was a waste of time, and Lynch could have just given the report to the President and taken a photograph.
Widow: Whoever is responsible should be held accountable
One of the dead divers, Rishi Nagassar’s widow, Vanessa Kussie, said although the families contented to give the CoE more time to produce the report, they did not expect it to take so long. However, she was happy that it was complete.
Kussie hopes Kangaloo does the right thing and the public keeps abreast of the development. She and the other families want a personal copy.
“Well, in my view, I personally do not think that the family should be left out of being given a copy because it is our husbands who died there,” Kussie said.
She said no one checked the families for the past 21 months to see how they lived as far as the Government and Paria were concerned.
“You know, I had to do barbecue and pholourie sales and all these other things to do fundraising to do stuff before, and it was a big struggle. It is still a big struggle.”
Kussie said she felt comfort in some of Lynch’s responses during the final sitting, including when he wished he could gift her a copy of the report and said that the divers’ deaths were not an accident. She believes that based on what Lynch said, he felt there should have been a better response to their distress.
Kussie said the families must get justice for the divers and believes Lynch’s remarks point to liability for Paria.
“We need justice for our divers, and whoever is responsible should be held accountable.”