De Nobriga dismisses UNC claims of delaying Paria CoE

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Symon de Nobriga –

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Symon De Nobriga has dismissed Opposition UNC claims that Government was starving the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the February 25 diving tragedy at Paria Trading Company Ltd, Pointe-a-Pierre.

He was responding to a question on the matter from Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh in the House of Representatives on Friday.

“Let me assure members of this House that the insinuation at the base of the question is false.”

De Nobriga said instead of an absence of resources, as insinuated by Indarsingh in his question, “The chairman of the CoE (Jerome Lynch, KC) did highlight a need for additional resources. to ensure optimum operations at the CoE’s offices.”

In light of this, De Nobriga said, “I have been informed that stationery has been delivered (to the CoE), the provision of internet services has been sorted (out), the installation of workstations has begun.”

He also said additional personnel for the CoE are being sourced, “with additional staff expected to start (work) next week.” De Nobriga said all this is being done as quickly as possible.

Indarsingh was unimpressed by De Nobriga’s assurance Opposition MPs thumped their desks as he asked, “Can the minister give this country an undertaking that there would be no further delays to the commencement of this CoE, based on the incompetence of the Government of TT?”

In turn, government MPs thumped their desks in support of De Nobriga as he said, “I can assure the members of this House that this Government will continue to do everything that is in their remit to ensure that the CoE is resourced and the commission will conduct their business as they see fit.”

Indarsingh asked De Nobriga why Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, recently said the Office of the President was responsible for providing resources to the CoE when according to the TT Gazette, that function lay with the Office of the Prime Minister.

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George told Indarsingh and Opposition MPs who were thumping their desks in support, “I rule that question out of order, in accordance with the standing orders.”

In a statement on Thursday, the Office of the President (OTP) said it has no role/responsibility for financing or other resourcing of any aspect of CoE’s.

The OTP said, “The President appoints commissioners on the advice of and on terms provided by Cabinet and at the conclusion of the enquiry, receives the relevant report for onward transmission”

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked De Nobriga whether Lynch was wrong “to raise such issues as a lack of resources (to the CoE).”

Government MPs thumped their desks a second time as De Nobriga replied, “I am not questioning Mr Lynch’s comments. I am saying that the basis of the member’s (Indarsingh’s) question is false.”

Naparima MP Rodney Charles declined to pose a subsequent question to De Nobriga saying De Nobriga had already answered it.

At the CoE’s procedural hearing at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre on Wednesday, Lynch thanked Energy Minister Stuart Young for providing the commission with some resources, such as office furniture, last weekend.

But he lamented that commission lacked items such as stationery and staff to process over 4,000 pieces of documents, beyond reading and collating.

While the commission is ready to do its job, Lynch said, “We cannot, without the basic tools to carry it out.”