Opposition tells BP, Shell: Stay out of Paria inquiry

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Senator Wade Mark. –

Opposition Senator Wade Mark and Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee are calling on energy companies BP and Shell to stay out of the probe into the incident in which four divers died, while doing maintenance work on an underwater pipeline at Paria Fuel Trading Co in Pointe-a-Pierre, on February 25.

Mark cited possible conflicts of interest in the relationship between Shell, BP and the Government, and an opportunity for cover-up.

“We know that both Shell and BP depend on the government for approvals and licenses. We also know that the Ministry of Energy is the regulator of Shell’s and BPTT’s operations (in TT). We also know that Shell and BPTT are intimately involved in the Atlantic LNG facility as well as the 102 megawatt solar farm which has cost them, and by extension the taxpayers, over US$300 million.

“So these are contradictions and they are serious conflicts. We need to take these things into account. We are appealing to Shell and BP, don’t be part of this charade.”

Levelling accusations of corporate manslaughter and industrial genocide, Mark said government appears to be attempting to hide the facts of the incident.

“From the outset, this has not been about finding the truth. This is about the government trying to cover up a scandal of the highest order.

“A committee of hand-picked individuals, all ultimately regulated by the Minister of Energy, and by extension the Prime Minister, cannot do justice.”

Mark also said he was advised by “sources” that Paria’s general manager Mushtaq Mohammed worked with BPTT.

Mohammed previously worked at BPTT as manager of procurement and supply chain and vice president of corporation operations.

“How can you have BPTT investigating a former senior manager who is at the centre of the controversy? That is a conflict of interest and a contradiction in terms, and that is why we are saying that BPTT must withdraw.”

Lee said the UNC would like to be aware of the terms of reference of the committee – the scope and limitations of the committee members’ areas of knowledge.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee. –

“If you go back to the last committee that laid a report in Parliament on the covid19, the terms of reference was not broad enough. Enough time was not given to that committee, so the report was very narrow.”

Lee also suggested there be two committees – one dealing with the procedures in the underwater repair, and another dealing with the rescue efforts.

“I am hoping that the investigation is not restricted to the repair process,” Lee said.

“We feel that part of the investigation should include the entire rescue mission.”

Mark and Lee suggested that international bodies be brought in to provide fair oversight. These included the United Nations’ Global Compact, International OSH regulatory committee, the International Labour Organisation and the FBI.

“This is so the family can feel some level of justice at the end of the process.”

At a post-Cabinet media conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Thursday, Minister of Energy Stuart Young guaranteed that the investigation would be transparent and independent as the people selected would not have worked on any of the projects involving the energy companies.

“It is a very big industry. In my meeting with Shell this morning, I asked that they don’t limit it (nominations for committee) to TT.

“I don’t have any concern, and I don’t see the need for concern that there would be any conflict (of interest) between BP and Shell and Paria.”