OWTU: Government disrespecting ordinary citizens

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

OWTU president general Ancel Roget (left) and education and research officer Ozzi Warwick. – AYANNA KINSALE

EDUCATION and research officer of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ozzi Warwick is advocating for a shift in wealth from the few to the many.

Warwick said there is growing inequality in the country, where the poor are demonised and treated with disrespect.

“Our country is in crisis. Ordinary people are hurting. The state apparatus, those with political power, show great disregard for ordinary citizens, for ordinary organisations that are doing all that they can to improve the quality of life not only of their members, but the quality of life of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said this shift to bring about an economic balance is what the OWTU, through its company Patriotric Energies and Technologies, was trying when it bid to run the Petrotrin refinery after that company’s closure: “To make the shift, the great economic paradigm shift, but that was not the intention of those in power.

“We see that even amongst other organisations where there is an attempt by the ordinary people, organising themselves, to bring some level of balance, in order to ensure economic power is not only with some small cliques, financiers and friends of government, but that we all have a stake that we can all enjoy the resources of the land.”

He referred to the Scrap Iron Dealers Association (SIDA), which was denied permission for the second time in about a month to hold a motorcade to highlight some of the social ills facing the country.

Stressing the loss of decent jobs, industries, social protection such as pensions, and increases in the cost of utilities and fuel, Warwick said this drive was about a public energy future.

“It is about a TT that ensures social justice for all citizens and not just a TT that is about concentration of wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.”

Warwick said the government is creating a republic for those who have the means of capital while ordinary people are only counted for their votes.

“We are seeing growing inequality in TT. We are seeing growing insecurity and uncertainty, a high level of anxiety by ordinary citizens who are just trying to survive, just trying to put food on their tables for their families.

“This drive for progress is about how do we envision a different type of TT, where ordinary citizens’ lives are not only about survival, but they can in fact dream and envision themselves and their families having a decent future?”

What is happening, he said, “is an emerging culture of disrespect, starting at the highest level of political office, where ordinary citizens are disrespected, where during press conferences we are buffed like we are children, we are not treated as equal, where organisations are demonised simply because they do not agree with Government, where proposals, suggestions and ideas of alternative paths are ignored, thrown to the side, and if you speak out, then you are demonised.”

SIDA says the motorcade, which is to be rescheduled, is not just about highlighting its desire to get government approval to jumpstart the industry by monetising wreckage from the sea and benefiting from scrap from the former Petrotrin.

Its efforts have been joined by the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and the OWTU.

At a SIDA news conference, Warwick said the drive for progress is a strong statement by ordinary citizens who are willing to take a stand to ensure a better and brighter future.