Paria CoE to give update on final report

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Paria commission of enquiry chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, during a sitting at Tower D, Waterfront, Port of Spain on February 25. – Angelo Marcelle

THE Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into last February’s tragic diving incident at Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd in Pointe-a-Pierre, is expected to give an update this week regarding the submission of its final report.

On February 25, 2022, divers Rishi Nagassar, Kazim Ali Jr, Fyzal Kurban, Yusuf Henry and Christopher Boodram were doing maintenance work on a 30-inch underwater pipeline belonging to Paria when they were suddenly sucked into the pipeline.

Only Boodram survived.

The CoE was originally due to submit its final report to the President in May.

But in a statement May 5, the commission said it wrote to President Christine Kangaloo to seek a further extension until August 31.

The commission said the delay was necessary as those who were issued with Salmon letters have been given until June 9 to respond in writing, and until June 21 and 22 to respond orally.

Salmon letters are sent to individuals or companies that will be subject to criticism in a report.

Newsday understands there is the possibility that the deadline for the submission of the commission’s final report could be extended.

In a statement on July 14, the commission said its chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, and his fellow commissioner Gregory Wilson are working very hard to finalise the report.

“However, there has recently been a number of decisions dealing with the importance of the proper procedure to be adopted in CoEs.

The commission cited two cases.

The first was from the United Kingdom, R (Hexpress Healthcare Ltd) –v- Care Quality Commission.

The second was local, Civil Appeal P 286 of 2020 between Hart –v- The CoE-La Alturas Housing and others.

The commission said, “These cases deal with a range of issues to ensure fairness to everyone and that the parties have a fair opportunity to make their case in particular where there are to be criticisms of individuals that may affect their careers and lead to recommendations as to criminal conduct or a potential for the breach of a duty of care.”

The commission added that it has “sought to ensure that very outcome and everything it has done has been to ensure that no one is shut out. “

The CoE has received approximately 400 pages of detailed response to its provisional findings and a number of legal arguments that it needs to address.

“This process generates delay but it is a price worth paying to ensure a robust report insulated from unfairness.

The commission said, “We continue to work to have this report completed within the timetable provided and we are confident we will, albeit marginally later, than hoped.”

In May, Lynch said his duty was to provide the report to Kangaloo.

“Whether that is then imminently disseminated to the government and to the independent ministers responsible, whether it goes to the legal agencies, the AG’s department, the DPP’s department, will be dependent not on what I think but on what your government thinks.”

On March 8, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the CoE.

Dr Rowley said this was being done after complaints were raised by the Opposition UNC about the formation of a five-member committee of experts to investigate the incident.

Rowley said he had come to the conclusion that the situation had been politicised to such a high degree that the public would not now accept the recommendations of that committee.

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, was appointed the commission’s lead legal counsel.

In June, responding to a question from the Opposition in Parliament, Energy Minister Stuart Young said Government could not dictate to the commission or seek to influence its outcome.