Paria divers remembered on second death anniversary

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Family and friends of the four divers who died in the Paria tragedy during a walk in Couva to mark the second anniversary of their deaths on Saturday. – Lincoln Holder

On February 24, the eve of the second anniversary of the Paria divers’ tragedy, relatives and well-wishers took to the streets of Couva in a peace march to highlight their displeasure over the Government’s handling of the issue as well as to share fond memories.

The event The Paria Platform – A Call for Justice began at the Couva Magistrates Court and ended with a rally at the constituency office of the Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh at Camden Road.

Vanessa Kussie, the widow of Rishi Nagassar said it is a hard day for her. Kussie, who is the councillor for Couva West/Roystonia, added: “I still cannot believe my husband is gone. I will not believe it still. Today is a very sad day for me just by saying the word diver.”

“Tomorrow marks two years, and it is like a black Friday for us. When this incident happened, Paria officials never called. This hurts up to today.”

As she wiped away tears, she accused the state-owned company Paria of destroying the family’s happiness.

Nagassar was among five divers employed with Land and Marine Contracting Services Ltd (LMCS), who died after being sucked into a 30-inch pipeline at Berth No 6 at Pointe-a-Pierre in February 2022.

They were doing maintenance work for Paria. The other deceased were Fyzal Kurban, Kazim Ali Jnr and Yusuf Henry. Christopher Boodram was trapped in the pipe but miraculously managed to crawl to freedom.

Boodram was not at the rally owing to a family engagement.

Ali Jnr’s mother, Catherine Ali, also addressed the gathering, saying she was interested in looking at definitions of justice from lived experiences, which can be used to design processes that deliver justice.

She said justice was a very large concept. Ali said if she were to ask everyone what justice is, she would get many different answers. Ali added she has no interest in revenge or revictimisation.

“But I am extremely interested in larger understandings of justice that have to do with rebalancing with creativity, with development and peace. I know we have justice systems, but the definitions of justice in these systems have come from outside those who set up those systems. Their definition is defining the justice system.

She charged that there are new areas of justice like environmental, gender and climate.

“These are being defined by large global institutions, and again they have not come from here. I think it would be very interesting to start looking at our own definitions and to start in a grounded and practical way and to say to people who can say they had an experience of justice what it is,” Ali said.

“Can you say what you felt when you experienced justice? What was the sense of justice that you had? Can you describe that? We could take these narratives and get the elements of justice that people have felt. This way, we can start building something that might be more meaningful.”

She added that only then would people be able to say what a just society, an ethical company, and an orderly society are.

“In this way, we can build things that are more meaningful and have more understanding of justice for ourselves. This can be done anywhere by anyone in any workplace, any community, any union, any credit union or any NGO.”

Indarsingh, who was among the organisers said the laying of the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) report in the Parliament was the beginning of the real struggle for justice.

He called on the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to lay out a clear road map for implementing all of the recommendations of the report.

“But more importantly, we want to hear from the Government what the road map is as it relates to the implementation of deep sea commercial diving regulations. Deep sea diving continues to take place on a daily basis, and we are not hearing from the Government where the roadmap is as it relates to this report,” Indarsingh said.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee thanked Indarsingh and his team for organising the event and keeping the issue alive.

He recalled that a year ago, trees were planted on the compound in memory of the divers.

He said before the report of the CoE was sent to the Cabinet, the contracts of several senior officials were renewed.

Lee called on the Government to come clean with the information about these contracts, adding that the Opposition had repeatedly called for Paria’s board and management to be sent on leave during the investigations and for them to be fired.