Paria diving tragedy enquiry in pre-hearing stage

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO: Paria Fuel Trading Company’s Berth Six in the Gulf of Paria of Point-a-Pierre.

THE Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into the tragic deaths of four divers at a pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd in February, is in its pre-hearing stage.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert made this statement in the House of Representatives on Monday.

The CoE was appointed on April 22. The commission is chaired by of former head of Jamaica’s Appeal Court Justice Cecil Dennis Morrison QC (chairman). Local sub sea specialist Gregory Wilson is a member of the commission. Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is its lead counsel.

Imbert said, “Since the commission has been sworn in, steps have been taken and are being taken to put the administrative infrastructure for the commission in place.”

This includes the establishment of a secretariat for the CoE to begin its hearings.

“The commissioners are currently involved in the pre-hearing stage of the inquiry which is also known as the investigative stage.”

Imbert said, “During this stage, the relevant evidence is obtained and identified and the relevant witness statements are prepared.” He added, “This investigative stage of the inquiry is regarded as the lifeblood of the inquiry and prepares the way forward for the evidential stage of the inquiry, at which witnesses will be called to give evidence.”

The CoE’s procedural hearing is scheduled for August.

Imbert said, “After the procedural hearing stage of the inquiry is concluded, an announcement will be made by the commissioners as to the proposed commencement date of the evidential stage of the inquiry.”

Later in the sitting Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis said a Coast Guard crew that was on duty at Paria’s Pointe-a-Pierre compound on the day of the incident has not been relieved of seagoing duties

That crew is a shore-based dive team. As such, Robinson-Regis said that team “cannot by definition be relieved of seagoing duties.”