Persad-Bissessar hits Energy Chamber again over Paria probe nominee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. –

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has questioned the Energy Chamber in a second statement for naming engineer Eugene Tiah to the committee investigating the tragic death of four divers working on a pipeline at Pointe-a-Pierre belonging to Paria Fuel Trading Company.

She asked if the chamber was an independent lobby or a cheerleader for the Government.

“I note with great concern the overt entry into the political arena by the TT Energy Chamber in attempting to sanitize the Government’s appointment of Eugene Tiah to the Paria Trading investigation committee. Almost immediately after my questioning of the appointment of Mr Tiah, the Energy Chamber responded to support the Rowley Government.”

The chamber issued a statement on Saturday describing Tiah as highly respected, with a very strong reputation for safety leadership, and said it had full confidence in him.

Dubbing the chamber’s statement “overtly political and boorish,” Persad-Bissessar asked if it had been unanimously supported by all members of its executive management, including those representing oil and gas multinationals. She regretted that the chamber’s board saw no issue with Tiah’s presence on the investigative committee, as she recalled questions over his role on the board of eTeck, where he was represented by Stuart Young, now Minister of Energy, and Michael Quamina, now chairman of the Board of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd, the parent company of Paria, and the personal attorney of Keith Rowley.

“TT’s energy industry is in dire straits, but it appears that along with the nation’s falling gas production, professional standards among those on the board of the Energy Chamber have plummeted as well.”

Persad-Bissessar said the board included Mark Loquan of NGC, Arlene Chow of Heritage Petroleum and Vernon Paltoo of National Energy, who were all government-appointed.

“Furthermore, every single member of the board of the Energy Chamber represents companies who depend on the state for contracts and licences and are therefore clients of the State.”

She said under her government, the Energy Chamber was treated as a valued stakeholder, with her government ensuring some of the best incentives for exploration which then reaped massive benefits for Trinidad and Tobago.

“Sadly, today the Energy Chamber remains silent instead of calling on Government to explain why natural gas production is at a 15-year low, why LNG production fell 48 per cent in the third quarter of 2021 and, most of all, why despite a seven-year high of energy prices, this nation is not benefiting because production has collapsed under the PNM.”

Persad-Bissessar said she represented the interests of hundreds of thousands of citizens who relied on the Opposition to ensure their voices are heard, saying that unlike members of the chamber board, ordinary people can’t depend on lucrative deals with the Government to give them a voice.

Further, she reminded the chamber it might have questions to answer in the investigation, regarding the quality or legitimacy of safe to work (STOW) certifications conferred on firms involved.

“The Paria Fuel tragedy was the worst industrial accident in our nation for nearly 40 years. It is of critical importance that the public have complete confidence in the investigative committee to unearth the truth in this matter, not just for the families of the deceased but for the entire nation.”

Saying justice must be done and be seen to be done, she said Tiah’s appointment was completely unacceptable and any findings ny the team may be tainted by actual bias or apparent bias.

“I urge the TT Energy Chamber to decide whether it’s a vehicle to lobby for the best interests of the energy sector or just an echo chamber of cheerleaders for this failing Rowley Government. It can’t be both.”