Persad-Bissessar on Tiah’s withdrawal from Paria probe: ‘Good riddance, may God bless you’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kamla Persad-Bissessar –

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has welcomed the decision by Eugene Tiah to remove himself from an investigative committee surrounding the Paria diving disaster, which claimed the lives of four men on February 25.

She spoke with the media after a memorial service for Kazim Ali Jr at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Harris Promenade, San Fernando.

Persad-Bissessar also slammed the Energy Chamber for what she described as interference in the investigation through its recommendation of Tiah to be on the investigative committee. “I have no objection to any NGO, any chamber or any organisation taking a stance on an issue and expressing views. I do take objection when partisan interests do so under the disguise of neutrality, and they are not.

“They are self-serving, they depend on the government, and they depend on the State. Tiah is now saying that he is stepping down, something he should have done from the beginning.

“Energy Chamber, I am not letting you off the hook. You will have to account for the STOW certification and charging $40,000 – $60,000 for renewals. So, you could also become part of the investigation,” she said.

The Opposition had raised concerns about the appointment of Tiah and his relationship with Energy Minister Stuart Young as his lawyer in a previous matter and role of the Energy Chamber objectivity.

On Tuesday morning Tiah, a former energy chamber chairman, in a statement, withdrew from the committee set up to probe the Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd incident which involved contractor company LMCS.

He said, “It appears that the good of the country is subservient to the shenanigans of a few. I have thus taken the decision to withdraw from the investigating committee.”

Persad-Bissessar responded to this, “Good riddance, farewell and may God bless you. But then (he) came up with a statement about the shenanigans of some. Well, I am disgusted by shenanigans of the partisan interest in the Energy Chamber.”

The Energy Chamber held fast to its position on Tuesday that Tiah was an experienced professional within the energy industry and was known for his integrity and commitment to safety leadership.

“As the representative association for the industry, the Energy Chamber’s priority, and responsibility, is to support a thorough and detailed investigation into the incident and to subsequently share the findings of this investigation so that lessons learned are incorporated into industry safety policies, procedures and practices to avoid any similar incident in the future.

“It will now consult with relevant stakeholders, including the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, on how we should proceed in supporting this critical investigation,” the Chamber said.

Persad-Bissessar also objected to representatives from Shell and bp being on the investigative committee and claimed they too were clients of the State.

She said, “The committee has fallen off. I don’t know what will happen to the others. I am being told that the international companies named may not be interested in serving, but we wait for the Government.”

Calling it inhumane and callous, Persad-Bissessar criticised the treatment of the diver’s families.

“Up to now they have offered no help to the bereaved families. The Government has not even offered a Crix biscuit or a cup of coffee or tea.

“What about the counselling Stuart Young boasted about in his press conference. I have not seen such callousness and inhumanity,” she said.

She pressed for the suspension of Paria’s management and those involved in the incident.