Tempers flare at RIC consultation in Chaguanas

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chaguanas residents carry a coffin to a consultation held by the RIC at Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas on Wednesday.
Photo by Angelo Marcelle –

What began as a consultation meeting in Chaguanas quickly turned into a shouting match as participants took officials from the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) to task over a proposed electricity rate increase on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting was held at Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas, and was intended to address questions and concerns from the public over a proposed rate increase.

Participants and several UNC MPs and councillors began arriving at the meeting just after 5 pm, many of whom carried placards and a mock coffin against the proposed rate increase.

The commotion began early in the meeting when executive director of the RIC Glen Khan was interrupted by resident Dulalchan Chattergoon who called on him to “get to the point,” using a microphone and portable speaker as other residents clapped and shouted their agreement.

Police officers assigned to the meeting had to intervene and called on Chattergoon to stop his interruption as Khan was allowed to continue his address.

However, tempers flared again when Khan remarked that, though he grew up in Chaguanas, he only recognised two of the attendees at the consultation, prompting jeers and shouts from the residents including Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh.

In response, Indarsingh challenged Khan and called on him to apologise to the attendees, arguing that everyone present was from Central Trinidad and were entitled to be heard.

“These people are from the communities in Central Trinidad!

“They are from Caroni Central, they are from Couva South, they are from Chaguanas.

“This is not an imported crowd, this is a local crowd!”

Khan eventually apologised for the comment adding that he meant no disrespect and was simply making an observation.

Khan in his remarks noted that rate increases were necessary, however, several residents in their contributions during the open floor segment challenged his reasoning, arguing that no justification was given for a rate increase.

Despite assurances from RIC chairman Dawn Callender earlier in the meeting that the commission was an independent, apolitical organisation, Indarsingh accused the officials of being “apologists” for the Prime Minister and Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales.

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh demands that RIC Executive Director Glenn Khan, apologies for statements he made at the consultation held by the RIC at Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas on Wednesday.Photo by Angelo Marcelle –

After several failed attempts to soothe the tensions of the participants, Callender told those present that she nor her colleagues would remain in any area where they did not feel safe.

This further aggravated the crowd who responded, “So what the police are here for?”

Indarsingh contended that neither Callender nor her team were in any danger.

After answering a few more questions from participants, tempers flared again when several persons called for a decrease in the electricity rates instead of an increase.

During the exchange, one attendee began dragging the mock coffin in front of the stage where the RIC officials sat, leading to objections from Callender who said she would end the meeting if the participants could not temper themselves.

In response, several people tore up RIC suggestion forms which were given to them on entry, littering the floor of the meeting room.

Indarsingh together with Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, San Juan/ Barataria MP Saddam Hosein and Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally argued that the meeting could not be adjourned as most of the participants did not get to ask questions.

Before she could leave, the MPs walked to the stage and continued questioning Callender for her decision to end the meeting, arguing that it was unfair to those who attended.

Indarsingh asserted that Callender was in no danger and offered to escort her to her vehicle if she was fearful.

Callender was escorted by police out of the meeting room and the mall via a rear entrance.

Even after Callender left the compound the MPs continued to air their frustrations as they recorded a video detailing the meeting while standing on the ground floor of the mall.