UNC leader objects to Eugene Tiah’s role in Paria probe

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former energy chamber chairman Eugene Tiah – File photo/Roger Jacob

The Opposition Leader is challenging the proposed appointment of former energy chamber chairman Eugene Tiah to investigate the Paria diving incident based on Tiah’s previous client/lawyer relationship with Stuart Young in 2014.

In a statement on Saturday, Kamla Persad-Bissessar described Tiah’s nomination as “scandalous” and claimed it “opens the door to accusations of government tampering, manipulation and cover-up in these investigations.”

The Energy Minister on Thursday named Tiah as one of the five people who will be appointed by his ministry to investigate the Paria incident. He said Tiah, an engineer, was nominated by the Energy Chamber.

Court records show that in August 2014 Young was one of the attorneys representing former directors of the Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Co Ltd, including Tiah, in a lawsuit before the Appeal Court challenging a claim over a US$5 million investment in a Chinese-based company, Bamboo Network (Cayman Islands) Ltd which failed.

“At no time did Minister Young disclose the fact that in 2014 he was the lawyer for Mr Tiah in a matter in the Court of Appeal against Evolving Technologies and Enterprises Development Company Limited,” Persad-Bissessar said in her statement.

“Also representing Mr Tiah alongside Minister Young in that matter was Michael Quamina, who is currently the chairman of the board of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited, the parent company to Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited. Michael Quamina is also the personal attorney to Keith Rowley.”

Persad-Bissessar said it is scandalous for Tiah to be appointed to the investigative committee “without the fact of his prior close working relationship” with both Young and Quamina “being fully disclosed to the public.

Neither Tiah nor Young responded to a WhatsApp query seeking comment on the Opposition’s position.

Opposition senator Wade Mark previously called on multinational energy companies BP and Shell to withdraw from nominating experts to the investigative committee saying a conflict of interest arose since both companies depended on the government for licences and approvals and the energy ministry was the regulator of the companies’ operations.

On March 3, Young said attorney Shiv Sharma was selected to be appointed as chairman of the committee, with subsea expert Gregory Wilson, Tiah and experts from BP and Shell, yet to be named.

On February 25, five divers Fyzal Kurban, Rishi Nagassar, Yusuf Henry, Kazim Ali Jr and Christopher Boodram were sucked into a 30-inch pipeline at Berth 6 of the Paria Fuel Trading Co at Pointe-a-Pierre. Boodram was the only survivor.

The Opposition has described the incident as “the worst industrial accident” in TT in almost 40 years.

“It is imperative that the families of the deceased, as well as the public, have complete confidence in this investigative committee to unearth the truth without prejudice or bias. Justice must not only be done for the victims in this tragedy, it must be seen to be done,” the statement said.

In a separate statement, the Energy Chamber said in response to Persad-Bissessar’s concerns that it has “full confidence” in Tiah as the “most suitable person” to be part of the investigative committee.

“We had absolutely no discussion with the Minister of Energy and Energy Industry on this nomination and simply informed the Minister of our selected representative.” The chamber said Tiah is “a highly respected executive from the energy sector, with a very strong reputation for safety leadership.”