UNC: Make Niquan Energy explosion report public before plant reopens

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Niquan Energy Trinidad, Pointe-A-Pierre. File photo/Roger Jacob

TWO Opposition MPs are urging Government not to restart Niquan Energy on the Heritage compound at Pointe-a-Pierre without first making public the report on the disaster which caused its closure in the first place.

One month after Niquan, the former World GTL plant, was sold to former government lobbyist to the US Ainsley Gill, in March 2021, there was an explosion, which caused its temporary shutdown.

Investigations were to be followed by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and the Occupational Health Authority (OSH).

Recent media reports indicate that Niquan was granted full approval by the Energy Ministry to restart operations soon.

At the United National Congress (UNC) Monday night Virtual Report, Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh said he was deeply troubled by this report, as it was a workplace incident.

From a business perspective, Indarsingh said he was happy for operations to restart so people can get jobs and the economy a boost.

But he said any workplace incident in TT has to follow the rule of law, and there is an OSH Authority which is empowered to investigate and give approval.

He called on Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie to say what has happened to the report of the agency and to make it public to ensure Niquan is fit to restart operations.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee, speaking on the same platform, recalled questioning Energy Minister Stuart Young in Parliament on April 8 about the report and making it public.

Quoting from the Hansard, he read excerpts of Young’s response that the findings would not be made public, as Niquan was a private company and could not commit to divulging confidential information in the public domain.

“I want to remind Minister Young, Niquan sits on property owned by taxpayers called the Petrotrin (Heritage) compound. We own that compound. We, the citizens of TT, own that compound, and if anything were to happen on that compound, citizens have to be aware.”

Lee said he also had a responsibility for the safety and security of his constituents, some of whom live near the plant.

“This is not a private plant. This is not private property. We, the citizens, own that property, and we must stand up for the people of Marabella, who want to know what took place in that disaster.”

Lee said there was not mention of the OSH report and also demanded it be made public before operations restart .

The two men also called for fair play and justice for the four drowned divers and the lone survivor of the Paria tragedy in February.

In light of criticism by chairman of the commission of enquiry (CoE) Jamaican jurist Jerome Lynch, KC, about the underresourcing of the commission, the two men said Government should be ashamed of this debacle.

Indarsingh also chastised Attorney General Reginald Armour, who he said tried to throw legal counsel to the CoE, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and the office of the President, under the bus to deflect from who was really responsible for the underresourcing.

Both Maharaj and President Paula-Mae Weekes immediately responded that they were not responsible for resourcing the commission.

“In an unusually swift response, the Office of the President issued a release immediately, embarrassing Amour, and reminded Armour, who is a Senior Counsel, that based on the Constitution, the President simply makes appointments to the CoE on the advice of the Cabinet.

“It is this same Cabinet of which Armour is the second highest office-holder and to which Armour, most frighteningly, is legal counsel.

“It is a shame that Armour is the Attorney General of this country, and a Senior Counsel, yet he doesn’t know that commissions of enquiry fall under the Office of the Prime Minister Keith Rowley.”

He said any law student could have told the AG who was responsible.