Union boss on Petrotrin’s closure: For Trinidad and Tobago to prosper, PNM must die

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President general of the OWTU Ancil Roget address members as they mark the fifth anniversary of the closure of Petrotrin with a walk and gathering at Pointe-a-Pierre roundabaout on Thursday. – LINCOLN HOLDER

On the fifth anniversary of the closure of the state-owned Petrotrin refinery, members of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) gathered at the Pointe-a-Pierre roundabout, expressing their disappointment and anger over the closure.

President general Ancel Roget addressed the “blue shirt army,” saying information obtained via the Freedom of Information Act on the status of Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd shows from October 2019 to September 2023, the state-owned company lost over US$ 2.6 billion.

He charged that instead of making foreign exchange, Paria is losing foreign exchange.

Roget repeatedly criticised the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government, saying the closure was politically motivated and not for economic reasons.

“At a time when refineries are making a windfall, 300 per cent and 400 per cent profit, our refinery is closed down,” Roget said.

“Alas, the eyes of the people are opening up because circumstances forced them to pay attention to what we have been saying for five years.”

November 30 marked five years since the closure of the Petrotrin refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre.

He said the “natural consequences” of the “bad decision” to close the refinery included the increase in gasoline, goods and services prices.

Roget added that the closure has also caused an increase in the unemployment rate nationwide, the abandonment of sporting facilities and crime.

The union leader added, “It is not that Rowley and them are smart, it is we have too many stupid people.”

He also criticised PNM supporters, saying they blindly support the party.

He also referred to the PNM party as a cult, adding that no matter how much suffering people face, people continue to support the party.

“I don’t want any PNM people to like me, to hug or thank me for anything. No. If you have to thank me for anything, thank me for talking the truth,” Roget said.

“If you want to challenge me, challenge me on the basis of facts, not some stupid old talk. I do not want you as friends. I have my family and my comrades. I want to be around to attend the funeral of the PNM.”

He said that for TT to live and prosper, the PNM must die.

He thanked four people, including University of the West Indies economist Dr Marlene Attzs and energy analyst Anthony Paul, for speaking “in the face of all adversities and condemnation” on the closure and its consequences on the former workers and, by extension, the nation.

In a recent online symposium, the two spoke about the lack of transparency and accountability at the root of the closure. Roget said she had been taking “plenty blows” and was “viciously attacked” for her stance.

Some retirees died because their medical plans were taken away.

He said retirees’ pensions are in jeopardy, and people, directly and indirectly, continue to be affected by the closure.

“No other party but the PNM is responsible for taking away your job, your medical plans,” he said.

On the recently concluded Commission of Enquiry (CoE) in the Paria tragedy, Roget called on members to join him in calling for the report to be made public.

He expressed concerns that people might want to “sanitise” the report and have their “media friends” assist them in putting out the new version.

He accused media personnel of being biased in the reporting on the closure, showing favour to the Dr Keith Rowley-led administration.

He criticised “a particular individual” from a “particular newspaper” for spreading misinformation against him and the union.

LMCS divers Rishi Nagassar Kazim Ali Jr, Yusuf Henry and Fyzal Kurban died after being trapped on February 25, 2022, inside a Paria Fuel Trading Company pipeline at Berth 6 in Pointe-a-Pierre. They were doing maintenance work.

Only one co-worker, Christopher Boodram, survived.

At the final virtual sitting on Wednesday afternoon, chairman Jerome Lynch, KC, announced that the final report on the incident was to be delivered to President Christine Kangaloo the next day. Lynch did not reveal details of the 380-page report but assured the answers about who is responsible are in the report.