Why is Labour Minister silent on Paria incident?

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UNC Senator David Nakhid and Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh address the media at the Opposition’s media briefing on Sunday. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The Opposition is questioning why Labour Minister Stephen McClashie has remained silent on the drowning deaths of four divers who were working on undersea pipeline installations for Paria Fuel Trading Ltd.

UNC MP Rudy Indarsingh posed the question at the opposition’s weekly Sunday press briefing held at the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port of Spain.

Indarsingh and Opposition senator David Nakhid addressed issues of wage negotiations, agriculture and rising food prices as well as the drowning deaths of the four divers at the press conference.

Indarsingh said attorney Gerald Ramdeen presented a bundle of documents, Paria’s log of events and a second autopsy report done on the body of of one of the divers at a press conference held at Trinidad Hilton last Thursday and there was a deafening silence from Energy and Energy industry Minister Stuart Young and Paria’s chairman Newman George.

Ramdeen called for the Government to scrap the commission of enquiry into the incident and for independent investigations by the police and Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA).

Young also said both OSHA and the police were investigating the matter.

Referencing the Occupational Health and Safety Act, he said TT must be told if the OSH authority failed to do its job. The OSHA falls under the remit of McClashie.

“And I ask the Minister of Labour and the chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, Victor Coombs and his board, was this done? …We need answers…”

He also said that the country had not heard from McClashie.

“The Minister of Energy has hijacked this whole process.

“Why has the Cabinet hijacked this particular process? Is it to protect the friends of the Prime Minister?” he asked.

“We do not know what is the composition of this investigative team under the OSHA. There is a sad state of affairs. More than 50 per cent of the inspectors of OSH are on contract. We do not know if the people who are carrying out these investigations are on contract.

“Will their contract expire during the tenure of this investigation…?” he asked.

Indarsingh also asked how many industrial accidents have not been fully investigated and reported in TT, citing the investigation into the 2021 NiQuan explosion.

He said acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob received an interim report and based on the importance of the surviving diver to these investigation, the UNC wants to know if Jacob has given consideration to providing round-the-clock security to the survivor and his family.

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