Month: September 2018

September 2010- RAPID RAIL PROJECT CANCELLED (Part One)

The decision was taken by the People’s Partnership Government not to proceed with the rapid rail project on September 8th, 2010. This resulted in the continued overcrowding of the nation’s roads and loss of productivity in the work place and the classrooms.

In 2018, countless, thousands of workers and schoolchildren continue to arrive at work and school under needless stress occasioned by traffic jams and requiring time to unwind thus, effectively, reducing their output.

The multi-passenger rapid rail trains would have been positioned to lift, say, 800 to 1,000 each as opposed to the four or five-seater conventional taxi or private car; the 12-24 passenger maxi taxi and the larger 50-passenger bus. In turn, the utilisation of the rapid rail would have meant that far less gasolene and compressed natural gas would have been needed on an annual or five to ten-year basis, thus releasing the volume of energy saved to earn additional valuable foreign exchange.

The discarding of the rapid rail programme should not have been based on the initial cost of laying down the tracks, acquiring the trains and operating the system.

Hundreds of millions of dollars would have been saved annually through workers reaching their places of employment well in time and stress free.

Additionally, the man hours saved would have made the country’s products, whether energy based or non-energy based, that much more competitive, not only in regional and international markets but in the domestic market as well. It would have been a plus as the nation moved toward diversification of its economy. The introduction of rapid rail would have, tacitly, subsidised manufacturing costs of many a product and this would have been reflected in increased demand for our goods and services.

It would have been myopic for the People’s Partnership Administration to have viewed what clearly should have been a smooth running and efficient service in terms of profit and loss.

Guido Moss, the celebrated United States transport expert, who had been sent to Trinidad and Tobago by the US Operation Mission to the West Indies to advise on the establishment of a transport system, stated: “Public ownership of transport is very generally operated at a financial loss.”

Admittedly, Moss, who submitted his Report and recommendations on February 20, 1961, had been commissioned to investigate bus transport.

Nevertheless, his arguments with respect to the multi-passenger bus as opposed to the conventional taxi could be employed today for rapid rail in relation to even the buses and, certainly, the maxis and taxis.

Moss stated: “With its five passengers per taxicab compared to 50 passengers for a bus, ten taxicabs are required to carry the load of one bus.” Similarly, for one train lifting, say, 1,000 passengers, 200 five-passenger taxis would be needed and 20 50-passenger buses!

What would have been important as well would have been the effective marketing of the rapid rail system. This would have included marketing the spin off benefits of promoting stress free travel, on time arrival at offices and job sites and classrooms, greater productivity in the work place leading to T&T goods being more competitive.

Meanwhile, if the People’s Partnership Government had reservations about the cost of the rapid rail cars and models which the previous People’s National Movement government had accepted, other models and designs could have been considered.

The journeys would have been hassle free in air conditioned comfort. Residents offering their patronage would have been guided by time tables.

The former railway service which was phased out on December 28, 1968, had been around for almost a century.

PM calls on Nation for a greater sense of oneness

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley wants the peo­ple of T&T to set aside their dif­fer­ences and unite as one.

He al­so called for a greater sense of one­ness as he briefly ad­dressed the au­di­ence at the Queen’s Park Sa­van­nah yes­ter­day dur­ing the in­ter­faith ser­vice ti­tled Songs of De­vo­tion, which marked the na­tion’s 42nd an­niver­sary as a Re­pub­lic.

The Prime Min­is­ter urged the con­gre­ga­tion to dis­miss past no­tions say­ing: “What­ev­er you might have been think­ing years ago, if you had doubt that there would have been a day like this, to­day, this day is here.”

Reaf­firm­ing his com­mit­ment to T&T and its peo­ple, the Prime Min­is­ter added, “If you ever had any doubts this morn­ing about our fu­ture,” the voic­es of those de­liv­er­ing wor­ship, “should con­vince us that we are one strong, beau­ti­ful lit­tle na­tion.”

He went on, “If at the per­son­al lev­el we thought we might have lost our way, some­where to­day in the Qasee­da, some­where in that Bha­jan, some­where to­day in that spir­i­tu­al, I hope like me, you have found your con­fi­dence to know that T&T is a na­tion un­der God.”

As the au­di­ence ap­plaud­ed, Row­ley ac­knowl­edged the ef­forts of those re­spon­si­ble for putting to­geth­er yes­ter­day’s pro­gramme as he said it had lift­ed every­one’s spir­its.

Row­ley said, “No­body promised us a per­fect day every day but there are promis­es that we can’t de­ny as wher­ev­er we wor­ship, even when we weep, we know that joy cometh in the morn­ing.”

T&T partners in security talks

This country and its international partners exchanged information and held conversations on various security matters at an interactive meeting held by the Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

A statement issued yesterday by the ministry said this meeting occurred on Tuesday at its offices at Tower C of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre. National Security Minister Stuart Young, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dennis Moses participated in this meeting.

Young and Griffith engaged diplomats about their respective portfolios. They assured diplomats they would work closely with them on all security matters. Moses, who is also Minister in the National Security Ministry, reaffirmed Government’s commitment to adhere to its obligations as host state to the Vienna Convention and in keeping with TT’s laws.

Trinis sanctioned by US for supporting terrorism

Two Trinidadian men, Emraan Ali and Eddie Aleong, have been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for suspicion of supporting terrorism and terrorist activities.

In a release earlier today, the US Treasury said Ali was designated for acting for or on behalf of ISIS. Syria-based, dual US and Trinidadian national, Ali has been involved in money transfers from Trinidad and Tobago to Syria in support of ISIS.

The US Treasury release stated that as of January 2017, Ali would receive and provide funds to Trinidadian ISIS fighters. For several years, a number of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in Syria received money transfers through Ali. In the summer of 2015, Ali lived at an ISIS guest house in Syria and had been assigned to Raqqah, Syria.

The US Treasury release stated that Aleong was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of ISIS.

As of March, Trinidad-based Aleong facilitated money transfers to ISIS members in ISIS-controlled territories. As of January 2017, a Trinidadian ISIS supporter possibly planned to work with Aleong, to transfer funds to Ali, who would then provide the funds to Trinidadian ISIS fighters in Syria.

AG goes after bank records of Contractors

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has filed for judicial assistance in the United States to subpoena bank records of local contractors and their families there.

The objective is to trace the source of funds connected to multi-million dollar properties bought by these contractors in Florida that were named in a 2016 civil lawsuit and to determine whether the monies they allegedly corruptly received in Trinidad and Tobago were deposited in US bank accounts.

In the application filed in October 2017 in a US court, the State indicated the evidence would assist in a pending civil matter before the Trinidad and Tobago High Court of Justice on behalf of three State-owned entities and their respective line ministries: Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) and the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).

The AG explained in the court documents that they were seeking ‘evidence to support a claim filed by the HDC and its line ministry against nine defendants and to support a series of claims made by putative claimants and their respective line ministries that will be brought against several contractors and public officials in Trinidad and Tobago for inter alia, fraud, bid rigging, breach of fiduciary duty, unlawful means conspiracy, dishonest assistance in breach of fiduciary duty, unconscionable knowing receipt of public funds and breach of contract under Trinidadian law.’

Property purchases

Then-minister in the Office of the Attorney General Stuart Young

who had called a press conference in 2016, explained that the contemplated civil action was brought after a year-long forensic investigation in which the named contractors allegedly engaged in illicit cartel behaviour and were awarded contracts at inflated market rates and in some instances received payment for work not performed at all in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

Young then had identified the companies as TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth), Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit), Namalco Construction Services Ltd (Namalco), Fides Ltd (Fides) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) which was awarded a construction package for the Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla.

In court documents obtained by CCN from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the Trinidad and Tobago government said, ‘It is believed that some of the contemplated defendants used the proceeds of this corruption scheme to purchase real property and/or open bank accounts in the Southern District of Florida.’

Two properties-one owned by the Ramnauths at 800 Northwest 120th Avenue, Plantation, Florida which according to websites are valued at between $US1.7 million and $2 million – and a high-rise apartment (Unit 1501) owned by the Ramhits at Diplomat Oceanfront residences at Hollywood in Fort Lauderdale form part of the Trinidad and Tobago government’s request for information.

In ‘Exhibit A’ attached to the application, Young in his declaration of support for the judicial assistance explains that the ‘HDC, EFCL and EMBD will be claimants in a series of contemplated proceedings against specific contractors and public officials, some of whom will overlap as defendants in more than one proceeding.’

Young names several discovery targets that they expect to be subpoenaed to testify at the deposition in a civil action at the attorney’s law office of Arnoldo Lacayo representing the Attorney General in this matter.

They asked that real estate agents involved in the transactions of the properties, lawyers and other related businesses, make themselves available at a date and time to be announced. These included:

Daniel Carusi-a title and escrow agent who represented the sellers involving a property that is believed to have been bought by one of the contemplated defendants. Diplomat Oceanfront Residences Condominium Association attorney David Bauman represented the seller involving a property purchased by one of the contemplated defendants at Northwest Avenue Plantation. Zareefa Khan-a registered agent who paid taxes with regard to the Plantation property which is ‘believed to have been purchased by one of the contemplated defendants with proceeds of the aforementioned fraud and corruption.’

Norma Echarte, a registered agent was also requested to testify and provide financial information and any communication between Fides Ltd and its representatives including Naeem Ali, Ansaar Ali, Homala Ali, Ryad Ali and Alisha Ali.

There were also requests to subpoena the bank records of Wells Fargo for the following, as indicated in ‘Exhibit B’: Arvin Kalloo, Aeron Kalloo, Gareth Kalloo, Kalawati Kalloo, Pravin Kalloo, Anaya Ganesh Kalloo, Nanda Ramhit, Premchand Ramhit, Roopchand Ramhit, Ryan Ramhit, Jamie Ramnauth, Meena Ramnauth and Taradath Nandlal Ramnauth.

A similar request was also made to JP Morgan Chase Bank to subpoena the bank records of T& M Enterprises, J2 Investments Inc, Global Supplies Florida, Jamie Ramnauth, Meena Ramnauth, Taradath Ramnauth and Jason Ramnauth.

Amended application

However, on July 23 this year the Attorney General through his attorney Lacayo filed a motion to amend the application asking for the scope of financial institutions to be widened as well as other businesses that might have conducted business with some of the contemplated defendants.

One day later, Judge Alicia Otazo- Reyes granted the motion allowing the Attorney General to collect further evidence from Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, Bank of America, Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, First American Title Insurance, MDC Read Estate Enterprises, MDC Real Estate Holdings as well as Meena Ramnauth, the wife of one of the defendants who the Attorney General ‘is believed to have received a substantial amount of the proceeds of the alleged fraud in her accounts at JP Morgan Chase.’

Permission was also granted for collection evidence from Jamie Ramnauth, the daughter of one of the contemplated defendants who is said to be the treasurer of J2 Investments and ‘is believed to have substantial amount of the proceeds of fraud in her account at JP Morgan Chase.’

Both women reside in Florida the court documents revealed.

What the Attorney General also noted in his amended application was that registered agent for the companies Global Supplies Florida, J2 Investments and T& M Enterprises Florida (owned by TN Ramnauth), Zareefa Khan in her deposition given on December 12, 2017, ‘did not confer with the principals of those companies to determine whether they possessed documents responsive to the subpoena. In fact, Ms Khan did not know what the business of each company was, despite appearing for them as registered agent. Moreover, bank statements produced by Ms Khan on behalf of the companies show that the companies received ‘loans’ from TNR. The companies, however, did not produce any other document regarding the alleged loans.’

Judge Otazo-Reyes in granting the amended application stated that it, ‘is not unduly intrusive or burdensome as the application requests evidence of the discovery targets.’

The judge also indicated that the discovery targets in Florida ‘will not be parties to the proceedings in Trinidad and are not expected to become parties thereto, thus the need for this discovery is more apparent.’

Meanwhile, the substantive hearing filed by the Attorney General for judicial assistance was expected to be heard late yesterday in a Miami court.

On September 3, Al-Rawi had told CCN they were doing ‘specific things’ in relation to the matter.

Documents referred to in this story and WhatsApp questions were sent at his request, but although he appeared to have read the messages, there was no response.

Follow-up calls to his phone over the last two weeks also went unanswered.

WhatsApp messages to Minister Young have also received no response.

Rowley willing to listen

PM Dr Keith Rowley has responded to Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget’s appeal not to shut down Petrotrin by assuring government would give any “acceptable business proposal” the union presents, the dignity and respect it deserves.

He also denied conspiracy theories of secret arrangements being made to dispose of the assets of Petrotrin.

Responding to a letter sent earlier this week from Roget who asked Rowley to consider the OWTU’s proposal to restructure Petrotrin instead of shutting down its refinery, Rowley said he is prepared to give workers some facilitation so long as it is within reasonable transactional arrangements.

Rowley added that if more attractive proposals become available, then the interests of the taxpayer will take priority.

The OWTU’s proposal has also been sent to the Board of Petrotrin and Rowley noted that the Board has indicated it will not hesitate to treat with and advise Cabinet, if a superior proposal is presented.

In his letter to Roget, Rowley said he has not been advised such a situation now exists.

However, he noted that Cabinet does not advise itself on this very weighty and complex matters and has used the expertise from technical and financial sources before coming to a decision.

In a similar manner, Rowley said, Cabinet expects other proposals to be dealt with.

Roget in his letter noted the adverse impact the closure of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and the decision to put all 4,700 workers on the breadline, will have on their lives as well as the major social dislocation to people who reside in the south Trinidad.

Rowley said, “We are aware that in the short term there will be hardships and concerns of our people to be dealt with, but we have every confidence that in the medium to long term, the outcome will be to the benefit of the wider national community.”

The letter to Rowley from Roget was a last ditch effort to stave off closure of the refinery. “We respectfully maintain that the shutting down of our country’s only refinery will seriously threaten our country’s energy security and ultimately adversely impact the economy,” Roget said.

He said the union’s proposal addresses all areas of concerns raised by the government, as it relates to, among others, adequate crude supply, oil production, productivity, the debt, inefficiencies and asset integrity. With a totally restructured Petrotrin with its new mandate, Roget said the union’s proposal would not require any government guarantee or funding and would certainly positively impact the country’s credit rating.

Natalie – “How do you thank the men & women who have given back your life?”

Kidnap victim Natalie Pollonais wrote a letter over the weekend to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith thanking him and the Police Service for rescuing her four days after she was kidnapped. The following is Pollonais’ letter in full, to CoP Griffith.

Dear Mr Griffith,

Normally words come easy to me but for the first time ever I have some difficulty. How do you thank the men and women who have given back not only your life, but your very heart and soul?

My family and I will forever be grateful to the Commissioner of Police, the Anti-Kidnapping Unit and all those in the police service who worked tirelessly to ensure my safe return.

My faith in TT was restored on Monday September 10, when I became keenly aware of the intelligence, the coordination of resources, tactical effort, courage and dedication that was implemented by all in order for me to go home to my family.

A simple statement to some, but to me it was everything. My rescue clearly shows how unbreakable the bundle of sticks is and it shows that when Trinidad unites, there is nothing we cannot overcome.

I am deeply saddened that our citizens still want to stand apart, still want to separate the bundle. When will we stop being East Indian, Chinese, African, Syrian and white? When will we just be Trini? Like you, I pray for that day.

I would also like to thank your wife and the families of the Anti Kidnapping Unit who went without their husbands, wives and parents so they can continuously search for me. I am humbled by their sacrifice.

God works in many mysterious ways, I am blessed for the knowledge, courage and intelligence that He gave to you, the Anti Kidnapping Unit and the police service’s officers, all your prayers that touched your hearts, minds and bodies to guide and direct everyone in the right direction. Jesus, I trust in you.

Lastly, I would like to say I will stop at the next roadblock after ensuring that all the necessary parameters have been met, such as two or more marked police vehicles, several police officers in official uniform and the like. However, I hope that if it is a speed trap, after all that happened, I might get a bligh.

Natalie Pollonais

NIDCO- smooth sailing on second run

The newly constructed ramp for the Galleons Passage to offload passengers and vehicles at the Scarborough port needs “some tweaking,” and the vessel must still get the necessary certification from the Marine Services Department before it could be put in service on the sea bridge.

The vessel would accommodate just 475 passengers of a planned 700 when it sails until the sundeck gets an enclosure which is to be installed by the seller. And though designed to transport 100 cars, none would be accommodated until a canopy is installed in that area to protect them from sea spray.

Providing this information on Saturday as the Galleons Passage completed its second trial run to Tobago, Herbert George, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), said the ramp issue would be dealt with this week “and hopefully during that time we would be getting the necessary certificates and so from the Marine Services Department to be able to sail the vessel with passengers.”

The vessel departed the port at Port of Spain at 7:41am on Saturday, arriving in Scarborough at approximately 11:46am.

On disembarking the vessel, George, who described the trial run as a success, admitted there were some issues with the ramp.

“I’m quite comfortable… as far as the vessel everything is fine. “The ramp though, we have some tweaking to do to make it fit for all seasons; be it high tide or low tide. So we would be doing that in the next week and hopefully during that time we would be getting the necessary certificates and so from the Marine Services Department to be able to sail the vessel with passengers,” he said.

He stressed that as far as the mechanical functioning of the vessel was concerned, there were no problems as it was a smooth sailing to Tobago.

“The ramp… What happened is that where the ramp was positioned and where the vessel was aligning itself to fit on that ramp, it took a while. It was the first time, but I think we can make the ramp a bit wider as it is now, the width of the ramp (on the ground) exceeds the size of the width of the ramp on the vessel by approximately two feet, they need to give us a bit of a more leeway there.”

“We have some tweaking to do. As far as this ramp is concerned, we are going to make it wider so that the vessel can berth there much easier than it did today. Although today was a learning experience, I think we can make some adjustments and have it much easier,” he said.

George said there were plans to install a canopy in the area housing cars to prevent the sea spray from coming in contact with vehicles.

“The seller is responsible for that installation, he has had a lot of difficulties to get a vendor to do that work for him, he has gotten someone from Canada, they came and took the measurements and they have gone to fabricate the canopy to install it. They said the next three or so weeks, they would come with the material to have it installed,” he reported.

He said, however, installation of this canopy was not expected to delay the sailing of the vessel on the inter-island route.

“Once we have the issues sorted out with the Marine and Services Division; they are ultimately responsible for saying nay or yay, whether this thing sails or not because they are the authority in Trinidad and Tobago. So, once we have the all clear from them to sail, we would not allow the canopy to hold us back. We will probably sail the boat but not carry cars. As it is now, it is designed for 100 cars. The central lanes can carry vehicles such as trucks but basically, it is for cars, SUVs and things like that,” he said.

Commenting on the top deck of the vessel, George said that this area would accommodate approximately 475 passengers in the first instance, as a sun deck would not be used until an enclosure is installed.

“Initially, we were catering for just under 700 passengers but that involved having passengers on the upper deck, the sun deck. Upon commissioning of the start of the service, we would not be carrying passengers up there because that area has not been fitted out as yet. Instead of having it as an outdoor area, we are enclosing it and that enclosure has not been done. So, we would not be carrying passengers up there and such we would be limiting this to 475 passengers or thereabout,” he said.

As regards a VIP area, George said:

“You might have to pay more for the seats in this area but anybody who can pay or is willing to pay would be accommodated in this area. The price for the seat, I am not in a position to say, that would be up to the Port Authority. You would not get that from me because we are not responsible for the operations.”

George said NIDCO would continue to own and maintain the vessel, and it would be wet leased to the Port Authority.

“They would take it over and work it into the schedule and operate it. The crew here, we at NIDCO have recruited the crew, they would be sailing the vessel. We have a mixture of foreign members and local members. The idea is in short order, we would be able to replace the foreign crew through knowledge transfer.

“NIDCO has some capacity to maintain vessels, we have been doing that with the water taxis, but we recognise that this is not merely enough. So as part of the arrangement, we went out and we got an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer and another kind of a maintenance manager to come in and he would set up the structure to maintain not only this one, but all the vessels under NIDCO’s purview.

“So hopefully, we would have the maintenance done and not wish that you don’t have breakdowns because we have been doing that in the past and the wishing is not coming through at all, as we do have breakdowns when we don’t maintain,” he said.

George said the vessel does start sailing the sea bridge, Captain Romanas Puskaris of International Maritime Shipping will be in charge, while Belmont-born captain, Allister Khan, will shadow Puskaris.

“Khan will shadow for as long as it takes for him to be competent to do the work but initially, we have contracted IMS for one year. So, if after that year, we still feel a need to keep them, we shall so do,” George said.

PM Rowley slams Kamla for descending into “gutter politics”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says he makes no apology for representing the largest block of Syrian, Arab and Lebanese in his constituency as he slammed Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar for descending into “gutter politics”.

Speaking at a People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting in San Fernando last night, Rowley took issue with Persad-Bissessar’s reference to him as an “oreo” controlled by the “one per cent”.

He said Persad-Bissessar and the Unions are the two largest voices accusing the Government of lying as it relates to the closing of the Petrotrin refinery.

“And when that conversation doesn’t seem to be working as well as they would like they resort to my skin colour and colour of the skin of my constituents,” he said.

“The largest block of Arab, Syrian, Lebanese are in Diego Martin West and for that I make no apology and I don’t care who they vote for, I represent them and I think it is a shame and a disgrace of all the people and on the record of Trinidad and Tobago that a former Prime Minister, a leader of the Opposition can sink into such gutter politics,” he said.

“When all else fails, when rape fail, when paedophilia fail, resort to racism but me, I’m from Mason Hall in Tobago, that not fazing me at all,” added Rowley.

At the United National Congress’ (UNC) Monday night forum at Union Presbyterian Primary School, Claxton Bay, Persad-Bissessar said, ‘They (one per cent) tried to own Mr (Patrick) Manning but they couldn’t do that… they tried to own me but I sent them packing; they have their Oreo now who is their guy in Keith Christopher Rowley, and that’s how the one per cent friends and family of Rowley controls him.”

On Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar in the face of calls for her to apologise for the comment maintained it was not racist.

‘I do take note of comments by some that there may have been some insensitivity but there was not an iota of racism in my statements. My track record in public life speaks for itself. I acknowledge that relevant truths can be spoken with less sensitive words in future. The failed Rowley PNM PR team should focus on the bread and butter issues of real people instead of their continuous spin and deception. I will continue to expose this Prime Minister and his Government for the callous, uncaring bunch that they are,’ Persad-Bissessar stated in release.

Rowley in dealing with Petrotrin disclosed that at the three-hour meeting with the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) last week no way forward was presented to deal with the company’s debt.

He said they were asked about the numbers and the Union was of the view that the Finance Ministry does not support Petrotrin contrary to the facts stated via audits etc.

The Prime Minister revealed a document dated September 12 which came to the Cabinet called “provision of a Government guarantee in favour of Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago for US$56 million shirt term loan facility”.

He said this is over TT$300 million and it comes even whilst the union is telling people the Finance Ministry does not provide support for Petrotrin.

He added that another document dated September 10 spoke to a $56 million letter of credit from First Citizens bank.

PM willing to sacrifice career to save T&T

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the in­sults and bash­ing lev­elled at him for the im­pend­ing clo­sure of the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre re­fin­ery, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley says he is pre­pared to sac­ri­fice his par­lia­men­tary ca­reer in or­der to save T&T from sink­ing deep­er in­to debt.

Speak­ing at a Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment meet­ing at the Mara­bel­la Com­mu­ni­ty Fa­cil­i­ty on Tuesday night, Row­ley said that threats and in­sults were not go­ing to force Gov­ern­ment to change the de­ci­sion to end Petrotrin’s re­fin­ing and mar­ket­ing op­er­a­tions. How­ev­er, he said if the Oil­fields Work­ers’ Trade Union (OW­TU) or any­one has a bet­ter idea to save the com­pa­ny, Gov­ern­ment was open to dis­cus­sions.

Tuesday night’s meet­ing, in the heart of a com­mu­ni­ty which will be deeply af­fect­ed by the move, was meant to ex­plain Gov­ern­ment’s rea­son­ing for the re­fin­ery clo­sure. Row­ley told those cramped in­to the small au­di­to­ri­um that Petrotrin could have been pre­vi­ous­ly fixed, but past politi­cians failed to take ac­tion be­cause they were afraid of los­ing their par­lia­men­tary po­si­tions.

“I am pre­pared to sac­ri­fice my par­lia­men­tary and my political future doing what is right for the chil­dren of Trinidad and To­ba­go,” Row­ley told the gath­er­ing.

“And as for those who are call­ing for elec­tions, elec­tions will come and you the caller, you on­ly have one vote. Every­body else has a vote in this coun­try and at that time you (cit­i­zens) will de­ter­mine whether you elect­ed a gov­ern­ment that has the strength of char­ac­ter and the moral for­ti­tude to do what has to be done to give Trinidad and To­ba­go a bet­ter chance.”

The PM said if noth­ing is done at the state-owned oil com­pa­ny, the coun­try’s cred­it rat­ing will be down­grad­ed again by in­ter­na­tion­al rat­ing agen­cies, mean­ing the coun­try will face high-in­ter­est rates when bor­row­ing in the fu­ture. In cer­tain cas­es, some banks will not lend to T&T, he said. Gov­ern­ment, the PM said, was do­ing what it had to do in or­der to save the coun­try and on­ly asks T&T to stand with the “sen­si­ble de­ci­sion” they have made. He said all that is be­ing done is con­vert­ing a mon­ey-los­ing com­pa­ny in­to a prof­itable busi­ness.

Cog­nisant of the so­cial im­pact the re­fin­ery shut­down will bring, Row­ley as­sured that no work­er would end up in the “garbage bin,” as they will be sent home with at­trac­tive sep­a­ra­tion pack­ages. He said it is al­so Gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to make Petrotrin land avail­able to them through the Pub­lic Sec­tor Hous­ing Pro­gramme. Tax­pay­ers will al­so pay more so that a spe­cial so­cial sys­tem can be in­tro­duced to ad­dress is­sues with the ter­mi­nat­ed work­ers’ chil­dren. He said those who were mak­ing long shouts of dis­ap­proval were ei­ther labour rep­re­sen­ta­tives, politi­cians or both.

“Every sin­gle one of the voic­es out front op­pos­ing this very sen­si­ble de­ci­sion has a con­nec­tion to a po­lit­i­cal par­ty. The OW­TU has a po­lit­i­cal par­ty, MSJ. Wat­son Duke is a politi­cian in To­ba­go, he is the mi­nor­i­ty leader. Car­olyn Seep­er­sad-Bachan, she is work­ing in a tomb some­where … She ap­peared like an aber­ra­tion. Then, of course, the Op­po­si­tion leader is a politi­cian,” he said.

“These are the four quar­ters from which this un­rea­son­able op­po­si­tion is com­ing. You will nev­er know when they’re talk­ing like a union or when they’re talk­ing like politi­cians. The PNM is the on­ly po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion that is not con­vict­ed and rep­re­sents all the in­ter­ests of all the peo­ple of Trinidad and To­ba­go.”

Break­ing down the de­ci­sion, he likened the re­fin­ery to an old car which con­stant­ly breaks down. He said the most that can be done is to sell it or leave it to rot. Con­trary to what has been sug­gest­ed, he said he does not know any­one in this coun­try who is in­ter­est­ed in the re­fin­ery, but said if there is one he would have to look care­ful­ly at them be­cause the re­fin­ery isn’t an easy as­set to own. Now that it is be­ing tak­en of­fline, he said Gov­ern­ment now has to look at what op­tions are avail­able to have the as­set work in the favour of cit­i­zens.

“All this stu­pid­ness that the Gov­ern­ment has their friends to give it to and the race talk about one per cent. Every time you hear that one per cent sto­ry it runs against our na­tion­al an­them where every creed and race is sup­posed to find an equal place. It’s race talk.”