Daly Bread: No Quan Do; Gov’t employing “spurious reasoning” for NiQuan secrecy

EPL Infrafred Sauna

There are three shocking characteristics displayed by some of our rulers and their satellites whom we have had to endure during the last two decades. These are disrespect for accountability, scorn for ordinary people and an absence of humanity.

Last week, these characteristics combined in a manner as cruel as they did on the occasion of the loss of the divers in the Paria tragedy.

The Niquan Energy Trinidad Plant.
(via Niquan Energy)

The family of Allanlane Ramkissoon, an employee of Massy Energy Engineered Solutions Limited, who was working at the plant of NiQuan Energy Trinidad Limited (NiQuan) are now at the centre of another tragic workplace event.

Ramkissoon died following severe burns and other injuries when there was an explosion and he had to jump ten feet to the ground “to escape the inferno”, according to one newspaper report.

Ramkissoon’s family are complaining of insufficient communication about the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident and what was happening to him while he was alive.

I remind readers that the Paria divers’ families were left to camp in a shed outside the Paria Compound, supposedly an old bus shelter, from the Friday when the divers were trapped under the sea. The families were left there even when the devastating news was delivered on Sunday evening of the divers’ deaths.

By contrast, the employer jefes had access to the colonial tinged clubhouse on the Paria compound when they were eventually aroused from their indifference.

Paria Fuel Trading CEO Mushtaq Mohammed.

Deficiencies in NiQuan’s safe system of work and lack of a competent response to the incident, if any, are not the appropriate focus of this column—although belatedly Ramkissoon seems to have received material assistance in being sent abroad for specialized treatment.

What appalls me is that Ramkissoon’s family appear to be suffering a lack of consideration and indifference similar to the treatment of the Paria divers’ families.

Much more than the standard insipid statements from the employers about being “saddened” is required. The anxious and grieving family should not have had cause to feel that they were unreasonably screened from seeing their loved one in person or that “nobody ain’t telling us nothing”.  (Newsday, Tuesday 21 June 2023).

NiQuan Energy Trinidad Limited CEO Ainsley Gill.

NiQuan has history. In April 2021 there was a loud and dramatic explosion at the Plant and operations ceased until permitted by the Ministry of Energy to restart in 2022.

For that reason I am particularly alarmed by the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament last week that the Ministry of Energy’s report on the explosion cannot be published because: “[NiQuan is] not a public entity. It’s a private legal entity.”

With respect, that is spurious reasoning. The Prime Minister stated that the Ministry of Energy did an investigation as did the Occupation Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) and then he crucially told Parliament that “the restart of the Plant was only permitted at the completion of the investigations and implementation of remedial and other works being conducted by NiQuan.”

In a subsequent statement, also last week, the Minister of Energy, Stuart Young, stated that on this occasion the OSHA department had “stepped in” and issued a prohibition notice to NiQuan—thereby reconfirming that NiQuan’s operations are regulated by State agencies.

Photo: Minister of Energy and Energy Industries and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and MP Stuart Young (right) has a word with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Trinidad Newsday)

The requirements of those state agencies cannot be secret. They act in the public interest. We are therefore entitled to know what are the remedial works NiQuan was obliged to undertake to be “permitted” to reopen in 2022 and what NiQuan must do to have this prohibition order lifted. That information will effectively tell us what went wrong.

Minister Young uttered some placatory words, apparently directed to the grieving family’s apprehension of a cover-up.  However, he then twisted and turned about publication including a startling indication that the Government may ask NiQuan about publishing the report.

Citizens are not interested in NiQuan’s proprietary information and trade secrets. And material about which Minister Young is so solicitously sensitive but which is not relevant to explosions and death may be redacted.

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

A cynic might wonder whether this coyness to publish is a dismissive response equivalent to No Quan (can) Do and another demonstration of the Government’s willingness to give a bligh to persons operating in the upper reaches of big-money-business, even when ordinary citizens suffer.

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About Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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