1. The right to life guaranteed under our Republican Constitution includes the right to a clean and pollution-free environment. The Government must take all reasonable and necessary measures to prevent pollution and ecological degradation. In this regard the Government must take all the necessary steps to protect its citizens including ordering of independent scientific monitoring of threatened environments, requiring and publicising environmental studies and providing meaningful opportunities for citizens to be heard and to participate in the decisions affecting their communities.
2. Against the backdrop of the events thus far, the following request to the Government for information is absolutely critical at this time namely:-
a.) Can you provide the terms of engagement within which permission was granted to the Trinidad and Tobago Government by the Venezuelan authorities for the inspection of the FSO? This is sought in an attempt to gauge the scope of independence with which our technical team was endowed in its inspection.
b.) Can you give an indication as to the readiness of the Coast guard in terms of both personnel and equipment to deal with an oil spill in the unfortunate event there is one?
c.) Can you indicate which countries or international bodies with expertise in oil spill management have been alerted or solicited for advice and support in the event there is a spill? (Also provide details of the Escazu Agreement and to what extent, if any, T&T stands to benefit.)
d.) Can you update the citizenry of what is the financial arrangements existing between the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the Venezuelan Government for the cleanup of any oil spill in the waters between the two countries? (Including details of funding and liabilities arising under Treaties, International and/or Maritime Law & Convention)
e.) Given that the Venezuelan Government has not been very cooperative in matters relating to the FSO inspection and photographs during the site visit, can you indicate if there is a contingency plan which considers the possibility that there is no cooperation from Venezuela?
f.) Given that the Venezuelan authorities did not allow our technical team to use their own instruments to carry out an independent inspection, on what basis is the Trinidad and Tobago Government feeling assured that this site visit was in fact a bona fide inspection versus a carefully guided tour?
g.) In the unfortunate event that there is an oil spill which would inevitably lead to the eradication of the fishing industry and adversely impact the Felicity and other fisherfolk, what remedies and/or compensation will be available to them?
h.) The Minister of Energy and Energy Industries has indicated that the risk from the Nabarima is minimal. Can the Minister indicate exactly what level of risk is considered minimal and what level does the Minister consider acceptable?
To what extent can the Ministers say that they are confident that their minimal risk assessment is accurate and not perhaps a whitewashing of the handicaps of the site visit which rendered our technical team powerless to do their job?
3. IRREPARABLE HARM AND FUTURE HARDSHIP FOR FISHERMEN
These constituents have no adequate remedy at law, in that any proceedings (whether an application under the Freedom of Information Act and/or court proceedings) to secure an order of mandamus to procure the above requested information could involve considerable delay before relief is granted. By that time, issues surrounding the instability of the Nabarima may worsen and the risk of an oil spill may be imminent. In the event of an actual spill, all of these matters may already have become otiose and everything which we hold dear would be destroyed.
4. FURTHER ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF NECESSARY
Should it become necessary, fisherfolk intend to engage in any lawful action and/or to bring any necessary action, not only for themselves but for all others similarly circumstanced. The issues and/or matters arising herein and which may become involved in any proposed action are of common interest to all such other persons.