WHOM DOES THE ENERGY CHAMBER REPRESENT?
The Energy Chamber curiously came out of the woodwork — after days of silence — to condemn Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, defend Minister Stuart Young and to defend the thoroughly compromised Eugene Tiah’s nomination to the Cabinet-appointed committee to investigate the tragedy in Paria Fuel Trading Company.
Tiah, in fact, should be automatically disqualified from sitting on any Committee that is supposed to determine where the faults lie in the preventable deaths of the four divers.
Tiah already faced charges laid by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for mismanaging millions of dollars in eTeck. In that matter, he was represented by Stuart Young, now Minister of Energy, and Michael Quamina, now Chairman of the Board of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited, the parent company to Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited, and the personal attorney of Keith Rowley.
It would be hard to find a more conflicted person than Eugene Tiah, and the Leader of Opposition rightly pointed this out in her press release of 5th March 2022.
Remarkably, the Energy Chamber was silent while the entire nation was wringing its hands, reeling from the horrific information about our trapped divers.
Yet, within hours of the Opposition’s Leaders calling out the inappropriateness of Tiah’s appointment, they issued their release to defend Young and Tiah.
This begs the question: Whom does the Energy Chamber represent?
The country should learn the lessons it did with the President’s Senators — mislabelled as “independent.” There is a mistaken notion somehow that the Energy Chamber represents the well-being of the Trinidad and Tobago energy sector, for the benefit of citizens.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let us start by looking at the Executive Committee and their industry affiliations:
– Dwight Mahabir, Chairman (Chief Executive Officer, Damus Ltd.)
– Dr Thackwray Driver, President and Chief Executive Officer
– George Vieira, Vice-Chair (Upstream), (President, EOG Resources)
– Jerome Dookie, Vice-Chair (Downstream), (Chief Executive Officer, Caribbean Nitrogen)
– Ricardo Mahadeo, Vice-Chair (Energy Services), (Chief Executive Officer TOSL Engineering)
– Claire Fitzpatrick, Secretary (Regional President, BP Trinidad and Tobago)
– Hafiz Ali, Treasurer (Chief Executive Officer, Weldfab)
Here are the Ordinary Board Members, with their industry affiliations:
– Ronald Adams (CEO, Atlantic)
– Colin Bain (Managing Director & President, Methanex)
– Mala Baliraj-Dass (Chief Executive Officer, Massy Wood)
– Arlene Chow (Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Petroleum Company)
– Mark Loquan (President, National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd.)
– Eugene Okpere (Vice President & Country Chair, Shell Trinidad and Tobago)
– Pria Narinesingh (Country Managing Partner, EY)
– Dr Vernon Paltoo (President, National Energy Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd.)
– Shaun Rampersad (Chief Operating Officer, Ramps Logistics)
The first question we ask is, was this rapid show of support for Stuart Young and the Government, their refusal to address the Leader of Opposition’s concerns about Tiah’s serious conflicts of interest — indeed their casual dismissal of these concerns — and their irrational expression of “full confidence” in Tiah, approved by all board and executive members?
If so, then bpTT, Massy Wood, Atlantic LNG, EOG, Methanex, Shell, Ernst and Young, and other national and international corporate citizens have consciously entered into the political gayelle. This would be unfortunate, but it would make them fair political game.
How can the Energy Chamber have full confidence that a man like Tiah, who is so closely connected to the PNM party and Government, can hold the Government firmly to account, when necessary?
They can only have that “confidence” because the Energy Chamber does NOT represent the interest of the energy sector for the benefit of the country. They only represent the commercial interests of their individual members, whether or not this aligns with the national or sectoral interest.
The Energy Chamber’s function is to help members hobnob with Government officials, and get lucrative contracts thereby. Every single one of these Energy Chamber members represents companies that depend on state contracts, licenses etc.
Four dead divers under troubling circumstances are not a major concern to them. There was no press release on that. Eugene Tiah being on the investigation committee, however, is worthy of a rapid press release to contradict the Leader of Opposition.
The Energy Chamber has long been a pro-PNM party group, but clearly with the government under immense pressure they have now come out to openly defend their party.
The Energy Chamber needs to become a vehicle to stand for the energy sector in the national interest, as opposed to an echo chamber of apologies for the Government in order for their companies to win contracts.
The Energy Chamber instead should be calling on Government to explain why Natural Gas production is at a 15-year low, why LNG production fell 48 percent in the third quarter of 2021 and, most of all, why despite a seven-year high of energy prices, this nation is not benefiting because production has collapsed under the PNM.
If the Energy Chamber wants to enter the national political gayelle, it must be to stand up for the sector they say they represent, which has been under attack and decimated by this Government.
That would have included standing up for the safety and the lives of the four divers who, like thousands of other workers, are the lifeline in the energy sector.
But this would be too much to ask of these obvious “eat ah fooders”, who are mainly concerned about their own well-being, and feeding at the energy sector trough that this nation generously provides them.
Once again, we call on the families of the victims to be allowed a professional representative on the Government’s investigation committee. The politically-biased Energy Chamber does not represent the interests of the citizens, the country or the families of the deceased.
Justice must be done for the divers.
Dr. Kirk Meighoo
Public Relations Officer
United National Congress