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Predicting an exponential increase in fuel prices at the pumps if the Government succeeded in shutting down the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union president general Ancel Roget yesterday called on all citizens to join with the union to stop the sale of Petrotrin’s assets.
Also calling for a boycott of the People’s National Movement Government starting yesterday, Roget said after 100 years in the oil and gas industry, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was now taking T&T back to the days of colonialism by ending Petrotrin’s refinery operations to import fuel for domestic consumption.
Addressing hundreds of workers at Beaumont Hill, Pointe-a-Pierre, Roget said under the new restructuring plan, T&T’s crude oil will be exported as raw material and local consumers will have to import the finished product at exorbitant prices similar to the days of slavery.
“Who will supply us with fuel?” Roget asked, with someone in the crowd shouting back, “Venezuela.”
“If that country faces a natural disaster or political civil unrest or economic mayhem, we will be at their mercy and they could cripple our economy! Is the Government thinking about that?” Roget asked as the crowd applauded.
Accusing the Government of betraying the citizenry, Roget said they will resist any attempt to sell Petrotrin’s assets. He said during a meeting with the Petrotrin board yesterday, three proposals were outlined which the union rejected.
The first option was to leave Petrotrin as it is; the second to downsize the entire Exploration/Production and Refining operations and the third was to shut down the refinery, send home all workers and rehire a workforce of 1,000.
Roget said Petrotrin currently employs 3,500 permanent workers. But out of the 1,000 to be rehired under the new plan, he said Petrotrin plans to use 800 for the Exploration and Production fields and 200 for the turn-milling operations which will replace the refinery.
Asked what will happen to the existing refinery, Roget said there was the suspicion that all its 33 functional plants will be sold in a fire sale to a company now hiding behind the scenes and directing the Government to betray the people of T&T.
Saying the PNM will face a terrible political backlash for this action, Roget said the motoring public had every reason to be worried, adding that consumers may end up paying international prices for fuel in the near future. This, he said, will cause mayhem in T&T.
“We have seen the heartless intentions of Dr Rowley to unleash a type of hardship that this country has never seen before,” Roget said.
Told that Petrotrin said it was not selling the refinery, Roget said, “We do not trust the Petrotrin board or the Government.”
He said since 2011, the OWTU had submitted a proposal to Petrotrin to turn around the fortunes of the floundering company by setting up four divisions—Land: North and East (LNE), Trinmar Offshore Operations, Exploration and Production and the Augustus Long Hospital. He said each entity would be held accountable for boosting crude oil, the production of which will reduce the existing crude importation for the refinery. Roget said under this plan, without any further drilling activity an increase of 5,000 barrels per day would have been achieved and once there was a full reactivation of Southwest fields, a further 3,000 barrels per day would have been achieved.
He added that on April 3, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the board to implement the union’s proposal but behind the workers’ backs, the company decided to shut down the refinery and send home workers. He revealed that 100,000 barrels of oil per day are imported to run the refinery, while production levels are at 40,000 barrels of oil per day.
He said a meeting will be held with the company on Monday to further discuss proposals, adding that Petrotrin will only save $2 billion if the refinery operations were shut down.
Roget also warned that the board has already cancelled orders for crude oil imports in a bid to ramp down operations at the refinery, so although it asked for a meeting it seemed the death of the refinery was already a “done deal.”
He advised the workers to blank the PNM by not attending its meetings and fetes, adding anyone who supports the party was showing no self-respect for themselves or the country. He also warned that the union will be utilising several strategies to ensure that the Government does not send T&T into a tailspin by shutting down Petrotrin.
Following is a statement Petrotrin released to the media on its impending restructuring plan yesterday.
The Petrotrin Board of Directors met on 2018 Tuesday, August 28 with its employee representative unions and the company’s management to announce plans to end Petrotrin’s oil refining operations at Pointe-a-Pierre and to redesign entirely its Exploration and Production business. The restructuring exercise is geared to curtail losses at the state-owned oil company and get it on a path to sustainable profitability.
Approximately 2,600 permanent jobs will be affected – the redesigned Exploration and Production business will have approximately 800 workers and all 1,700 jobs in refining will be terminated. Petrotrin is committed to cushioning the effects of any fallout that occurs from the planned changes.
The announcement follows months of careful review and analysis by the Company’s Board of Directors, which was appointed last September to identify the problems at Petrotrin and take the steps necessary to make the Company self-sustainable and profitable.
Petrotrin has lost a total of about TT$8 billion in the last five years; is TT$12 billion in debt; and owes the Government of Trinidad and Tobago more than TT$3 billion in taxes and royalties.
The company currently requires a cash injection of TT$25 billion to stay alive – to refresh its infrastructure, and to repay its debt – and even with that, if left as is, it is projected to continue losing about TT$2 billion a year.
Chairman Wilfred Espinet said: “With the termination of the refining operations and the redesign of Exploration and Production, Petrotrin will now be able to independently finance all of its debt and become a sustainable business.
“Petrotrin is no longer producing enough oil to operate the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery efficiently: We are producing approximately 40,000 barrels of oil a day and the refinery operates at a capacity of 140,000 barrels a day, so we have to go to the market to buy about 100,000 barrels of oil to make up the shortfall. This results in a net loss in foreign exchange.”
The refining of oil will be phased out and the Company will import the refined products (gasoline, diesel, aviation fuels, etc.) that the country needs – approximately 25,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. All of the company’s oil will be exported.
Espinet said: “Our goal is for Petrotrin be an internationally competitive and sustainably profitable leader in the local energy sector; and an employer of choice, that is a source of national pride.”
The period of transition will commence on 2018 October 1.
The Board of Directors is taking all requisite steps to facilitate a smooth and efficient period of transition with safety and the security of the country’s fuel supply being its two priorities.
Petrotrin will be meeting with all of its stakeholders during the coming weeks to discuss how the proposed changes may affect them.
With $8 billion in losses in the past five years and a bullet payment of US$850 million due in 2019, Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet says terminating its Refining and Marketing operations and retrenching 1700 permanent and casual employees was the only way to save the company after 100 years of operations in the industry.
In a media conference at the Pointe-A-Pierre Staff Club yesterday, Espinet said a commercial company cannot continue to operate at a loss indefinitely. He said under the current operation, Petrotrin’s value in terms of its balance sheet was deteriorating. Given the mandate by the Government to return the company to profitability, Espinet said the board of directors had to embark on a programme that would stop the deterioration so the company would be able to pay the debt it had accumulated.
Petrotrin has a $12 billion debt and owes Government more than $3 billion in taxes and royalties. The company requires a cash injection of $25 billion to refresh its infrastructure and to repay its debt, Espinet said, noting this money could not be funded initially and it was impossible to keep the refinery working.
In a release yesterday, the company said if left as is, the projected loss would be an estimated $2 billion per year. Espinet added that if the company does not find a solution to its bond payments in the coming weeks there will be an impact on its sovereign rating. He said the money being saved from shelving crude imports will help to repay the loan.
On being appointed, he said the board recruited experts to assess the performance capacity of the company’s assets and it was found that in comparison to other companies in the industry, Petrotrin ranked last.
He could not give a value of Petrotrin’s assets, as he said several were written down but they were intangible.
Further “bad investments” like the World Gas to Liquid Plant exacerbated the current problem, he said. Petrotrin produces 140,000 barrels of oil daily, of which 100,000 are imported crude. These imports require a lot of working capital and contribute to the loss.
“We had to take Petrotrin and redesign it from what it was and we put it into focused companies that would have an exploration and production end and a refinery and marketing unit. These two units were looked at and it was identified from very early that the refining and marketing were not going to survive because it was not profitable. It could not be made profitable, in fact,” Espinet said.
“We had a continued programme of looking at all sorts of ways to make this thing work. We came to the conclusion that if we wanted to be able to pay back the debt and if we wanted to be able to have a profitable company that could be sustained over time, we would have to take out what was the cancer of the operation and that would have been the refining and marketing.”
Noting that retrenchment would be an emotional process for the affected workers, he said the board met with the Government and looked at all options but there was no alternative. He said government accepted the board’s proposal and gave the go-ahead for the closure.
Espinet said this will be the course of action unless the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union can come up with an alternative that is better than the closure. The OWTU has already presented its proposals to the company, which called for the creation of four entities: Land: North and East (LNE), Trinmar Offshore Operations, Exploration and Production and the Augustus Long Hospital.
OWTU leader Ancel Roget had warned that the refinery will be sold to private investors, but yesterday Espinet said, “There is no likelihood of that refinery being sold.”
Although aged, the refinery had had several upgrades in recent years. Among them is the construction of an Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel Plant, which Espinet said gave it value.
Board member Anthony Chan Tack said the refinery was unreliable and likened it to a taxi that was “more in the garage than on the road.”
No date was given for the restructuring exercise, as Espinet said they wanted to work with the union to determine the best way of retrenchment.
Approximately 2,600 permanent jobs will be affected as the company intends to redesign its Exploration and Production business, which will have approximately 800 workers.
Yesterday, the board met with the OWTU to discuss the company’s plan, which the union rejected.
In April, the company and the union signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a working committee to restructure Petrotrin. This included regular meetings, but none were held since the agreement was signed. Espinet explained yesterday that the company wanted to present the union with a workable plan, but all it had was a problem. He said they did not want to approach the union without a feasible course of action.
“We had a problem. We were not going to go to them with a problem. We were going to go to them with a solution. Coming to them with this, therefore, is to us, what the solution is,” Espinet said.
He said the company was asking the union to understand a situation which has a major impact on it and its members. He said the company now has to find an exit plan that makes it less difficult than if the workers were just being thrown on the pavement.
Predicting an exponential increase in fuel prices at the pumps if government succeeded in selling the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, president general of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union president general Ancel Roget is calling on all citizens to join with the OWTU to stop the government from selling T&T's prized national oil assets.
Calling for a boycott of the PNM starting yesterday, Roget said after 100 years in the oil and gas industry, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was now taking T&T backward to the days of colonialism by ending its refinery operations only to import fuel for domestic consumption.
Addressing hundreds of workers at Beaumont Hill, Pointe-a-Pierre, Roget said under the new restructuring plan, T&T's crude oil will be exported as raw material and local consumers will have to import the finished product at exorbitant prices similar to the days of slavery.
"Who will supply us with fuel?" Roget asked and someone in the crowd shouted "Venezuela."
"If that country faces a natural disaster or political civil unrest or economic mayhem, we will be at their mercy and they could cripple our economy! Is the government thinking about that?" Roget asked as the crowds applauded.
Accusing the PNM government of betraying the citizenry, Rowley said the OWTU will resist any attempt to sell Petrotrin's assets. He said during a meeting with the Petrotrin Board on Tuesday morning, three proposals were outlined to the union, all of which were rejected.
The first option was to leave Petrotrin as it is; the second was to downsize the entire Exploration/Production and Refining operations and the third was to shut down the refinery, send home all workers and rehire a workforce of 1,000 people.
Roget said Petrotrin currently employs 3,500 permanent workers. Out of the 1,000 to be rehired, Roget said the company plans to rehire 800 for the Exploration and Production fields and 200 for turn-milling operations which will replace the refinery.
Asked what will happen to the existing refinery, Roget said there was the suspicion that all 33 functional plants of the refinery will be sold in a fire sale to a company who is hiding behind the scenes and directing the government to betray the people of T&T.
Saying the PNM will face a terrible political backlash, Roget said the motoring public had every reason to be worried, adding that consumers may end up paying international prices for fuel in the near future.
This, he said will cause mayhem in T&T.
"We have seen the heartless intentions of Dr Rowley to unleash a type of hardship that this country has never seen before," Roget said.
Told that Petrotrin said it was not selling the refinery, Roget said, "We do not trust the Petrotrin Board or the government."
He said since 2011, the OWTU submitted a proposal to Petrotrin to turn around the fortunes of the floundering company by setting up four divisions - Land: North and East (LNE), Trinmar Offshore Operations, Exploration and Production and the Augustus Long Hospital.
He said each entity will be held accountable for boosting crude oil; the production which will reduce the existing crude importation for the refinery.
Roget said under this plan without any further drilling activity an increase of 5,000 barrels per day would have been achieved and once there was a full reactivation of Southwest fields, a further 3,000 barrels per day would have been achieved.
He added that on April 3, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the Petrotrin Board to implement the OWTU proposal but behind the workers' backs, the company decided to shut down the refinery and send home workers.
He revealed that 100,000 barrels of oil per day is imported to run the refinery while production levels are at 40,000 barrels of oil per day.
He added that a meeting will be held with the company on Monday to further discuss proposals, adding that Petrotrin will save $2 billion is the refinery operations were shut down.
Roget also warned that the Petrotrin Board has already canceled orders for crude oil imports in a bid to ramp down operations at the refinery so even though it asked for a meeting with the OWTU, it seems the death of the refinery was already a done deal.
Roget advised the workers to blank the PNM by not attending its meetings and fetes.
He said anyone who supports the PNM was showing no self-respect for themselves or their country. He also warned that the OWTU will be utilizing several strategies to ensure that the PNM government does not send T&T into a tailspin by shutting down Petrotrin.
Trinmar’s Branch President Ernesto Kesar is debunking any notion that the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) had anything to do with the purported sale of Petrotrin’s refinery.
In an interview on Tuesday morning about an hour before the OWTU went into a meeting with Petrotrin’s Board, Kesar said the lives of over 100,000 people were hanging in a balance.
He said about 3,400 workers will be directly affected if the PNM government sold or privatized Petrotrin’s operations.
Kesar said it was the OWTU that signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Petrotrin to restructure the troubled oil company.
Up until 2008, Kesar said the company was turning a profit and workers were enjoying variable pay and profit sharing.
"The government spent millions to bail out Clico and what did Clico do for our country? Petrotrin is the lifeblood of our economy," Kesar said as workers applauded.
He admitted that during earlier talks, the government agreed to restructure the company but he said there was no consultation about the sale of the refinery.
"If it is true that the government went behind the backs of the OWTU and sold the refinery then it was the most devilish and sinister plan ever plotted by the PNM government," Kesar said.
He added that the OWTU is the legally recognized trade union of the company and any plan to restructure Petrotrin must go through the union.
The company met with the OWTU from 10:30 am on Tuesday morning, following which the OWTU will address its membership at noon.
Road wagon tankers continued to operate as usual from the Petrotrin bond and there was a heavy police presence at the state-owned company.
More as this story develops.
It was a feeling of gloom and doom outside the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery on Tuesday morning as workers received news that the refinery will be shut down and some 700 workers will be sent home.
From as early as 6 am, an Oilfield Workers Trade Union representative stood outside the main gates advising workers that the union will be addressing them outside Beaumont Hill at 12 midday to give an update on the current state of the troubled oil company.
Some of the workers appeared harassed and frustrated.
Others were angry and a few were nonchalant.
One worker James Gabriel said, "At this point, we have to do what is necessary to safeguard our families. There is a lot of secrecy and uncertainty. People are anxious and worried. In the event that we are sent home, we will have to look for other jobs."
Another worker who requested anonymity said he intended to go to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate to find work.
A clerical worker who walked past the security shrugged saying, “What will we do? We have no choice. They are in charge.”
Outside the Trinmar facility, hundreds of Trinmar workers gathered.
Advising them that the union will be meeting with them later today.
In an internal company memo sent by George Commissiong, all private payroll employees Grades 11-17 from Petrotrin as well as Grades 8 and above from Trinmar Operations were invited to a meeting at 3 pm today at the Pointe-a-Pierre staff club.
A source said there was the suspicion that these workers will be sent home.
President General of the OWTU Ancel Roget is expected to address the media at 1:30 pm.
Roget has not revealed details of whether the OWTU was informed beforehand of the impending shutdown.
The union and Petrotrin are scheduled to meet at 10:30 am at the Petrotrin Staff Club following which he will meet with workers at midday.
We will have more information as this story develops.
Citizens are expected to turn out in their numbers for President Paul-Mae Weekes’ first military parade in commemoration of the country’s 56th anniversary of Independence at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah on Friday.
The parade will also be the first for Stuart Young, as Minister of National Security, and Gary Griffith, as Commissioner of Police.
Yesterday, corporate communications manager of the National Security Marcia Hope, warrant officer Class Two of the T&T Defence Force Kevin Allain and corporate communications manager of the Communications Ministry Charlene Stuart met with the media to discuss coverage of the hour-long parade which will be Weekes’ first since her inauguration in March.
Hope made it clear that the use of drones by the public and media was strictly prohibited, while they have put all systems in place should the country experience another earthquake or aftershock during the parade which begins at 8 am.
Among those listed to attend are Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, his wife Sharon, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, members of the diplomatic corps, Government ministers, Opposition members.
At this event, the public will see Griffith, wearing his khaki-coloured police uniform, for the first time.
Hope said they expect a large public turnout for the celebrations seeing this will be Weekes’ first parade as the country’s sixth and first female President.
Monique Sprott, flight lieutenant and public affairs officer for the T&T Defence Force, in a telephone interview with Guardian Media, said a national Independence Day panel committee will meet today to finalise plans for the event.
“By tomorrow all our plans for the parade will be firmed up and finalised,” Sprott said. Detachments of the Defence Force have been rehearsing their drills at the savannah since last week.
She said Young is expected to arrive in the savannah at 7.50 am followed by Archie, Rowley and then Weekes who will receive a presidential salute from parade commander Col Darnley Wyke.
The Chief of the Defence Staff captain Hayden Pritchard will accompany Weekes, who is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, for the inspection of the parade.
This would be followed by a march past of armed and unarmed forces comprising members of the T&T Police Service, T&T Defence Force, Cadet Force, the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and Traffic Wardens.
During the parade, members of the public will also witness the fly and drive-bys, Sprott said.
The flyby display will be done by the T&T Air Guard.
After the march past, Sprott said Weekes will be honoured with a 21-gun salute, with the parade traversing along some streets in Port-of-Spain that will end at the Police Barracks on Long Circular Road.
At 10 am, Sprott said Weekes will make a toast to the nation at the National Academy of the Performing Arts.
Coast Guard officers have recovered the body of Keshion Jonathan Rampersad, who drowned on the eve of his birthday while swimming at the mouth of the L’Anse Mitan River in Moruga on Sunday.
Rampersad’s father John and his brothers Tristion, 18, and Aashish spent most of yesterday morning searching the shoreline with the hope that his body willbe found.
From dawn, Coast Guard divers began searching themouth of the river to see whether Rampersad was stuck in the mud but it was around midday, that his body finally surfaced a short distance from where he disappeared.
Police said Rampersad would have celebrated his 22nd birthday yesterday.
Investigators said around 5.30 pm, he was swimming with three friends at the mouth of the river when they got into difficulties.
Two of them managed to get out but Rampersad disappeared under the water.
During an interview yesterday, Rampersad’s aunt, Mary Vialva, said the drowning was unexpected and devastating.
Describing her nephew as a kind and helpful man, Vialvasaid one of Rampersad’s friends got into an accident recently and Rampersad took on the responsibility to carry him for therapy. On Saturday, Rampersad told his family that he was spending the night at his friend’s home in Barrackpore.
She said on Sunday, his youngest sister Amelia Rampersad, who lives elsewhere with their mother Mindy Rampersad, visited Rampersad’s home at Bunsee Trace so she could tie a rakhi in commemoration of the Hindu festival of raksha bandhan which celebrates the bonds between a brother and a sister.
“She waited for him and she kept asking when he would come home but late in the evening, his friend’s father came and said they looking for him in the river because they think he drowned,” Vialva said.
Rampersad worked parttime as a security officer with Travtech Security Services.
An autopsy will be done on his body today at the Forensic Science Centre.
Moruga police are continuing investigations.
Rehabilitation and corrective work on earthquake-damaged homes has started in the ravaged Mora Heights development in Rio Claro, but some residents are complaining of substandard work. Others are also complaining that unoccupied homes with fallen steps are being given priority over cracked houses occupied by families.
When Guardian Media visited the community yesterday, several contractors were seen repairing staircases and cracked posts.
Reeta Mohammed said she and her husband Michael Degrilla have been sleeping inside their vehicle since the earthquake last Tuesday. Their children are staying with Mohammed’s family at another location in Rio Claro.
Mohammed said when the contractor started repairing the stairs, he allegedly started using steel which could not hold the weight of the stairs. It was only after the family complained to the HDC that the proper standard of steel was prepared for use by the contractor, she noted.
“It is a week since the earthquake and my stairs and home are still unfinished. It is frustrating. We don’t want relocation because we are afraid they will forget to fix our house,” Mohammed said.
Another resident, Kion Scipio, said they were hoping the repairs could be done before the start of the new school term.
Looking frustrated as they sat under the unfinished home, Scipio said, “It is hard for us. We want the repairs to be completed soon.”
Another resident whose home was cracked up after the earthquake said the HDC was focussing mostly on repairing fallen staircases.
“Some of us have big cracks in the house and HDC telling us to wait. They will see about that after. How they expect us to feel when we see the contractors fixing houses which are unoccupied. We want the HDC to prioritise better,” the resident said.
Resident Bhimdath Ramdath said the HDC should have supervisors on hand to monitor the contractors.
“We want to make sure that the houses get a proper fix. We are thankful that the HDC is doing the work and we know they are moving as quickly as they can, but we need the supervisors to check out the project because we do not want shoddy work,” Ramdath said.
Parasram Singh, one of the contractors on site, said several small contractors were hired by the HDC to complete the job.
“Every contractor got two houses to build but not all of us are doing the same kind of work,” he said, pointing to another construction project.
He said the construction will be completed within three to four days but it will take another 14 days for the cement to “cure.”
Brian Barrow, from Johnson Construction, said the HDC sent out project specifications for the job and after consultation, they changed the quality and size of the steel from Mohammed’s house. But a spokesperson from HDC said all the projects are being evaluated by their engineering team. Efforts to contact HDC managing director Brent Lyons were unsuccessful yesterday as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered.
The Port-of-Spain General Hospital (POSGH) has begun readmitting patients but to its North Block following the full evacuation of the Central Block after last Tuesday’s 6.9 earthquake.
This was yesterday confirmed by North-West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Wendy Ali.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian Ali, however, stated that bed space is very limited at the institution.
“Patients who come to the Accident and Emergency, we are stabilising who we can and the patients who really need to be admitted will be admitted to the North Block,” Ali said.
“However, with the limited bed space, some patients will be transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and they will be transported from PoSGH to there, along with their medical records, blood samples, investigative files, etcetera.”
Ali said so far the interim process had been smooth but said she was relieved with last evening’s re-commencement of patient admittance.
Last Thursday, Ali said they were looking for 250 beds for the relocation of the patients who were warded in the Central Block when the massive quake struck last week. Yesterday, however, she explained that number decreased to 122 as some of the other patients were subsequently discharged.
“So, fortunately, we were able to accommodate the relocation of those patients to the North Block and did not have to look to other RHAs.”
With regards to the Central Block’s pending restorative works, Ali said they are still awaiting the structural report from the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCoTT) before they proceed. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has already announced that the Government is moving forward with a new 500-bed facility to replace the Central Block.
A 28-year-old woman from east Trinidad has been released on $40,000 bail after appearing in court charged with having sex with a 13-year-old boy.
Molly “Doodoos” Houllier-Mahabir was granted bail by Magistrate Brambhananan Dubay after appearing in the Arima Magistrate’s Court charged with two counts of sexual penetration with a minor, last Friday.
As part of the conditions of her bail, which her husband stood as surety for, Houllier-Mahabir was ordered to refrain from communicating with the victim, who is now 15.
The offences allegedly occurred at her home between August 2016 and last year.
Under the Children’s Act, sexual penetration is defined as either inserting any body part or object into a child’s bodily orifice or the insertion of a child’s body into a person’s bodily orifice. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Detectives of the Child Protection Unit began investigating the mother of two after video clips were posted on social media.
The woman was arrested and charged last week.
In a press release issued last week, the Children’s Authority noted that society may have a skewed view over such cases involving female adults having sex with underage boys.
“The authority is calling on the public to recognise that sexual abuse of boys is also perpetrated by women and must be reported. Although society often accepts boys having sexual experiences with older women, this must be condemned as it is child abuse,” the release said.
The authority also noted that while it receives frequent reports of physical abuse and neglect of boys, sexual abuse against them is under-reported.
The authority advised parents to speak to their children over the issue.
“Parents and guardians are encouraged to let boys know that they can be sexually groomed by a male or female adult, who will befriend them by building a close relationship in order to gain their trust, with the intention of later engaging in sexual activity,” the release said.
The authority also said that it would provide counselling for the teenager and his family.
The investigation was supervised by Supt Sharon Cooper and ASP Claire Guy-Alleyne of Northern Division’s Child Protection Unit. WPC Marsha John laid the charges.
University of the West Indies (UWI) student Anjali Ramlalsingh was crowned 2018 Miss La Reine Rive at the Sundar Popo Hall of Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA), San Fernando, on Sunday.
Ramlalsingh, 18, is a first-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at St Augustine campus.
Ramlalsingh, who lives at St Helena Village, Piarco, and represented the community of Nariva/Mayaro, not only took the top prize of $37,500 but also won two category titles as well.
Even, as her supporters rooted for her through the show, Ramlalsingh maintained composure and cascaded across the stage in a Michael Salikram-influenced gown. The flesh colour gown was adorned with beads, sequins and dried cocoa beans and pods that paid tribute to the cocoa plantations which were part of the history of the community she represented.
The runners-up were Chanda Marie La Touche (St George West), Aneka Audain (St George West), Kerry-Ann Sealy and Shenesse Richardson.
The show, titled Le Granz Affaire, was the climax of a two-part event. Earlier this month the 15 delegates took part in the self-expression and talent segments.
Delivering the feature address at the event, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the level of talent exhibited was on par with that displayed in the foreign-based version of America’s Got Talent.
“The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy competition is our long-standing version of Trinidad and Tobago’s got talent. Imagine America’s Got talent started only in 2006, we have had Best Village for over 60 years,” Gadsby-Dolly told the gathering
“Over the past three years, a concerted effort had been made to mainstream the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition. We created and streamed the Folk Arts Festival live, opening it up to new audiences. We must diversify our offering as our audience and culture evolve. If we don’t, Best Village will fast become irrelevant. In order to grow it, we must step up, adapt or become extinct.”
The night also showcased the talents of the Swastika East Indian devotional dance group, Green Pioneers Spiritual Song, Khalanayak Academy of Dance, Sabor Del Caribe parang group and the Malick Folk Performing Company.
Best Makeup: Anjali Ramlalsingh (Nariva/Mayaro)
Best Hair Style: Aneka Audain (St George West)
Best Talent: Aneka Audain (St George West)
Best Self Expression: Chanda La Touche (St George West)
Best Gown: Anjali Ramlalsingh (Nariva/Mayaro)
An inconsolable Salasha Ali says her life will never be the same in the wake of Friday’s accident in which industrial equipment fell off a truck and almost crushed her to death. While she thanked God for saving her life yesterday, Ali, 30, said she fears the injuries she sustained will never heal 100 per cent.
Strong enough to speak despite being in excruciating pains in her bed at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Ali cried: “I thank God for life but my whole life just gone in front of my eyes. I will never be the same again. How will I take care of my two children, they need me…my husband needs me. Will I ever live my life normal again?”
Ali sustained a broken right arm and is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery on it next Tuesday.
“I was told that my bones cannot mend back on its own due to the extent of damages. My arm was shattered.”
Her pelvic bone is also severely damaged causing numbness in the legs and she received injuries to her head and spine.
Ali was unable to move any part of her body on the right side yesterday and broke down in tears as she recalled the moments just before the industrial welding plant flew off a three-tonne truck and landed on her along Chin Chin Road in Cunupia. Ali’s 12-year-old daughter Saleena also sustained minor injuries during the incident
Ali yesterday said she believes she had died on the scene for a moment and shared her “outer body experience.”
“I had now pack out the table and as I bend down to see about the ochroes I had in a box and I hear something and when I look up this huge thing hit me. I didn’t know anything after that, except that my soul came out and I saw my two children bawling and crying for me,” Ali said.
“I remember seeing a big white flash and just like that, I felt my body jolted and like my soul snap back into my body. I remembered opening my eyes but not being able to see clearly in front of me. I was not myself…ever since I am in so much pain…too much to bear.”
Ali said this week she was supposed to buy things for the children ahead of the reopening of school next week.
“I am a poor person and my family is very poor but I work very hard and more hard to see my children off to school and getting their education. I have no money. My daughter, although she got an injury to the eye, she is crying out for pain all over her body every night. I can only watch them through the window here (referring to the ward), I cannot even hug my children.”
Ali said she the owner of the construction company whose truck was involved in the accident had visited her and offered grocery items.
“I don’t want that…what could that do for me right now? My life destroyed. I need to be properly well compensated. The driver should be held responsible and should be in jail. The driver never even come to see me…nothing,” Ali lamented.
Ali’s husband, Michael Sookwah, yesterday met with his attorney to seek legal advice.
“We want justice. My wife crying too much and I can’t sit and do nothing.”The T&T Guardian understands that the truck driver, who is said to be in his early 20s, was only recently employed with the company.
Efforts to reach the company’s owner yesterday were unsuccessful as he did not return calls. Officers of the Cunupia Police Station are continuing investigations.
Congress of the People (COP) leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan is calling on the Government to reveal details of the Terms of Agreement (TOA) on the Dragon gas contract signed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro.
Seepersad-Bachan said yesterday that while the Government may not be able to publicly state the agreed price for gas produced from the Dragon field, it ought to provide details on the pricing formula and other emerging issues related to the project.
The first gas from the Dragon field is expected to get to this country by late 2020 or early 2021, according to Energy Minister Franklin Khan. The agreement is for 150 million cubic feet of gas per day in the first phase, which will be used for the LNG and the petrochemical sectors.
In a release yesterday, Seepersad- Bachan said, “In the case of LNG, the price at the well-head is determined based on the netback pricing formula and in the case of the petrochemical sector, NGC’s resale prices are linked to international commodity prices. If the same approach is not applied to the pricing of the Dragon gas the NGC is at risk of its sale price being lower than its cost price, thus incurring huge losses.”
It has been reported that a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was created and an agreement signed in March 2017 by Shell, NGC and PDVSA for the construction of a 30km gas pipeline, pumping stations, metering systems and installation of safety and control systems at a total cost of US$100 million.
Seepersad-Bachan said the Government needs to give the country the details.
“What is the percentage holding of NGC in this SPV, as this will dictate capital investment required for this project? Additionally, at what point does fiscalisation occur? Is it the intention for NGC to take ownership from the well-head and pay a fee for the transportation of gas via this infrastructure?”
She accused Khan of “erroneously” likening the project to the Loran Manatee cross-border field in which Trinidad and Tobago owns 2.7 tcf, which was unitised by signed agreement in August 2010 to facilitate a joint operator.
But she said, “On the contrary, the Dragon gas field is located across the border and therefore this project involves the sale of Venezuelan gas.”
Seepersad-Bachan also wants to know, given the current state of affairs in Venezuela, whether the Government had taken into consideration the geopolitical risks which significantly impact on the viability and reliability of this project.
“What assurances are there that future governments will honour this agreement to supply gas at the agreed pricing?” she asked.
In such an event, she said the NGC and by extension, the citizens of this country will bear the full cost of lost revenue for ALNG and downstream petrochemical companies.
In addition, she said,“The literature is replete with examples of expropriation of assets in the Venezuelan energy sector. This places the US100 million dollar investment at risk should such an event occur.”
As a result, she said the Government and the NGC must openly indicate to the citizenry how they intend to mitigate these risks.
“Answers to these questions will clearly indicate whether this is a theoretical dream or an implementable reality,” she said.
The country is, today, bracing for a decision on the restructuring of the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Petrotrin).
The decision has been preceded by allegations that the company has the potential to bankrupt the country and clear indications that the restructuring of Petrotrin will be a painful exercise.
How did we get here? Who is to blame and what are the lessons to be learnt?
Petrotrin was incorporated in 1993 to consolidate the interests of the Trinidad and Tobago Oil Company Limited (Trintoc) and the Trinidad and Tobago Petroleum Company Limited (Trintopec).
These companies were, in fact, an amalgamation of predecessor companies including Trinidad Leaseholds Limited, BP, Shell, Texaco and others. In the case of both Trintoc and Trintopec and later Trinmar assets, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago spent hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to protect jobs and to control “the commanding heights of the economy.”
The core mandate of protecting jobs has remained with the company, regardless of which political party has been in power. By bringing all three assets together then, the Government unwittingly helped consolidate the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union’s power in the State-owned energy sector and made it even more difficult to institute changes.
The amalgamation of the companies was done without a full understanding of how the two cultures were to be integrated, basic issues like the classification of workers and salaries were not properly thought through, with some positions requiring individuals to operate in the same job with different titles. This never helped and the crucial issues of esprit de corps and organisational commitment would have been difficult to achieve.
Petrotrin as a company has three key areas, Exploration and Production (both on-land and offshore in its Trinmar assets), Refining and the Marketing and its Administrative areas that will include things like its hospital.
To appreciate the company’s challenge, it must be looked at from these perspectives.
In terms of Exploration and Production, Petrotrin is in control of significant assets and its on-land fields are stripper fields in which the individual wells produce few barrels of oil per day. This is because most of the fields were discovered over 100 years ago and cannot produce significant oil without the use of various secondary recovery methods.
In terms of its offshore assets in Trinmar, the last discovery, the Soldado Field, was made in 1914. Therefore, you have a company that is in the business of producing fewer and fewer barrels of oil per day but with the same level of staffing and fixed costs. This is a recipe for significant increase in the average lifting cost since this is determined by volume divided by fixed and variable cost.
The lack of money to explore for new oil has left the company in a chicken and egg situation, where it is sitting on potentially lucrative assets but with no money or technology to go after it. This leads to make-up news about major fields being discovered by Petrotrin, as happened in 2012 when then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced a major discovery of the Jubilee field which was supposed to lead to significant increase in production.
On the Refining and Marketing side, Petrotrin was faced with an ageing refinery that had long passed its best days when it was the fifth largest refinery in the world and key to the World War II effort. Changes in the stipulation of fuels, like the removal of lead, the challenges to its traditional markets due to the PetroCaribe deal and colossal waste of money in cost overruns due to the refinery upgrades have crippled the company.
There was no doubt that the board of the late Malcolm Jones had to reconfigure the refinery if it was to stay in business, but Petrotrin did so on borrowed money that was not used efficiently with massive cost overruns. The project management skills of the company left a lot to be desired and the projects were all years behind schedule, hundreds of millions over budget and significantly increased the company’s gearing ratio.
It is this debt and the inability to pay back the money from creditors, coupled with the near junk rating that is driving this restructuring. The Government is faced with Petrotrin’s liability impacting its own credit rating and its ability to borrow.
On the administrative side, Petrotrin continues to carry much higher costs than other similar companies and its pension and health benefits carry major costs with it supporting workers and their families, even after they retire, in private clinics and its own hospital.
Faced with this, governments have refused to act, part of their inaction has had to do with the strength of the union that has always threatened and on some occasions shut down the company if threatened. This has led to a continuous increase in salaries that are unsustainable.
But a big part of the challenge is that from the People’s National Movement to the United National Congress, both major parties have seen Petrotrin as an opportunity for political largesse, supporters are regularly placed in positions in the company and the management is changed whenever there is a change in government and often when there is even a change in the board.
This has led to a situation where it’s about survival for the upper management and a loss of talent, as those who have the capacity often take opportunities where innovation and stability reside.
There is no doubt that today has an omen of a watershed moment, but with the strength of the OWTU at risk and so much to lose on personal and political levels, the issue is whether there will be common ground or if there will be an attempt to mash up de place.
By the end of today the country will be clearer on the future of the state oil company Petrotrin.
Today is D-Day for Petrotrin as the company meets separately with the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) which represents the majority of workers, the National Petroleum Staff Association and the Estate Police Association on the plan for the future of the state company.
Yesterday, company officials and Energy Minister Franklyn Khan remained mum on what the restructuring will entail, but union officials expressed concern that workers will be sent home. On Sunday, Energy Minister Franklyn Khan under whose portfolio Petrotrin falls, told the media that today’s discussions are “significant,” because “for the first time we will lay bare what our plans are.”
Yesterday Khan declined further comment on the planned restructuring but he ruled out disposal of the assets saying: “Petrotrin does not belong to the PNM Cabinet, it belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and for the time being we operate in trust for the people.
We will not flippantly dispose of the assets of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Khan said.
The plan to be revealed by the company follows months of discussions and international expert analysis which examined what Khan described as “the quagmire that is Petrotrin,” including its finances, performance, debt and its benchmarking which Khan described as being at the “bottom of the fourth quartile.”
Khan said the plan which had been “formulated and accepted on the future of Petrotrin,” will be articulated to the unions today. It is only after those meetings that the national community will be informed of what had been decided upon.
He did not want to prejudge what will happen after the Company meets the OWTU but contingency plans are being put in place in the event of any action by the workers led by the OWTU.
Khan said “this country is ruled by law and order. Any action deemed illegal will obviously have to be dealt with.”
In a situation like this he said “contingency plans will have to be put in place,” but he declined to say what those are, “let us wait and see I don’t want to prejudge what will happen, let’s wait and see,” Khan said.
Khan reiterated his call for “maturity, pragmatism and nationalism,” saying this is about the “national interest.
Last evening officials of the OWTU met in final preparation ahead of the meeting with the company scheduled for ten thirty this morning.
The Union has mobilised workers for a meeting scheduled for three o’clock this afternoon immediately following the meeting when officials say they will also speak to the media on what was revealed to them.
Petrotrin Chairman Wilfred Espinet was unavailable for comment ahead of the talks and company officials reached by the Guardian said details of the plan will only be revealed after the company met with the unions.
Petrotrin has a combined workforce of more than 5,000 employees, the majority of whom are in the core operating areas, but the company provides indirect employment for thousands more.
Its salaries and wages bill according to Khan is “in excess of fifty per cent of its operating cost.”
The company is the source of all gasoline, diesel and jet fuel consumed by the country and is the pillar of the economy in South Trinidad.
However the company has a debt of TT$13B, owes the Government TT$3.5B in outstanding taxes and royalty, and has a bullet payment valued at US$850M due in November next year.
Yesterday the Energy Chamber posted a chart on its Facebook page indicating that between January and June this year Petrotrin imported over 15 million barrels of crude oil for the refinery.
40% of the crude oil imports came from Russia, 29% from Colombia, 22% from Gabon, 8% from Canada and 1% from Barbados.
Khan told the media on Sunday that apart from the cost to import the crude, “what compounds the matter is for every barrel of crude refined the company loses between US two dollars and fifty cents and three dollars per barrel, so you importing oil to lose money,” Khan said. Because of the amount being spent to import crude and the loss incurred on the crude, Khan said it had made the refinery “unprofitable.”
Faced with the hospitalization of a Venezuelan national who is being treated for malaria at the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, Cedros residents are now calling on the government to do immediate screening, spraying, and testing in the southwestern peninsula to prevent any Malaria outbreak.
The victim, identified at Manuel Brunto, is receiving treatment at Ward 11, after blood tests confirmed he was suffering from Malaria.
Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito-borne blood disease caused by a Plasmodium parasite. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito.
Once an infected mosquito bites a human, the parasites multiply in the host's liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.
Sixteen cases have already been reported for the year by the Health Ministry and residents of Cedros and Icacos are now calling on the Ministry of Health to begin immediate spraying of their communities.
In an interview, councilor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh said Venezuelans were continuing to enter T&T legally and illegally in droves.
"We want to know how many more Venezuelans are coming into the country with Malaria.
Both the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Health must do urgent work to prevent any outbreak of malaria. Cedros is the first place that is going to be affected. Venezuelans are migrating to Icacos and other areas. We need protection," Teelucksingh said.
He also said he had called Red Cross International with the hope that they too can offer assistance. Teelucksingh said house to house monitoring must be done in areas where there is a surplus of Venezuelan migrants.
"We need testing kits and other testing devices to detect and quarantine infected people who are diagnosed. We also need a mobile unit doing house checks to see where they are and have testing and medication for treatment of both local and foreign visitors. They need to equip the port with necessary scanners and blood testing equipment," Teelucksingh said.
He added that immediate spraying of mosquitoes was required in Boodram Trace, Lower and Upper Icacos, Point Coco, Lalla Trace, Bilwah Trace, Ramdhanie Trace and Grand Chemin Extension. Saying mosquitoes were breeding undeterred, Teelucksingh said the Ministry must take precautions to safeguard the lives of residents.
At Lower Icacos, Dilisa Garib said residents were very worried about the potential outbreak of malaria.
"There is a lot of bush and abandoned buildings in Icacos and Cedros. The grass is not being cut. Icacos is below sea level so when rain falls it takes a long time to drain out. Mosquitoes breed in these waters. There are also illegal animals being brought into the peninsula. They too are bringing in sickness," Garib said.
She also added that apart from the mosquito problem, there was still a severe water crisis in the region.
Another resident Abhiman Ackool said the authorities must do regular spraying in the entire peninsula.
"Whenever they do spraying, which is very rare, they spray during the day. This makes no sense because the mosquitoes come out later in the evening," Ackool said. He called on Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to take interest in the communities in case there is an outbreak of malaria such as what is currently occurring in Venezuela.
In a Reuters article in April, the World Health Organisation reported that malaria was spreading rapidly in crisis-hit Venezuela, with more than an estimated 406,000 cases in 2017, up roughly 69 percent from a year before, the largest increase worldwide.
The WHO said Venezuelan migrants fleeing the economic and social crisis were carrying the mosquito-borne disease into Brazil and other parts of Latin America. It urged authorities to provide free screening and treatment regardless of their legal status to avoid further spread.
Contacted yesterday Deyalsingh referred questions to Chief Medical Officer Dr Rohan Parasram who said most of the 16 malaria cases were Venezuelan nationals and citizens who visited Venezuela and returned to T&T.
He said the port authority had standard procedures regarding malaria and anyone exhibiting symptoms are tested. He said it was difficult to do house to house testing as deployments of resources had to be done in an effective manner. Parasram said once a person tests positive, teams are sent into the community to do screening on relatives and neighbours.
"The fact that we haven't had a large influx of cases means this system is working. The threat is not as large as they are making it out to be," Parasram said.
He added that the suggestions raised by the residents will be considered by the Ministry.
Coast Guard officers have finally recovered the body of Kesion Jonathan Rampersad, who drowned on the eve of his birthday while swimming at the mouth of the Lanse Mitan River in Moruga on Sunday.
Rampersad's father John and his brothers Tristion, 18, and Aashish spent most of yesterday morning searching the shoreline with the hope that his body will be found.
From dawn, Coast Guard divers began combing the mouth of the river hoping to see whether he was stuck in the mud but it was around midday, that the corpse finally came up a short distance from where he disappeared.
Police said Rampersad would have celebrated his 22nd birthday yesterday. Investigators said around 5:30 pm, he was swimming with three friends at the mouth of the river when they got into difficulties.
Two of them managed to get out but Rampersad disappeared under the water.
During an interview Monday, Rampersad's aunt Mary Vialva said the drowning was unexpected and devastating.
Describing her nephew as a kind and helpful man, Vialva said one of Rampersad's friends got into an accident recently and Rampersad took on the responsibility to carry him for therapy.
On Saturday, Rampersad told his family that he was spending the night at his friend's home in Barrackpore.
She said on Sunday, his youngest sister Amelia Rampersad, who lives elsewhere with their mother Mindy Rampersad, visited Rampersad's home at Bunsee Trace so she could tie a rakhi in commemoration of the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan which celebrates the bonds between a brother and a sister.
"She waited for him and she kept asking when he would come home but late in the evening, his friend's father came and said they looking for him in the river because they think he drowned," Vialva said.
Rampersad worked part-time as a security officer with Travtech Security Services.
An autopsy will be done on his body today at the Forensic Science Centre. Moruga police are continuing investigations.
Coast Guard divers are still searching for the body of Kesion Rampersad who is believed to have drowned at Moruga on Sunday.
Rampersad, 21, of Penal Rock Road, was swimming at the mouth of the Lanse Mitan River around 5.30 pm when he and three other people got into difficulty.
Two of the people were pulled from the river but Rampersad disappeared into the water.
Villagers and fishermen are assisting in the search efforts.
More as this story develops.
The Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) says it will be staying on top of things to ensure that money allocated for the reconstruction of the Central Block of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital is not reallocated “to some other grandiose project in the build-up to the general elections.”
TTRNA president Idi Stuart told the T&T Guardian yesterday that they will be seeking details of the promise by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh that a facility to house 500 beds will replace the Central Block, which was condemned after last Tuesday’s 6.9 earthquake.
Patients from the Central Block have since been relocated to the North Block.
Yesterday, Stuart said while Deyalsingh has indicated that Cabinet had approved the construction of the 500-bed facility Government has not indicated where the funding will come from.”
He said the TTRNA will be monitoring the situation because of the previous experience when the “Couva Hospital, an institution which the country never needed, was given priority over the Central Block, condemned since 2009, the Point Fortin Hospital and the Arima Hospital, none of which have been completed.”
He said for a government “it is not marketable to say you build one block, it is more marketable to say you build a whole hospital. But we will ensure it remains high on their list”.
Stuart said conditions currently on the PoSGH North Block, where patients were relocated after the earthquake, are also “extremely cramped” now. But he said nurses understand there is a bigger goal.
“The bigger goal is the demolition and the construction of a safe central block to house patients and staff,” he said.
The Ministry of Health will be meeting with the association sometime this week and Stuart said they hope to hear what Government’s plans are and will be sharing their input. He said the association will also be taking a structural engineer to the meeting with the ministry.
“We intend to clearly state what our position is,” Stuart said.
Northwest Regional Health Authority CEO Wendy Ali told the T&T Guardian she had been on the PoSGH compound throughout the weekend and everything seems to be going fine. She said work was also being done to facilitate the reopening of the Haematology Clinic tomorrow. In addition, she said ward space was being prepared at the St James Medical Complex to “facilitate further admissions.”