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OWTU president-general Ancel Roget addresses the media during a press conference at OWTU’s Paramount Building in San Fernando yesterday.

KEVON FELMINE

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As Patriotic Energies and Technologies Limited engages the government in another round of negotiation for the acquisition of the Petrotrin refinery, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) says Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar committed treachery by misleading the people.

OWTU president general Ancel Roget said yesterday they would contemplate schooling Persad-Bissessar on refinery operations following her controversial commentary on the acquisition process during the United National Congress (UNC) virtual meeting Monday.

He said Persad-Bissessar is doing all she can to prevent Patriotic from acquiring the refinery, port and terminal assets, which would benefit the small man on the street.

“I want to proffer here this afternoon, respectfully, that the honourable Leader of the Opposition had one thing and one thing on her mind — that was to cause great injury and harm, I dare say, and attempt to deal a fatal blow to the acquisition process and to ensure that process does not see the light of day,” Roget said.

The OWTU called yesterday’s media conference at its Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando to clarify three issues Persad-Bissessar raised: the inclusion of Paria in the acquisition of the refinery, Patriotic’s partnership with international petroleum trader Trafigura PTE and the price of the refinery.

When the government shut down Petrotrin in 2018, it placed the refinery into Garacara and the storage and port assets into Paria; two recently incorporated companies. On Monday, Persad-Bissessar said that the government was not only selling Garacara but Paria as well, although it made no mention that it would sell the latter. She recalled that in March 2019, former Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet said Paria was on offer, and the company advertised an RFP for its sale. Two days later, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan said it was an error and ordered a retraction. She also recalled that days later, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that the government was yet to decide on the sale of Paria.

However, during that post Cabinet media briefing, Rowley clarified that while the government did not decide at the time, Paria was part of the restructuring of Petrotrin.

“If the restructuring is going to be a restart-up of the refinery and it involves any input for Paria, we would be crazy to have the refinery die when it could live because of Paria,” Rowley said.

Roget said that with his knowledge of refinery operations, a refinery, storage and port facilities go hand in hand for a successful process. He said when Shell and Texaco operated Trinidad’s oil industry, they knew this and built the necessary infrastructure.

“In our response to the RFP and to put in a bid, it had to have been for refinery and port facilities for it to make any sense. More than that, for it to make any economical and operational sense for it to benefit the company and for it to benefit Trinidad & Tobago. Therefore, it is a matter of public record that we would have placed a bid for the refinery and the port,” Roget said. He said the UNC was in the Parliament and the Hansard contains the information that the Patriotic submitted a bid for the port and refining assets.