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Saturday 22 September 2018
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Prayers on dangerous ground

DANGER: A Petrotrin ‘no trespassing’ sign at the front of the Church of God Prophecy in Barrackpore. The oil company wants the building knocked down and members to go elsewhere and pray. PHOTO BY ANSEL JEBODH

STATE-OWNED Petrotrin wants a church shut down as it is too close to one its oil wells. The company is calling on a Bishop and a pastor to demolish the church building in the next seven days or face a lawsuit on the grounds that they are exposing their congregation to a possible explosion.

Demolish the Church of God Prophecy at Mussrap Trace in Barrackpore, Petrotrin’s legal department attorneys have demanded in a letter sent to the Bishop and pastor. The company says the church is trespassing on its well site and pipelines along Mussrap Trace and have accused pastor Roy Seebaran of exposing his flock to a well site.

So risky is the continued attendance of members of the church, Petrotrin has warned that the safety and environmental risk is too high especially as an explosion can take place if a church member were to ignite something or even a child plays in the church yard.

Petrotrin has given the Church seven days to break down the building and leave the danger zone and remove all materials and structures from close to its oil well. But Seebaran and Bishop Kelvin Ramkissoon are challenging Petrotrin’s eviction threat on the ground that they have been in uninterrupted occupation of the site for over 30 years.

Recently, Petrotrin in acting in the interest of the church members’ safety, erected a ‘No Trespassing’ sign at the church’s entrance. The land consists of three lots and recently, the church’s management erected a play park for children. In February, Petrotrin’s Ag manager of Lands and Surveys attorney Vade Chadee, wrote to Seebaran and said that church members illegally constructed the church building and also established a children’s play park within 100 feet of its well.

The letter said church members are “passing and re-passing over the pipeline to access the church in violation of Petrotrin’s rights.” In fact, the letter warned that the trespassing by members pose a health and safety risk not only to Seebaran and his family, but also to the company’s employees, the community at large and in particular, the church’s congregation and children.

Last month, Petrotrin’s Jamal Sookoor (manager Lands and Surveys) sent a letter warning Seebaran that he had only taken limited action to clear the children’s play area. The letter warned that Petrotrin has no alternative but to take legal action without further notification.

Seebaran and Ramkissoon have retained attorney Jeevan Andrew Rampersad, who in a reply on Friday last, said they have been in continuous occupation of the lands for over 30 years and substantial sums of money were spent on constructing the church building.

Rampersad said Petrotrin never objected over the years to structures being built and further, having developed the area, the church has a financial claim if the company were to evict them.

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