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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Doing the right thing

THERE was an agreement but not the kind that bridges gaps.

“We have agreed to disagree, but the Government of Trinidad and Tobago maintains its decision to close the refinery,” said Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis after a meeting was held between Government and trade union officials over the fate of the Petrotrin refinery.

All sides need to tone down the rhetoric. Trade unions and critics are entitled to air their views without being ascribed pernicious motives, while trade union officials and other stakeholders need to really understand the implications of the words they choose. There has been a shocking amount of extreme rhetoric.

“Be prepared to die,” said Watson Duke. Ancel Roget spoke of the setting up of a “war room.”

On this matter, we have called for facts, and not hyperbolic rhetoric, to be our guide. We repeat that entreaty.

In some respects, the declaration of an agreement to disagree was good in that it was a somewhat civil a formulation, suggesting both sides could still remain around the table and engage in dialogue at a future stage. On the other hand, it is important for any government, even one that sees itself acting in the best interest of the population at large, to be mindful of the need to allow citizens to air their views and at least have some form of say or participation.

No one seems to agree on the crucial figures in relation to the state of affairs at Petrotrin’s refinery. But there is no reason why this matter cannot be properly ventilated further, as it clearly needs to be.

For now, it is crucial for the Government to live up to all of its promises in relation to the fate of the thousands of workers who will be affected, directly or indirectly, by this measure. We do not need another repeat of the Caroni (1975) Ltd closure.

With a timeline of implementation set to begin next month and closure planned by the end of the year, all stakeholders must be on the same page. We should not be hearing one thing from the board, another from the Cabinet.

Yesterday was a test on the nation to see if people could disagree civilly while leaving the best interest of the nation paramount. There were preliminary signs of some absenteeism but no reports of major disruptions to the smooth running of the country. Sometimes doing the right thing involves getting our point across without making innocent people pay a price.

And sometimes it means living up to the collateral promises we make when implementing tough decisions.

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