UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has scoffed at an ultimatum given to her by Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) leader Ancel Roget saying he is not her father and she is not obligated to respond to any statements made by him.
“I want to let him know he is not my father and I have no duty to answer him. But I am a servant of the people and I have a duty to answer to you, and I will continue to raise matters in the public domain, matters for the common good and in the public interest.”
She was addressing the annual Siparia Women's Association Annual Divali celebrations at her Siparia constituency offices on Friday night.
Persad-Bisssessar said she had not planned to speak about issues related to former state-owned oil company Petrotrin, but had to respond to Roget’s ultimatum in which he had called on her to declare whether she supported statements by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal during the budget debate.
Moonilal claimed to have found a paper trail showing foul play in the acquisition of the former Petrotrin refinery by the OWTU’s Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd.
Roget, at a media conference on Thursday, called on Persad-Bissessar to declare whether she supported the OWTU or Moonilal, saying the union would mount a nationwide campaign against the UNC if she did not distance the party from Moonilal’s statements. But in a show of defiance, Persad-Bissessar read out a statement in which she observed that neither she nor the UNC had closed down Petrotrin, last year.
“Ten thousand permanent, temporary and contracted Petrotrin workers lost their jobs due to the failures of Keith Rowley, on one side, and the Ancel Roget, David Abdulah tandem, on the other side. These men need to acknowledge that they presided over this mess, take responsibility and cease looking for a scapegoat to save face.”
“We are not against the OWTU and workers, and indeed wish them well, but we call for transparency, full disclosure and accountability on this refinery deal. The fact is that Patriotic Energies is a private company. It is not owned by the public and therefore this transaction is one whereby a multibillion-dollar state asset is being sold to a private company.
"Had this transaction been between an entity associated with the UNC and the government, or an entity deemed owned by the so-called one per cent and the government, both men, as well as the OWTU, would be protesting for transparency and accountability. Everyone must be held to the same standard!”
Persad-Bissessar also wondered why Roget had not issued an ultimatum against the Prime Minister when the “PNM closed down the refinery and brought misery to over 10,000 workers and their families.”
“They gave no ultimatum when TSTT, Arcelor Mittal and UTT workers lost their jobs.“However, don’t be mistaken, the UNC and I will not be blackmailed by anyone to remain silent on issues of public interest in order to gain support for any election. We are about plans and policies to get our country working again.
"As I said in my budget statement, 'A new UNC government will work with stakeholders to swiftly resolve all outstanding issues regarding former Petrotrin workers.' I intend to keep my word.”
Persad-Bissessar also noted that the country is approaching two elections and the Divali season is one of the few times they could spend some “down time since many of us will be very busy in this election season.” The local government election takes place on December 2, and general elections are due next year.
She said the message of Divali is a message of hope and the ability to overcome evil with good.
“Divali is first and foremost about light, about overcoming darkness, about hope overcoming despair, and good overcoming evil, only light can drive out darkness and so to only good can drive out evil.”She said there are leaders who are trying to stir up hatred and division as they feel this is the only way for them to retake political power.
“But we must never divided, we are one people and we are one nation.”Also attending the celebrations were the Chinese Ambassador to TT Song Yumin, the Indian High Commissioner to TT Arun Kumar Sahu and former Sierre Leone ambassador Vandi Minah.