Ernesto Kesar, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) Point Fortin candidate, has appealed for the 5,942 former Petrotrin and Trinmar workers to give him an opportunity to “right the wrong” perpetrated against them when the government shut down the oil company in 2018.
He is also advocating for city status for the borough.
Kesar who worked with the company for 25 of his 46 years, said the closure directly affected over 100,000 people from Point Lisas to Icacos, Palo Seco to Erin.
“What was done to Petrotrin and Trinmar – no amount of public relations, no amount of political spin and witchcraft, no amount of rhetoric, no amount of opposition tomfoolery can change that,” Kesar said at a virtual political meeting in Point Fortin on Tuesday night.
Kesar is a former branch president of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), which through its Patriotic Energies and Technologies company is hoping to restart the refinery and create employment.
Kesar told his former colleagues he is aware some of them “have on red (PNM colour) and some of you have on yellow (UNC party colour) because you playing for what you see.
“I not vex with you.
“I am saying the red and the yellow took away not just bread from your children’s mouths: people had to pull their children from universities because they could not afford to send them any more.
“Over 55 comrades and brothers and sisters have passed away because their medical plan was taken away.”
He said by closing the company, the government also jeopardised the pension and medical plans of some 10,000 retirees and their families.
He accused the government: “You have demonised some of the most highly skilled, highly qualified workers so that two years later they cannot get a job.”
He said these former workers now have to depend on one-month contracts or five- or ten-day employment arrangement.
“Now these same people you distressed, these same people you humiliated, these same people you took for granted – those are the same people you are asking to vote for you.”
So, he urged, “Brothers and sisters of Petrotrin and Trinmar and attachments and your families, the decision is yours. I cannot tell you how to vote, but if you listen to what I spoke about – and it’s the truth – I am asking you to give MSJ a chance to rectify that wrong that took place by a single political decision that was made that distressed almost the whole of south Trinidad.”
Kesar said Point Fortin, with its oil and gas wealth, has taken care of the entire country for over 100 years. He said it is the greatest constituency, which has produced some of the greatest athletes, scholars, technicians, engineers, educators and cultural exponents like Lancelot Layne, John Cupid, Earl Rodney, Arthur Lewis among others.
So if it is the greatest constituency, he asked, “Why then at 8 pm my entire community shuts down?
“We don’t even have a 24-hour gas station in Point Fortin but people say they proud, they ‘red till they dead,’ they ‘yellow till they dead.’”
He said it is time Point Fortin moves from borough to city status. In this regard he said, the MSJ has proposed plans on the pillars of education, finance, arts and culture, fishing and agriculture, infrastructure, sports, ecotourism and local development.
He said the ideas are not new, neither are they the intellectual property of the MSJ, but have been in the constituency for over 40 years, with no one activating them.
These plans, he said, could alleviate the age-old problems of flooding, provide sustainable jobs, develop the sporting industry as an alternative souce of employment and, more importantly, focus on human development.