[UPDATED] Head of Paria tragedy enquiry resigns, replacement found

HIRED:  Jerome Lynch, QC.
HIRED: Jerome Lynch, QC.

The chairman of the commission of enquiry appointed to probe the deaths of four LMCS Ltd divers has resigned.

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young announced this during a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on Thursday afternoon.

Young said the original chairman of the commission, Jamaica-born Justice Dennis Morrison, QC, had resigned, citing personal reasons but did not go into further detail.

Young said Morrison's resignation was not expected to affect the timeline of proceedings, as Cabinet has already approved his replacement, Jerome Lynch, QC, also from Jamaica.

He said Lynch was a qualified attorney who came highly recommended, and was optimistic that he would be able to keep the deadlines set for the commission.

In May Finance Minister Colm Imbert during a sitting of the Lower House in May said the Commission of Enquiry was in its pre-hearing stage.

"One of the discussions I had with him (Lynch) before he undertook the task, subject to Cabinet's approval of being the chairman of the commission of enquiry, is that they would stick to the original timetables that they set out when Mr Justice Morrison was here, and Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, has been talking to the population about the commencement of their procedural hearings in the month of August. That is still on track.

"Mr Lynch is going to get here, we're going to have him sworn in in the shortest possible timeframe – I'm actually aiming at next week but we have to make the necessary arrangements."

Lynch was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1983 and has practised law in London and the Caribbean.

The committee also included sub-sea specialist Gregory Wilson for support. Maharaj serves as counsel for the commission.

On February 25, divers Kazim Jeremiah Ali, Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban and Rishi Nagassar died when they were sucked into a 30-inch-diameter sub-sea pipeline belonging to the Paria Trading Company at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Contacted for comment, the attorney representing the families of Kurban and Henry, Prakash Ramadhar, said he was surprised to hear of Morrison's resignation, but was hopeful his replacement would begin work as soon as possible.

"We look forward to a speedy replacement so the commission of enquiry can proceed.

"The country is waiting with bated breath and notwithstanding the court proceedings the wider investigation will be very helpful in terms of not just knowing what happened but how we can prevent further tragedies."

Contacted for comment. Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh said Morrison's resignation was cause for concern, as it signalled a lack of organisation on the part of the government.

He also said he was not reassured by Young's promises that the commission would begin its work on time despite the change in chairman.

"Did the government do its due diligence to really assess whether he would have had the time set aside for this task?

RESIGNED: Jamaican jurist Cecil Dennis Morrison, QC. 

"I don't know what 'personal reasons' can be categorised as, but surely, when he assumed this responsibility, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet should have grilled this gentleman for him to understand the seriousness of the role ahead.

"The question arises, when will this Commission of Enquiry begin?"

Newsday also contacted education officer for the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) Ozzi Warwick, who said he was not surprised by the resignation and reaffirmed the union's call for the heads of the Paria Trading Company to resign.

"This recent announcement unfortunately vindicates the remarks of comrade (Ancel) Roget (head of the union) on Labour Day when he spoke about the hodge-podge commission of enquiry.

"We want to reiterate our call for the removal of those persons who were at the helm of Paria during this grave and painful incident, especially for the families.

"Nowhere in the world you will have a major industrial accident where four human beings died and people still in their jobs, grave injustice that is just being perpetuated, with no comfort to the families."

Newsday also contacted attorney for LMCS Ltd Gerald Ramdeen who said he would be prepared to give a comment on Friday.

This story was originally published with the title "Chairman of enquiry into Paria tragedy resigns, new one hired" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

The chairman of the commission of enquiry which was appointed to probe the deaths of four LMCS Ltd divers has resigned.

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young made the announcement during a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on Thursday afternoon.

Young said the original chairman of the commission, Jamaica-born Justice Dennis Morrison, QC, had resigned, citing personal reasons but did not go into further detail.

Young said Morrison's resignation was not expected to affect the timeline of proceedings, as Cabinet has already approved his replacement, Jerome Lynch, QC, also from Jamaica.

He said Lynch was a qualified attorney who came highly recommended and was optimistic that he would be able to keep the deadlines set for the commission.

"One of the discussions I had with him (Lynch) before he undertook the task, subject to Cabinet's approval of being the chairman of the commission of enquiry, is that they would stick to the original timetables that they set out when Mr Justice Morrison was here, and Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, has been talking to the population about the commencement of their procedural hearings in the month of August. That is still on track.

"Mr Lynch is going to get here, we're going to have him sworn in in the shortest possible timeframe –  I'm actually aiming at next week –  but we have to make the necessary arrangements."

Lynch was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1983 and has practised law in London and the Caribbean.

The commission also includes sub-sea specialist Gregory Wilson for support. Maharaj serves as counsel for the commission.

On February 25, divers Kazim Jeremiah Ali, Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban and Rishi Nagassar died when they were sucked into a 30-inch-diameter sub-sea pipeline owned by Paria Trading Company at Pointe-a-Pierre.

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"[UPDATED] Head of Paria tragedy enquiry resigns, replacement found"

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