GOVERNMENT will do everything that is reasonable to help Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) get the Guaracara refinery.
So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he dismissed as “stupid talk” comments that Ancel Roget and the OWTU could not run the refinery. Rowley was speaking at a PNM local government election campaign meeting in Siparia on Thursday night.
He stressed that it was in the interest of the entire country that the OWTU’s bid for the refinery succeeds.
“In these battles for nationalism and the fight for survival and sustainability, we are all in this together,” he said.
“Many people cannot visualise it, but we (in the PNM) can. The same way they couldn’t visualise LNG as a plant in T&T...the same way they couldn’t visualise anything other than mayhem and ‘manima’, we could visualise the following: We could visualise the OWTU leadership moving from pounding pavements and shouting across the street, to being in the board room and taking serious decisions about serious investments that could make their members seriously rich,” the Prime Minister said.
“There are those in the country who talking a lot of rubbish, about conspiracy between the OWTU and the PNM. I could argue with Roget and any one of them (in the union), but having argued with them, I respect them and can work with them. Because they have their interests and I have my responsibilities. And what I said to them in my address to the nation that as long as you put forward a proposal that is robust and that can stand the same scrutiny as any other, we will give you the opportunity,” he said. He said Government was waiting to see what the union comes to it with.
The Prime Minister said it was in everybody’s interest that the OWTU succeeds with its bid to own and operate the refinery and the government would do everything that is reasonable to make them succeed if it was a bankable proposal.
“As fate would have it at the end of a very transparent, deliberate and extended process, it turned out that the OWTU’s proposal was the best proposal and I make no apologies for that.” he said.
“And I want to go further tonight to tell the OWTU that as long as your proposal is robust, as long as your proposal can stand business scrutiny, you can count on the government of Trinidad and Tobago to work alongside you to get it done,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the OWTU (Patriotic Energies and Technologies) has put a proposal and Government has asked them to confirm that they had appropriate financing available. “It doesn’t mean that the OWTU has to have the money in the bank. They could go out there, the government having selected them, they can now go out there and find a financier. Because this is business, what they are engaged in is to make money. And all banks like to know people who are about to make money,” he said.
He said the main thing is that the refinery needs oil so finding an arrangement with somebody who has oil or who can buy oil is essential because you need crude oil for the refinery.
“And which union in the world has people in its executive who can run a refinery? If you don’t have skills then you go in the market place and you hire the skills, it is as simple as that. So this stupid talk about Roget can’t run a refinery and OWTU can’t run a refinery. As long as it is your business plan requiring those kinds of technical capabilities, you go and hire it,” he said.
He said there were those who believed that if the OWTU succeeds in managing the refinery it would be a quantum leap in T&T. “But not the PNM. Because they portray us as being anti-labour. When labour is doing nonsense, we will tell them so. When labour is on the right track, we tell them so,” he said.
The Prime Minister said “major investment decisions” were being made. He said just on Wednesday he was discussing at Whitehall the “fantastic prospects for a project with Shell which you will hear more about in the future”. He gave no further hint of what it is.
Justifying the decision to close the refinery, he said the critics only speak about how workers, contractors and communities were affected.
“That is true. But you must also see the other side of the story. The refinery was the main money loser in our involvement in the oil business. Ladies and Gentlemen in the Bible, written there (is the text) “God gave us two hands, if your left hand offends, what do you do with it?” “Cut it off” came the response of his audience.
He said the previous prime minister and the minister ignored the problem of Petrotrin. He said he told the nation what the problem was early in two addresses to the nation. “And now I have to listen to foolishness from idiots who make $100 a column every weekend talking about we shut down Petrotrin in secret”, he said.
Saying that the refinery threatened the entire country’s finances, the Prime Minister stated: “So when you hear all the speakers in the country talking as though these things don’t exist , unless they want to speak to the entire conversation, tell them “shut up and get out of the way”.
Every fundamental change made for the betterment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago involved a PNM Government, he said.