An Opposition MP is urging Government to take all possible steps to prevent the threat of a major environmental disaster which the FSO Nabarima poses, from becoming a reality.
In correspondence addressed to Energy Minister Franklyn Khan and Foreign Minister Dr Amery Browne, Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West Dinesh Rambally warns of the destruction to lives and livelihoods if the worst comes to pass and the oil spill threat the vessel poses, actually happens.
“The Government must take all the necessary steps to protect its citizens including ordering of independent scientific monitoring of threatened environments, requiring and publicizing environmental studies and providing meaningful opportunities for citizens to be heard and to participate in the decisions affecting their communities,” MP Rambally states in his letter. “Nothing less will be acceptable in our sovereign democratic State.”
Writing on behalf of his constituents—the fisher-folk of Felicity and Charlieville—the Chaguanas West MP calls on Government to be more transparent about its efforts to prevent disaster, keeping the public abreast of all developments in the matter.
“My constituents are dissatisfied about, and are on high alert over the Government’s, its servants’ and/or agents’ frankness, or lack thereof, in disclosing the true status of the Nabarima,” he wrote.
The Chaguanas West MP also states that following the recent survey of the vessel by a team from this country, several issues need further clarification. He is asking both Ministers:
a.) Can you provide the terms of engagement within which permission was granted to the Trinidad and Tobago Government by the Venezuelan authorities for the inspection of the FSO? This is sought in an attempt to gauge the scope of independence with which our technical team was endowed in its inspection.
b.) Can you give an indication as to the readiness of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard in terms of both personnel and equipment to deal with an oil spill in the unfortunate event there is one?
c.) Can you indicate which countries or international bodies with expertise in oil spill management have been alerted or solicited for advice and support in the event there is a spill? (Also provide details of the Escazu Agreement and to what extent, if any, T&T stands to benefit.)
d.) Can you update the citizenry of what is the financial arrangements existing between the Trinidad and Tobago Government and the Venezuelan Government for the cleanup of any oil spill in the waters between the two countries? (Please include details of funding and liabilities arising under Treaties, International and/or Maritime Law & Convention)
e.) Given that the Venezuelan Government has not been very cooperative in matters relating to the FSO inspection and photographs during the site visit, can you indicate if there is a contingency plan which considers the possibility that there is no cooperation from Venezuela?
f.) Given that the Venezuelan authorities did not allow our technical team to use their own instruments to carry out an independent inspection, on what basis is the Trinidad and Tobago Government feeling assured that this site visit was in fact a bona fide inspection versus a carefully guided tour?
g.) In the unfortunate event that there is an oil spill which would inevitably lead to the eradication of the fishing industry and adversely impact the Felicity and other fisherfolk, what remedies and/or compensation will be available to them?
h.) The Minister of Energy and Energy Industries has indicated that the risk from the Nabarima is minimal. Can the Minister indicate exactly what level of risk is considered minimal and what level does the Minister consider acceptable?
i.) To what extent can the Ministers say that they are confident that their minimal risk assessment is accurate and not perhaps a whitewashing of the handicaps of the site visit which rendered our technical team powerless to do their job?
MP Rambally warns in his correspondence to the Energy and Foreign Ministers that in the event of an oil spill, there will be ecological damage of disastrous proportions to the marine environment.
He states that not only will it affect his constituents and Trinidad and Tobago, but it also has consequences for neighbouring countries such as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as parts of Venezuela, itself.