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Hadad to those responsible for ferry fiasco: Please do the right thing

Port must answer— minister
Published: 
Monday, August 14, 2017
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan

President of the Inter-island Transport Committee’s Tobago Division Dianne Hadad says she is “absolutely disappointed” in Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, amid Government’s failure to secure a suitable passenger ferry to service the inter-island sea bridge.

Asked whether she agreed with growing calls for Sinanan and the Port Authority of T&T board to step down over the fiasco yesterday, Hadad said, “People need to let their conscience guide them...if they have one and I am supposing they do, do the right thing and if they don’t then leadership needs to do what leadership is put there to do. If people don’t perform it needs to be acted upon.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will meet with Tobago stakeholders next Monday to discuss the matter at the Magdalena Grand hotel at Lowlands, Tobago. Those expected to attend include the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association, Tobago Truckers Association and the Tobago Unique Bread and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association.

The meeting came in wake of the public furore over PATT’s decision to cancel the contract with Vancouver-based Bridgemans Services Group LP (BSG) for the Ocean Flower II, in the wake of revelations the vessel had several major mechanical issues which may have led to its delayed arrival here to pick up its contract in the first place.

The Ocean Flower II was described as unfit in a report by PATT chief engineer Brendon Powder, who carried out a sea trial of the vessel in Panama. The report was received by the Port Authority two days before the cancellation of the contract. Bridgemans Services Group said on Friday it is “exploring its options,” as it believes the cancellation to be invalid.

On whether establishing an efficient ferry service should have been done much sooner, Hadad said, “Sooner does not matter now because the mess has already happened. We were calling for those things months ago and in calling for that we were ignored, sidelined and people supposedly in authority made their decision. Therefore, the business community and Tobago on a whole have paid the price and will continue to pay the price for the decision making.”

She said the issue should have been handled in a “preventative mode,” especially since the organisation approached Government to ensure the current fiasco was averted. She said discussions were held even when Fitzgerald Hinds was Works Minister and Christine Sahadeo was PATT chairman.

“A lot of people are forgetting the past. We had indicated to them there was no contract with the Super Fast Galicia and that these people were on a ‘month-to-month handshake’ because there was nothing signed.

“And we came to the table at that point indicating that this was heading towards a problematic situation. We have a document to show that Mr Hinds had assured us that he had a document in place up until October 2018. We then subsequently found out that was not true...meaning that whoever was authorised to sign off on the document... it never happened,” Hadad said.

She said also around that time, Hinds was removed along with Sahadeo and fresh talks began with Sinanan, who took over as minister.

“It is at that stage we brought everything to Mr Sinanan and we had a three-and-a-half hour meeting with him in April of this year and we pleaded with him and his supposed technical team to ensure that they followed through with what we were asking for to ensure this did not happen. So after all that was said and done, this is where we are today.”

But she said after that meeting in April the business sector in Tobago was “sidelined,” adding there was still “deafening silence” from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). On establishing a way forward, Hadad said stakeholders had “no choice” but to meet with Rowley and his “supposed team.”

“But I can guarantee you that would be a very frank and open meeting with us vetting all the issues that were there previously, that we brought to the table that were ignored and the issues as they stand now and we will expect that the supposed leaders will actually take the advice of the people who live it, feel it and sleep it everyday,” she said.

Tobago Truckers Association president Horace Ameade yesterday also agreed there remained more questions than answers, but said he would attended today’s meeting with Rowley with an open mind. On what he wanted to come out of the meeting, Ameade said a proper working fast ferry to ensure business could be conducted efficiently.

Asked if he felt Sinanan or the PATT board should resign over the debacle, Ameade said someone ought to take responsibility.

“Something is not above board. Somebody must be held accountable because it is taking a toll on the day to day business in Tobago.”

Tobago Chamber of Commerce president Demi John Cruickshank echoed Ameade’s sentiments about attending the meeting with an open mind.

“We hope that this would bring an end to the crisis and chaos that is afflicting Tobago. We are happy that the Prime Minister has indicated that he is going to lead the meeting,” Cruickshank said, adding he hoped solutions to enhance the sea bridge would also be implemented.

On whether Sinanan ought to resign, Cruickshank said coming out of the meeting the Chamber will issue a statement on whether the minister ought to go or be given a chance.

Contacted yesterday about calls for him step down, Sinanan said the Port Authority would “make whatever statement they feel to make” about the process that was used.

“I am not going to comment for the port on this matter. The port will have to explain their position,” Sinanan said.

Asked whether as minister he ought to be held ultimately responsible, Sinanan said the Port Authority fell under the Works Ministry, but added: “I can tell you that I am confident that whatever actions I would take and role it is within the mandate of the minister. I have nothing to worry about or I am concerned.