Friday, May 05, 2006

OPEN letter to Prime Minister Patrick Manning:

Trinidad Guardian
May 5, 2006

Last Friday in Point Fortin you were at your bullying best. You demanded that the local chamber of commerce show support for the proposed aluminium smelter project(s) in neighbouring Cap-de-ville (and La Brea). The chamber, it appears, duly genuflected as if it were a cell of your ruling party.

Opponents of these projects, you repeated, lacked knowledge of the operation of a modern smelter. And if we are to go on one of your a previous pronouncement, they are only a small group of “right-wing environmentalists.” Whatever that may mean.

In a certain sense you are correct. Opponents of the project(s) do lack vital knowledge concerning these smelters. Knowledge that only you (and a few of your cronies) have and the rest of the country remain anxious to obtain. It is extremely important that this knowledge gap is filled since you have made it clear that the smelters will be constructed regardless of what opposition your Government encounters.

Seen differently, it appears that you have given Alcoa’s short-term interest precedence over the long-term interest of T&T and its citizens. And, from all indications, you seem prepared to use the full coercive power of the State to ensure that the transnational company has full and unfettered opportunity to:

Destroy an important watershed and aquifer; compromise the health of every man, woman and child living and working in and around the proposed plant, not to mention the flora and fauna; degrade agricultural land; pollute air, land and sea while accelerating the depletion of our natural gas reserves.

Your critics view this as senseless. But since you have knowledge that they don’t, your explanation of what makes this project sustainable and in the interest of present and future generations will go a long way in filling the existing knowledge gap. Knowledge, as you well know, is power. It therefore cannot be that you are refusing to empower your people by denying knowledge. Or can it?

We would like to know, for example, what are the terms and conditions of the MOU and MOA signed with Alcoa? What is our current level of proven natural gas reserves and how long is it projected to last at current rates of consumption? What impact will the smelter project(s) have on the country’s proven reserves? What firm or government agency did the feasibility study for the smelter project(s)?

Why have you refused to consider the alternative development plan put forward by critics of the smelter project(s)? Why are you intent on bringing one of the dirtiest and environmentally damaging industries to our shores? Are there geopolitical considerations that are forcing you to place Alcoa’s interests above that of your citizens?

These are only some of the questions that you must answer now. Rest assured that more questions are forthcoming and that opponents of these project(s) will not be bullied into submission.

If Alcoa believes that its smelter-in-a-park is such a great idea that poses no threat to human health and the environment, then it should seriously consider Yellowstone or Central Park.

Over to you, Mr Prime Minister. Bring knowledge to the people!

Lincoln Myers

Gran Couva


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