Friday, November 24, 2006

More licks over smelter talks limits

by Phooloo Danny-Maharaj
Trinidad Express
November 24, 2006

More criticisms were heaped on the plan by the South Trinidad Chamber of Commerce to invite selected stakeholders to a symposium on plans to build aluminium smelters in Trinidad.

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union and the United National Congress (UNC) yesterday hit out at the invitation-only plan to discuss the smelters, which have generated opposition from people from all walks of life.

OWTU president general Errol McLeod described the chamber's decision as a travesty. The UNC said the decision to invite only 250 people was "contemptuous" and nullified the promise of widespread national participation.

They were referring to the symposium to be held on December 6 at the Paria Suites Hotel, La Romaine.

Discussions will focus on the proposed aluminium smelter for Chatham and the opposition to it by environmentalists and residents.

Another smelter is to be built at La Brea.

The symposium was organised by the chamber in collaboration with the National Energy Corporation (NEC).

Chamber chief executive officer Thackwray Driver has said it would be by invitation and that some 250 stakeholders have been invited.

McLeod said the union was not invited and would not attend even if invited.

He said for the chamber to be the host of the consultation and the process used to determine who should attend was questionable.

"Even if we are invited we would not attend because the chamber organising this makes it a farce," he said.

The UNC, describing the chamber's decision as "shocking", said it "puts a lie to the promise of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of dialogue on all the disputed aspects of the proposed smelter. The move to curtail participation proves, yet again that the government has never been serious about national discussions on the smelters".

Chamber CEO Driver said foreign experts would attend the symposium and that it would be open to the public, religious groups, government workers, businesses, members of the public but priority would be given to the stakeholders, groups and schools from the south-west peninsula.

The objective of the symposium is to provide information and to promote discussion on the development of the aluminium industry in the country as outlined by Manning in his recent post-Cabinet press briefing, Driver has said.


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