The public is doubtful that the truth will be revealed or facts obtained in the report from the Paria Commission of Enquiry. They expressed disappointment with yet another delay in the release of the eagerly awaited report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Gulf of Paria tragedy. In surveys I conducted with hundreds of adults after the tragedy in March 2022, the appointment of the commission of enquiry (COE) and after the hearings concluded earlier this year, as well as another survey last October, limited faith was and has been found in the government and the commission on finding and reporting the truth of what transpired during the critical period right after the accident in March 2022 to save the lives of the Paria divers who suffocated and died in the pipe. Almost no one trust the government on the tragedy or on virtually any issue. One saving grace arising out of the entire handling of the matter and the inquiry is that although most of the public don’t trust the government or the commission to uncover the truth, they have full faith and confidence in former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, as the lawyer for the COE, to guide the commission to the bottom of the facts and to make recommendations for justice for the victims and their families and in handling emergencies like what happened in the Gulf. Although the report is delayed, everyone interviewed said they trust Maharaj to deliver justice.
A month ago, the commission Chair announced there would be a delay in presenting the report to the President. In a survey I conducted, the public expressed disappointment. They wanted the COE to submit its report months ago as gathered from surveys conducted earlier this year and last October. But clearly, the commission has been deliberate and did not want to rush anything and to avail every opportunity to those whose names are mentioned or who gave testimony to respond about their role in the making of the tragedy. The delay in the release of the report was beyond the control of the commission and its lawyer. A process has to be followed according to the law pertaining to official inquiries. That process now appears complete. No further delays are mandated.
Everyone interviewed about the COE eagerly awaits the report. And the public, the families of the victims in particular, and some who gave evidence before the commission, express a common view that it will be a great day when the report is released and made public.
Just to understand the process, the report is presented to the President who in turn hands it over to the government. The report is not available to the public unless so released by the government. Whenever it is presented to the government, the public hopes it will be immediately made available to media houses and to the public.
The reputations of the members of commission including its chairman, its lawyer, lawyers of the victims and of those who testified, the government and agencies tied to Paria, and those who gave testimony are on the line. Justice must be done!