A letter to the editor from Gerald Vincent.
Rowley PNM Parliamentarians struggling to keep their heads above water at the sitting of the House of Representatives on Friday 24th June 2016 was a tragedy.
As the badly fabricated and hustled public relations image dropped from the face of the Government, the public was left gawking at the true face of a legacy of gluttony and corruption that continues today.
For yet another sitting of the House, the Rowley PNM had its pants pulled down by former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, for the nation to see relics of wanton PNM greed dangling, helplessly exposed.
Whether it was the slowly revealing truths of how the PNM gorged itself at the Petrotrin troughs; the multiple conflicts of interests, abuses of authority and shameless misconduct by a hapless Faris Al-Rawi, or a sly attempt to hide a private company in the DNA legislation…the Rowley PNM stood helplessly with an onslaught against its many lies, distortions and breaches.
But even as citizens tasted Brexit flavored ‘buyer’s remorse’ for their wasted vote in 2015, the Rowley PNM seemed determined to reveal more and more of its arrogance and incompetence with the ‘protection’ of an ill-suited and incapable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bridgid Annisette-George.
STRANGLING GOLDEN EGGS FROM A DYING GOOSE
When the facts of deliberate and orchestrated corruption were revealed, placing Keith Rowley’s ‘God-daddies’, Malcolm Jones and Ken Julien, at the forefront of serious allegations of wild and rampant misconduct the population was left almost traumatized!
How could the Rowley PNM so determinedly strangle golden eggs from the Petrotrin-goose even as its very legs were caving to excessive pressure?
The more they realized they were killing this country’s top oil producer, the more they strangled.
The former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar KO’d every grand-charge from the Rowley PNM as she revealed their shocking shamelessness, incompetence, and inability to run or even properly form a Government.
The motion of a loss of confidence in Faris Al-Rawi was moved for the Opposition by Oropuche East MP, Dr. Roodal Moonilal was clear in the Opposition’s intent and focus:
Whereas the Attorney General was aware of the $1.2 billion Claim brought by the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (“PETROTRIN”) in 2013 against Mr. Malcolm Jones for a breach of his fiduciary duty as Executive Chairman in relation to the failed Gas To Liquid project…
(You can view the entire motion here at page 7 of 12 on the Parliamentary Order Paper).
KAMLA RIPS INTO ROWLEY, AL-RAWI
By the time the former Prime Minister rose to speak amidst the hum of clapping butt-cheeks opposite (*you can view debate clips at this link), Al-Rawi was clearly disheveled and battered and Rowley appeared catatonic (or perhaps he was asleep again), and it was one question that dismissed the Rowley PNM.
In tearing down every lie and distortion the Rowley PNM ever used Persad-Bissessar put forward the primary fact – the PNM fed off the people of Trinidad and Tobago like parasites before, and they have returned to do it again!
Referring to the reason for Al-Rawi’s move to save Malcolm Jones, Persad-Bissessar said the simple question that the people of Trinidad and Tobago must ask is this: “Whether the means had a legitimate objective…is there a legitimate objective?”
She reminded Al-Rawi of his own words on the reasons for discontinuing the case of Malcolm Jones: “On the bottom of a press release put out by the Attorney General on 03 March, 2016…he says, ‘the Attorney General in his management of this matter acted with responsibility, care and due regard for judicial time and wasted cost.”
…absolutely no mention of legal advice, procedural concerns, breaches, NOTHING! Basically, Al-Rawi usurped the role of the Judiciary to ‘save time and money’, when the money was already gone!
After the Al-Rawi ‘circus of volume, and no content’; boring the House to distraction without boring into a single pertinent issue of the motion’, he failed to even come close to answering this fundamental question.
Or to frontally answering why Ken Julien appeared to have had more influence over the $B energy sector than anyone else.
Why? Is it that he could not answer? Or, would his answer have validated the motion for Al-Rawi to be dismissed as Attorney General in disgrace?
But a fiery Persad-Bissessar didn’t stop there and in fact rejected the idea that the Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Stuart “Five Roses” Young, (MP for Port of Spain North) could have stood in if Al-Rawi recused himself.
Because Young was Malcolm Jones’ attorney in the GTL matter, and remained his legal representative until moments before taking public office. The former Prime Minister produced court filed documents of 11th October 2013, proving Young’s representation of Malcolm Jones.
Worse, is that Young received a total of $1,369,649.95 through the Ministry of the Attorney General in briefs for the World GTL case alone.
And Young hustled his largest single payment – $440,833.30 – in a cheque dated Friday 21 May 2010, three days before the 2010 General Election.
So how was he defending Jones and receiving briefs from the State at the same time?
Or was the defense of Jones and the PNM ‘State’ really one and the same under the past and present PNM?
Not a single one of these issues was ever made public by Young, by a voluntary declaration of his own serious conflict of interest.
And as Persad-Bissessar broadsided the entire Government bench, Rowley PNM MPs maintained their rehearsed and mechanical singing and humming from their Balisier House instruction sheets.
The core points made by Persad-Bissessar can be found in this series of short YouTube extracts from the sitting of the House on 24th June 2016.
STARTLING TRUTHS OF WILD CORRUPTION
Persad-Bissessar’s contribution came following horrendous revelations by the Oropuche East MP, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, who moved the motion of no confidence in the Attorney General.
The facts that came out were never heard before by the Trinidad and Tobago people; facts that have the potential to turn even the strongest PNM believer into a daunted former supporter, remorseful and betrayed.
More than that, the damaging revelations put the ‘Best Performing Actor’ in the ‘Squeaky Clean’ category, Faris Al-Rawi, at the center of devious attempts to cheat the nation out of justice.
According to Dr. Moonilal, the scandal cost Trinidad and Tobago the equivalent of the Rowley PNM’s secret withdrawal from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to ‘pay bills’.
In other words, Trinidad and Tobago without Rowley PNM greed and corruption would never have had to spend a cent of its HSF savings.
Dr. Moonilal told the House: “The Attorney General (Faris Al-Rawi) gravely misconducted himself in the single, inarguably the biggest political scandal and cover-up in this nation’s history. It is the largest financial scandal in history…”
You can hear the horrendous facts yourself here, but among the new facts being revealed in the motion against Al-Rawi include:
(I) The Petrotrin/World GTL deal was initiated by Ken Julien at a time when Dr. Lenny Saith was the Minister of Energy. Dr. Saith is the husband of Radhica Saith (nee Seukeran) who is the elder sister of Faris Al-Rawi’s mother, Diane Suekeran.
(II) The Julien/Saith/PNM initiated World GTL scandal created deep losses not only for Petrotrin, but also for the Unit Trust Corporation, a State-controlled investment company; the National Insurance Board, of which Calder Hart was Chairman, and for First Citizen Asset Management, of which the PNM Minister of Finance was Corporation Sole.
(III) The majority of instigators of the World GTL/Petrotrin scandal have been quietly brought into influential Advisory positions in Energy by Keith Rowley.
(IV) Ken Julien met and brought World GTL to Trinidad and Tobago in March 2004, with a proposal for a Gas to Liquid Plant.
(V) The agreement brought by Julien and WGTL promised patented, new technology; project management, and financing to complete a GTL plant in 18 months.
(VI) Petrotrin had rejected an earlier proposal from WGTL, which wanted to take full ownership of the natural gas reserves held by Petrotrin.
(VII) In barely a month, a proposal was made to the National Gas Export Task Force, chaired by Ken Julien, and recommended that Petrotin takes the project despite its previous rejection.
(VIII)Email trails exist that point to an aggressive hard-sell of the project by a company called ‘KenSJ’.
(IX) In record time, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the project (such a process takes at least 12 months, particularly for cross-border projects)
(X) Construction began before financing arrangements were put in place, and before engineering approvals were granted.
(XI) Despite WGTL’s promise of financing, Julien’s arrangement made Petrotrin spend the required money, but allowed them only 49% control of the project.
(XII) WGTL bullied and forced Petrotrin to put forward all project related and other financing.
(XIII) The total cost of the GTL project started at $850M but tripled to $2.5B after a total of 33 cost overruns.
(XIV) In December 2005 alone, WGTL bullied $60M out of Petrotrin, despite the company wanting time to review project related items.
(XV) In an email from the CEO of WGTL, David Loring dismissed Petrotrin’s request for Finance Administration of the project, saying “the basic structure of the agreement is what Dr. Julien, the Minister and Mr (Malcolm) Jones wanted, namely for us to take full control of construction and operation of the GTL plant”.
(XVI) The relationship between Al-Rawi and Dr. Lenny Saith made it the duty of the Attorney General to recuse himself from any determination of the project. Al-Rawi didn’t and in fact put himself at the forefront of removing Malcolm Jones from the Judiciary’s reach.
(XVII) Petrotrin guaranteed a loan saying that if their partner (WGTL) defaulted, they will pay that also – an unprecedented act with no case study defining a similar business approach.
(XVIII) A former Petrotrin Director raised red-flags that the project was failing and that alternate sources of financing should be sought, he was ignored and systematically undermined by Julien/Saith/PNM faithful Directors;
(XIX) By 2006, when a cash crisis faced WGTL, despite 2004 assurances of financing, and wanting to control the project, Loring said WGTL came in as a project developer, saying: “We both knew that Petrotrin had to cover cost overruns.”
(XX) In order to prevent insolvency of WGTL, Malcolm Jones wrote to Credit Suisse in New York, promising that Petrotrin would approve a loan of US$125M (so cash rich was Petrotrin before its PNM-instigated collapse). This decision was NOT taken by a formal Board meeting, but by a ‘round-robin’ or call-around to key Directors.
(XXI) At the start of the proposal, Petrotrin was only required to advance TT$60M, and by now was in the hole by TT$800M (US$125M)
(XXII) Forward to 2009, WGTL was put into receivership and Petrotrin was called upon to pay over $3B back to Credit Suisse – left holding the bag of a failed project.
(XXIII) Other State agencies lost public money as well. In September 2006, the NIB (Chaired by Calder Hart) approved a $60M investment in WGTL; a debt that was written off subsequently. Neal and Massy lost $40M. Guardian Holdings lost $30M. The Unit Trust Corporation also put millions into the project, which had to be ‘written off’ ah-la FCB debt forgiveness for Lenny Saith.
(XXIV)Faris Al-Rawi used a legal opinion of 11 October 2015 from Queen’s Counsel, Vincent Nelson and pursued NO other opinion or expert input.
(XXV) On 16th February 2016, a meeting was held with Al-Rawi and the legal team advising on the issue, and the Petrotrin Board met within 48 hours to take a decision to withdraw the case against Malcolm Jones.
(XXVI) Despite the fact that Keith Rowley influenced all Board appointments to State companies, included Petrotrin, Rowley and Al-Rawi claimed not to have anything whatsoever to do with the withdrawal of the case against Jones.
Dr. Moonilal subsequently told of the media response to Al-Rawi’s unapologetic attempt to protect a PNM God-Father from prosecution in the courts, and from answering to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Some of the news coverage included:
· Express – ‘Jones wins, but T&T loses’
· Express – ‘Law applied to ‘some’
· JTUM – ‘Drop cases against Union members too’
· Newsday – ‘Most unsatisfactory’
Quoting from a book called ‘In and Out of Politics: Tales of the Government of Dr. Eric Williams, by former PNM Minister Winston Mahabir’, page 97 Dr. Moonilal mused:
“We invented in Government a term; it was called to ‘Seukeranise’. To ‘Suekeranise’ was to do what only Lionel Frank Seukeran could: Talk on every subject with an air of authority; talk for as long as possible with maximum repetitiveness with minimum content; bore everyone to distraction without every boring a hole in any argument. It was to use a pseudo-smooth approach; keep talking in the hope of immortality by volume.”
So with incompetence, sticky fingers and a penchant for failure, what’s the next move for the Rowley PNM?
The intelligent and fair-minded on-looker cannot be faulted for guessing…’an audit?’
Will these facts be investigated? Will the PNMite friends of Keith Rowley and Faris Al-Rawi be allowed to walk away with their finger flung up at the public with billions of dollars having been corruptly spent, hidden and secretly banked?
Or will the Rowley PNM do something unprecedented and out of character? Will the Rowley PNM actually, for the first time in its dismal history, allow justice to be served?
As we’re talking about actually making the Rowley PNM pay for theft and corruption, probably not…