A letter to the editor from Gerald Vincent.
Keith Rowley went to the House of Representatives on Friday (1st July) clearly intending to save his Government’s collapsing political stocks; and he thought he finally found the way to do it.
But by the tea-break, it was clear that Keith Rowley had misjudged his hand, as is his habit, and underestimated the brute force with which his party’s outright distortions would be revealed by again having its pants pulled down in public.
Rowley alerted the nation to his statement on CLICO when he spoke at painful length at the post-Cabinet press conference on Thursday. After speaking for about an hour, Rowley gave approximately 90 seconds of barely sensible comment.
For the rest of the 58 minutes, he drowned the media in a senseless ode to his incapacity for the job of Prime Minister, his abdication of responsibility and his choice that PNM politics will always come before the national interest.
A NEW CLICO DRAMA
After learning about the true story of how the Rowley PNM disgracefully put 1.3 million people at serious risk because of wanton mismanagement of the CLICO collapse and subsequent bailout, few would have expected them to kick off a new round of intrigue on the same beleaguered issue.
The PNM originally estimated the CLICO bailout at $11.9 billion; the true cost calculated only when their incompetence was ripped from office turned out to be over $20 billion, wrapped up in a complex and unthinkably shameless knot of corruption and mismanagement.
The Rowley PNM’s failures on CLICO are detailed here, under the heading ‘Pre-2010 PNM debts and liabilities’.
But today, according to Keith Rowley, a report was received by His Excellency the President from Sir Anthony Coleman who was the sole Commissioner enquiring into the financial collapse of CLICO and subsidiary institutions.
The President then forwarded the report to Rowley in electronic format, together with a printed copy. The electronic file was left sealed and forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution for ‘advice and guidance’.
While he spoke in Parliament, however, so dismissive was he of the loss to citizens and the cost to the country of the PNM’s failure, he simply referred to a bailout that cost ‘a number of billions’. (Check videos here)
Rowley also gave the assurance (see video below) that “any and all disposal of assets from the Group will be done in an open and transparent manner”.
Readers, citizens of this country and all with an interest in our wellbeing must never allow themselves to forget that assurance, especially given the deals that are alleged to have already been struck with regards to CLICO assets.
According to Rowley, as he regaled the House with another version of the same senseless ‘ode’: “It was found inter alia a number of executives acted in a number of conflict of interest situations.”
Rowley’s Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi appeared to have experienced a nervous twitch at the statement, moving from pretending to concentrate on documents to leaning back in his chair and nervously looking for something to occupy his hands, eventually finding his mobile phone.
As Rowley continued his senseless ode, Al-Rawi continued on his mobile, probably still trying to learn ‘Candy Crush’.
“CLF’s auditors expressed disquiet in the course of 2008 at the rapidity with which the Group was acquiring new companies such as Green Island and Lacelles de Mercado, and a growth of inter-company balances, particularly the indebtedness of CLF to CLICO and CIB.”
By this time, Al-Rawi held his fingers taut, nervously tapping them while looking left to right. The nervous twitch was with good reason as you will see a few lines down.
But Rowley went on: “The second major cause of the collapse was the continuing failure of Senior Management to adopt and give effect to the requirements of the Central Bank, and the recommendations of the external auditors…The Commission found that if during the period from 2004 to 2008, CLICO, BAT and CLF had made any real effort to act with urgency to re-balance the Group’s business model in accordance with the requirements of the Central Bank and treat with the recommendations of the external auditors, it is probable that the collapse would not have taken place.”
Rowley also said: “It was noteworthy that there was no adverse finding and/or comment whatsoever, with respect to the Honourable Attorney General, Mr Faris Al-Rawi, who served very briefly on the Board of CIB and who was not even called before the commission.”
PNM PARTY BEFORE THE PEOPLE
So here is what Rowley revealed, because he has absolutely no idea of what he’s doing, and what he was reading:
· Thousands of families lost their savings;
· The PNM pushed the Financial Services Sector to the brink of collapse, and
· Every working and tax-paying man and woman in Trinidad and Tobago now carries the economic burden caused by abject PNM failure.
Far from actually being concerned with those bigger issues, here’s what Rowley was really concerned about:
· Anyone from the PNM was implicated?
· If yes, initiative cover-up;
· No one was directly named from the PNM?
· If no, publicize pelt blame.
Still, Rowley’s statement avoided explicitly stating the PNM’s role on the economic turbulence that followed the CLICO collapse. And feeble the intellect that he is, went on to speak more words he had absolutely no understanding of and directly implicated all of the PNM friends he is desperately trying to protect.
If, as Sir Anthony found, external auditors made very strong recommendations, including to the Group’s Bank (Clico Investment Bank (CIB)) it was incumbent on the Board (of which Al-Rawi was a member) to adopt the findings and guide a new direction of company policy. But the Board failed to do so.
If external auditors expressed deep reservations, Senior Executives of the Head Office of the Group (including Andre Monteil) would have been required to guide a new policy direction for all sector companies in the group, but here as well, they failed to do so.
And if there was “continuing failure of Senior Management to adopt and give effect to the requirements of the Central Bank” why did Ewart Williams as the PNM’s Central Bank Governor fail to act? Because he was busy supporting the PNM’s every failed policy position?
What citizens must not allow themselves to forget is that Al-Rawi was a Board Member of Clico Investment Bank (CIB) which left $2B in debts for the State to repay out of the Treasury, and another $2B which had to be repaid in Interest Note Certificates (INCs).
So Al-Rawi was one of the characters in a terribly tragic collapse of a financial giant, which added a $4B burden on the tax-payer, while Rowley’s other PNM colleague, Andre Monteil was a Senior Finance Officer at the CLICO Group.
And overseeing, but failing to forestall the collapse, was the PNM’s own Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams.
So now that Rowley has clarified the PNM’s direct involvement in multiple levels of the failure of the CLICO bailout, and is in possession of the Coleman Report, can we expect the issue to be carefully and competently resolved?
Highly unlikely, and this indication was given loud and clear by the same Keith Rowley.
ANOTHER OUTRIGHT DISTORTION FROM ROWLEY
Immediately as Rowley took his seat, Persad-Bissessar pointed to a conflict of interest with the two Ministers in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi and Stuart Young being asked to review the recommendations of the report.
Persad-Bissessar said: “Prime Minister, is it appropriate for the Attorney General to be the officer you have selected to look at the recommendations, notwithstanding no adverse findings have been made against him, he was a related party with respect to the matter.”
In typical withdrawal symptoms fashion, Rowley grunted back: “Madame Speaker I sought your approval twice to read a statement in the Parliament in front of the national community because I wanted to read slowly so that everything I said could be understood and digested. I mentioned the Attorney General because I wanted to forestall the mischief that has already begun…I SAID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THAT STATEMENT ABOUT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAVING ANYTHING TO DO ABOUT INTEFERRING WITH THE STATEMENT! I spoke about receiving it, taking it to the Cabinet, sending it unsealed to the DPP and we await the guidance of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Seated next to Rowley was Al-Rawi who could not contain his penchant for senseless volume, and as Rowley threw himself into his chair that: “It is public record that I recused.”
Now here is the depth of the dishonesty and deliberate distortion of the PNM. Rowley’s aggression, and Al-Rawi’s background noise were focused on giving an answer to a question that was not asked. They completely avoided the issue, or were incapable of understanding the question.
Because Persad-Bissessar asked if it would be a conflict of interest to ask Al-Rawi or Squire Young to review the report having been closely associated with CLICO when it collapsed.
Rowley vehemently denied he even said he would ask the Attorney General to review the recommendations of the report by saying: “I SAID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THAT STATEMENT ABOUT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.”
In a matter of minutes, Rowley and the PNM were allowed to again abuse Parliamentary Privilege by speaking distortions and then distorting their own distortions.
The fact is that Rowley DID refer to the Attorney General when he said: “I have instructed the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs to study these recommendations and to advise the Cabinet on an appropriate way forward and in particular, to consider how legislation may assist in ensuring attendance of witnesses and the provision of documents in a more pragmatic and effective manner than currently obtains.
Don’t take my word for it, you can view Rowley’s reference to the Attorney General, which he aggressively denied making, in this video.
And this adds to the voluminous accounts of deliberate and carefully crafted distortions of the truth from Rowley, Al-Rawi and members of the PNM cult on the Government bench, all aimed at misinforming the public, hiding incompetence and deflecting attention from the issues that matter most to citizens.
Readers will likely be aware that the Attorney General is one of two required officials in the formation of a Cabinet. He or she would effectively be the second most powerful member of Government, titular head of the Law Association and Guardian of the constitution.
The Rowley PNM has two Ministers in the Ministry of the Attorney General – Faris Al-Rawi and Stuart Young, both of whom have repeatedly demonstrated an abject incapacity for holding their positions and total incompetence as lawyers.
And in just 9 months, the nation is looking on at the office-holders of Ministry of the Attorney General having conflicts of interests that prevent them from carrying out their duties in the public interest.
When the Arcelor Mittal debacle took place, and the Government ignored the company’s calls to meet and urgently discuss the future of the plant, it was found that both Al-Rawi and Young were conflicted.
Al-Rawi was Legal Counsel for Arcelor Mittal, and Young was Legal Counsel for the Steel Workers Union, and both gentlemen had to recuse themselves from an issue that has seen 700 families plunged into poverty.
Readers will also recall when Al-Rawi attempted to usurp the role and function of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, to ‘heroically’ remove PNM Godfather, Malcolm Jones from the reach of the courts. And this ended any chance that Jones would answer for his multiple failures at Petrotrin that lost the company $12B and shafted tax-payers with the burden of paying it back.
It was found that Al-Rawi was heavily conflicted as the Minister of Energy at the time of the World GTL deal was his uncle, Lenny Saith, also a close friend of Malcolm Jones. This time, Al-Rawi didn’t recuse himself as it was clear that family interests were far more important than the public interest.
It was also found that Young was retained as one of Malcolm Jones’ Attorneys; a strange twist considering that Young was also one of the Attorneys in the World GTL arbitration proceedings, for which he was paid over $1.3M by the State. The largest cheque of over $400,000 was issued to Young dated Friday 21 May 2010, barely 72 hours before the 2010 general election.
Here again, both the Attorney general and the Minister in the Ministry were conflicted and failed to carry out their duty to the people.
Today, the Ministry of the Attorney General is again conflicted in the CLICO bailout with both Ministers having personal interests in yet another scandal that cost Trinidad and Tobago citizens billions of dollars.
Al-Rawi was a Director of the Clico Investment Bank, one of the most complex failures within the CL Financial Group. And Young was the Attorney for Ernst and Young, the auditors representing them as Legal Counsel at the Coleman Commission of Enquiry.
In just nine months, both Government officials of the Ministry of the Attorney General have failed in their duty to the people of Trinidad and Tobago because of being heavily conflicted by their involvement in at least three scandals.
If at a rate of at least once every three months, neither the Attorney General nor Squire is able to fulfil their responsibilities to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and both have demonstrated a sub-standard understanding of basic law and the constitution, why are the tax-payers continuing to pay their salaries?
Despite holding Government positions, they have repeatedly demonstrated a strong inclination to private interests over the public, and while we can be confident that Keith Rowley will do absolutely nothing about, the public must not tolerate it!
And from the looks of it, the public will have a strong advocate in Kamla Persad-Bissessar to ensure that there is no dark corner for any Rowley PNM member to hide!