UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the party’s Monday Night Virtual Report.

Gail Alexander

Implement procurement legislation and UNC will support the Anti-Gang Bill being debated in Parliament on Friday.

That’s the challenge Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has thrown out to Government, protesting the sale of the Guaracara refinery and Paria Fuel Trading Company under what she says is a shroud of secrecy.

The upcoming Anti-Gang Bill seeks principally to extend a (sunset) clause to continue the bill for another 30 months. The UNC has expressed concerns including on proposed police power to enter and search places without a warrant once there’s reasonable belief regarding a gang situation.

Earlier speaker last night, MP Dinesh Rambally said the UNC wasn’t withholding support on the bill but wanted more details.

He said UNC’s primary concern was the sunset clause. He said when the bill was operational there was no dent in crime and no convictions under the bill.

But in speaking about the refinery sale, Persad-Bissessar said Government was engaging in too many “secret deals” without transparency.

She continued, “Should we tell Government until you bring the procurement legislation, we’ll not support the Anti-Gang Bill? That where white-collar crime exists there’s no transparency process and the possibility for corrupt deals exist?”

Persad- Bissesar said the UNC had been “bleating like lambs” to bring the procurement: “If you want our support on the Anti-Gang Bill, give us support to ensure white collar crime doesn’t go unpunished….let’s consider it we’ll support you, bring the procurement law and we’ll shake on it and tackle both white-collar crime and non-white collar crime!”

She said she understands Government intends to accept Patriotic’s bid for the refinery but the controversial Trafigura entity will be the owners since documents confirm they have to hand over Paria’s assets to Trafigura.

She said the sale of the refinery and Paria was a BOGO sale – Buy One Get One Free – plagued by flip-flopping by Government, shrouded in secrecy and with potential to continue encumbering other enterprises with a billion-dollar payment Government has to honour.

Kamla reveals banking report

Persad-Bissessar also read from a banking report she’d threatened to reveal – the October 29 Deposit Insurance Corporation (DIC) report covering March 2019- March 202.

She said it was designed to ascertain the probability of default by institutions and see if DIC had to inject funds into distressed institutions. She said the majority of DIC’s assets are in Government securities and if there’s a run on banks DIC, whose assets are $3.5B, would be in difficulty to pay.

She said the report rated 24 banks and financial institutions. Omitting the closed Bank of Baroda, she said one small bank is rated high to watchlisted, a large one is rated moderate to high risk, two others rated moderate, two others low to moderate and one rated low risk

The report only considered the High to Watch Listed category as a concern to them and calculated the risk to be $577m – but DIC’s short-term investments of $1.5 B are more than adequate to meet any potential needs.

“What if a moderately rated bank flipped to high? Was a report done after March 2020, what is the government doing on this report, what’s Central Bank doing on potential risk?”

Persad-Bissessar called on Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to state his connection to a medical imaging centre regarding which he recused himself when Cabinet discussed Customs/VAT duty on a $34m PET CT Scan machine for that centre.

She asked if one of the centre’s directors – whom she named- was a former PNM senator and if the centre provides care in the public sector.

Slamming Government’s cutting of GATE and scholarships Persad-Bissessar said, “Education Minister Dolly as a former educator you should hang your head in shame! Then UTT closing four campuses…like education gone! This is a piper government selling everything – UTT campus you going to sell man?!”

ormer MP Tim Gopeesingh warned the 17 denominational boards Government would be coming to them next to seek control of the schools under their jurisdiction “Don’t trust them, get your lawyers ready!”