Shed light and provide replies rather than ranting.
That’s the challenge from Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who’s demanding answers to queries on the Patriotic Energies refinery deal which she said Government had failed to address on Wednesday.
And she wants Finance Minister Colm Imbert to explain an October 29, 2020 report on alleged banking sector vulnerabilities.
“If not, I’ll release the report myself,” she added during a press conference yesterday.
She said Imbert fended off her recent queries on the issue by referring to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report which precedes the October report.
Persad-Bissessar clapped back queries at Government following criticism from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and other ministers – and Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union’s Ancel Roget – regarding her queries of Monday about the refinery issue and banking situation. She deemed their comments “misinformation and political garbage.”
“I wish to correct the public record on some of the misgivings I’ve heard from the PM and another gentleman purporting to represent workers, although he hasn’t yet seriously advocated on their behalf and stood by like a mannequin when Government threw thousands of workers out of the refinery,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“We, as elected representatives of the people, have a responsibility to raise these issues. We’re not going to be silenced by meaningless rhetoric and a mad-man’s rant. No amount of bullying and ranting will silence us. We’re committed to bringing light to counteract the darkness created by PNM’s lack of transparency and accountability. Why did both seek to personalise their attack on me rather than deal with the issues raised? Why the distraction?”
She said Rowley and Roget didn’t dispute certain facts she raised, including the price Patriotic was willing to pay for the refinery and Paria Fuel Trading Company.
“Instead, they both chose to attack the messenger to deflect from the fact they’re incapable of responding to the message.”
Persad-Bissessar pressed Government to say what price will be accepted for the refinery and on what terms after Patriotic offered US$500 million upfront.
“Has Patriotic been able to adequately demonstrate its ability to raise necessary funds for an upfront payment? Are these sources committed? Because the documents we’ve seen suggest otherwise. There seems to be no firm commitment from RBC on providing the purchase price but no firm arrangement is in place,” she said.
“Even the MOU with Trafigura, a questionable source of restart financing is non-binding and so there’s no real guarantee these financing arrangements would materialise. Is another buyer lined up and was this unpatriotic façade of a pro-union, pro-worker sale nothing more than an election ploy?”
If Government is considering the $500m from Patriotic, she asked what would be the plan to deal with the balance of the (US)$1.173 billion owed to BNY Mellon bank of New York and the bondholder of the US$850m bond Petrotrin had.
“Will taxpayers repay this total; (US)$1.9 billion. Government’s purporting to sell a refinery which is encumbered. There’s no clear plan how the balance of the monies owed would be paid and to date, no clear answer on whether the terms of the sale are acceptable to the bondholders/lenders who have a lien on the assets.”
Persad-Bissessar also queried valuation of the assets.
“What Deloitte did was a calculation based on the price provided to them by Patriotic – $700 million. But nowhere is there a professional valuation report stating the assets of the refinery and Paria are worth $700 million. How can the population be satisfied the assets which belong to the people aren’t being undersold. The sale should be subject to procurement law.”