RADHICA DE SILVA
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on the Government to implement and fully proclaim the procurement legislation her government passed in 2015, saying corrupt deals will take place with the sale of Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery and terminal assets.
Speaking at the UNC’s virtual Monday night forum, Persad-Bissessar said the Government is continuing to fool the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union and workers of T&T on the refinery deal.
She noted that the Government had no legal authority to sell the refinery.
“I want to ask the Government and the Prime Minister, is it true that you already have a buyer lined up for the refinery and within three months, with the finances to purchase as well as restart finances?” Persad-Bissessar asked.
She added, “You can’t sell it without the money for financing and restarting. If you do, please tell the country how you going to pay $1.173 billion for loans.”
Saying the Government had misled Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd, Persad-Bissessar also questioned why the Government wanted to strike a deal with Swiss-based commodity trader Trafigura.
Saying this company has a troubled past, Persad-Bissessar added, “Why would our Government be interested in doing business with this company?”
She also showed a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Patriotic and Trafigura to supply T&T’s fuel demands.
“Today, I am making a call to Government, do not sell any state assets without fully implementing and proclaiming the procurement legislation. You want to sell out all these assets, sell out the NP gas stations, sell the port and you have no procurement legislation in place for disposal of property,” she said.
Noting that many private sector groups have called for the procurement legislation, Persad-Bissessar added, “Why is the Government dragging its feet on full procurement legislation. Why? You know why? Because there could be deals that will go down if you don’t have legislation in place and sales can be done by Cabinet directive.”
She also quoted from a document from Patriotic dated October 29, saying there is now proof that plans were afoot to secure Petrotrin’s terminal assets as well as the refinery.
“That refinery issue was there before on the sale. When Petrotrin was shut down, the assets of the refinery were placed in Guaracara and the terminal assets were placed in Paria Trading. So what this means is this is now revealing that the proposal was not just to sell the refinery but also the terminal assets,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“So what does this consist of? It means the tank farms, the berths, the ducts, the pipelines and all machinery and equipment, buildings, roads and drains. The Government never said the terminal assets were up for sale.”
She also said Patriotric had reduced its offer from an upfront payment of US$700 million to $US500 million and they were also calling on the Government to foot their legal bill, which is US$26 million.
Persad-Bissessar also said the International Monetary Fund had indicated that there were some irregularities in the banking sector.
She said she had a report which she was reluctant to disclose, as this would cause a run in the banks.
Persad-Bissessar called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to say whether he had a risk report on matters relating to various banks in T&T.
“Is it true that you have a report which suggests that people’s money in the nation’s banks is at risk?” she asked. Persad-Bissessar said if Imbert did not reveal the report, she will have no choice but to do so in the future.