Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses members of the media during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s yesterday.

Joel Julien

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar needed a distraction from her weekend plagiarism embarrassment and this was why she chose to read the non-disclosure agreement between the Government and Patriotic Energies and Technologies Ltd, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

However, Rowley said the move was “an act of desperation” which has now put the project in “jeopardy.”

He made the statement during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s which was also attended by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Energy Minister Franklin Khan.

After Joe Biden was announced President-elect of the United States on Saturday, a congratulatory message was posted on Persad-Bissessar’s official Facebook page. However, Persad-Bissessar eventually had to apologise after it was discovered the congratulatory message was plagiarised from Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition in the UK Parliament.

Yesterday, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar was in “deep, deep, doo doo over that bit of dishonesty.”

“And of course by Monday night, she needed a distraction. She organised her forum on Monday and decided to interfere, intervene, undermine, lambaste and destroy the Government’s carefully laid plans and carefully negotiated position with respect to the Petrotrin refinery, Paria and Patriotic,” Rowley said.

He said Persad-Bissessar was grasping at straws with her claims of underhandedness with respect to the negotiations.

“The answer is no, we have nobody under the table, we have nobody under the bed, we have nobody on the side,” Rowley said, dismissing claims that the Government had already identified a purchaser for the refinery and was simply yanking Patriotic’s chain.

Rowley said claims by Persad-Bissessar that procurement legislation is required to get the sale completed was also “absolute tomfoolery.” He said Persad-Bissessar was being “deliberately devious and destructive.”.

Rowley noted, however, that said her intention was two-fold.

Firstly, he said she wanted to scare bankers away from the project and secondly, it was to launch a tirade against Patriotic’s international partner Trafigura with the goal of sabotaging the entire deal.

Rowley said Trafigura is one of the world’s largest traders of oil and petroleum products.

Khan meanwhile said although Persad-Bissessar tried to paint a grim picture of Trafigura, when she was prime minister the State did business to the tune of US$177 million with the company.

He said this country has an international reputation in energy circles of honouring the sanctity of confidential clauses and non-disclosure agreements and Persad-Bissessar’s actions have the potential of destroying that perception.

“What the Opposition leader did is put a spear in the heart of these fundamental concepts. We can hurt badly as a nation in that regard as a Government. We have to bring some clarity and sanity to the situation but in the context of this business what was done on Monday night by the leader of the opposition is a cardinal sin against the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Khan said.

But Rowley said the Government will not be “distracted or side-tracked.”