Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday condemned Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s behaviour in alleging a ‘fake oil’ scandal at State oil company Petrotrin as “jamettery.” Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar’s actions could prevent herself and the entire country learning the truth about this matter.
Rowley, for the first time, publicly disclosed that A&V Drilling and Workover Limited owner Nazim Baksh is his friend. Rowley said he does not disown his friends when allegations are made against them but also that his friends do not receive special treatment from his administration.
He also disclosed that Cabinet is now discovering a problem relating to natural gas production and exports. Reminding reporters Government recently dealt with a red sand shortage issue, Rowley said the gas matter is now being reviewed. He described it as a very large problem which is, “in fact, very real.”
Rowley said Persad-Bissessar has had a lean period “bussing marks” since the People’s National Movement (PNM) has been in office. While she can make politics out of any issue she wishes as Opposition Leader, Rowley described her ‘fake oil’ outburst at a UNC rally last Sunday as, “a bit of an overreach.”
“You can behave as an effective Opposition Leader. I think the country’s better for that...but ‘jamettery’ is not really the way to deal with this thing if you are going to get the best out of it,” Rowley said, adding, “Sometimes that kind of behaviour itself might be an impediment to getting to the root of the problem.” The word ‘jamette’ comes from the French Patois word ‘diametre’ and means a loose, low-class and socially unacceptable person (usually a woman).
‘ALL AH WE TIEF’ SCENARIO
Rowley said by Persad-Bissessar making the issue political, it could make the miscreants happy by creating an ‘all ah we thief’ scenario. “I don’t subscribe to that and the PNM does not subscribe to that,” Rowley declared. He said Persad-Bissessar is well aware, “you don’t just refer a matter to the Fraud Squad.” He said Petrotrin submitted preliminary reports on August 8 and 17, on this matter. Rowley said in both cases, Petrotrin said it had more work to do in determining what the matter is.
Expressing his hope that Petrotrin will appoint independent investigators soon to examine this issue, Rowley said if the final report confirms the preliminary findings, “then it goes on to the Fraud Squad and wherever else you want to send it.” Saying all citizens must be concerned about this issue regardless of political persuasion, Rowley said, “If this particular matter pans out, it raises greater and more serious concerns about what goes on in Petrotrin.”
Rowley said he was concerned to the point of frustration that mechanisms to accurately report the State’s revenues on certain commodities have broken down over time.
PM CALLED BAKSH
In confirming Baksh is his friend, Rowley said, “I am not carrying any chip on my shoulder...my shoulder is very square.” The PM said he first heard the news about the ‘fake oil’ scandal while in the US for a medical check-up. Confirming that he telephoned Baksh about the scandal, Rowley said Baksh flatly denied the allegations.
Reiterating that this matter is being handled by Petrotrin, Rowley said, “We are all to be held accountable for our own individual conduct.” Rowley said the selection of Baksh’s daughter Allyson as a government senator was based solely on her own merit. While she participated in the PNM’s 2015 general election campaign, Rowley said, “I don’t think she should be pilloried for anything which does not concern her.”
Rowley, who is PNM political leader, said he did not know if Baksh or his company contributed financially to the party. While indicating he would be surprised if Baksh did not contribute, Rowley said, “I don’t know what all of my friends are doing all of the time. I am glad to know there are people who I can count among my friends.”
In an immediate response, the UNC’s Women’s Arm slammed Rowley’s “jamettery” description of Persad-Bissessar’s behaviour as distasteful and demanded an immediate apology from Rowley to all women. The Women’s Arm said it continues to be dissatisfied with Rowley’s references with regard to women.
“We hope this alarming occurrence will be rectified since it is reckless and demeaning,” the Women’s Arm said.