Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said he has been a guest at the home of A&V Drilling and Workover Limited owner Nazim Baksh. Rowley made this disclosure during Prime Minister’s Question Period in the House of Representatives. At Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, the Prime Minister confirmed that Baksh was his friend. “In the last seven years, I have been to the home of the Baksh family about five or six times,” Rowley said.
He added this was, “a whole lot less than the number of times spent by the last prime minister in Gopaul house.” During and after the 2010 general election, then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stayed at the home of Ralph and Maureen Gopaul in Maraj Street in Pasea, Tunapuna. On May 17, 2011, Persad-Bissessar confirmed that the Gopauls were her friends. Questions arose then regarding the bid for a $40 million NP contract by the Gopauls’ family-run business Gopaul and Company Limited (GCL). Persad-Bissessar said she had no involvement in that matter. The bid process for that particular contract was subsequently scrapped.
In an immediate response, Persad-Bissessar said Rowley’s comparison was unfair. She said the “person or company has never been accused of defrauding taxpayers or anyone, as is the PM’s friend Nazim.” In response to another question from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal about the selection of Baksh’s daughter as a government senator, Rowley said Moonilal was well aware those criteria are, “written in the Constitution.”
The Prime Minister said he was unaware of any government senator being a shareholder and/or director of A&V Drilling and Workover Limited. Rowley said he expects that Vidia Deokiesingh, who was named in the Petrotrin internal audit report in the fake oil scandal, will resign as a member of the Lake Asphalt Company’s board of directors. Rowley said he had no information to support a claim that A&V Drilling and Workover Limited made a bid to replace the SuperFast Galicia on the domestic seabridge. Rowley was happy that the Opposition was eager to deal with campaign finance legislation, in the wake of the fake oil scandal. He said Government will soon be engaging the country’s political parties and the public in consultations on the legislation.
The Prime Minister said the report about Petrotrin’s restructuring would be sent to the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy. He said given the assignment at Petrotrin, Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary Selwyn Lashley’s presence on the company’s board of directors would be “a great advantage.” Later in the sitting, Energy Minister Franklin Khan said there is a need to develop a more reliable system of getting accurate daily oil production figures. He said no system is foolproof and agreed with Rowley, that due process take its course regarding investigations into the fake oil scandal.