Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has responded through her lawyers to a lease operator who has been named in a major audit report that pointed to fraud in the delivery of oil to state-owned Petrotrin.
That operator, through its attorneys, issued a pre-action protocol letter to Persad-Bissessar on September 15, advising her to retract and apologise for her statements to avoid legal proceedings. At the United National Congress’ (UNC) national congress in Couva on September 10, Persad-Bissessar cited the audit report and alleged the lease operator inflated its oil production figures.
Persad-Bissessar’s attorney Douglas Bayley of Freedom Law Chambers, in the response, said as Opposition Leader and political leader of the UNC, his client has a public and constitutional duty to critically examine the actions of the government of the day, which includes the manner of governance, performance and transparency of the affairs and dealings of state-owned enterprises, including Petrotrin and any third-party contractors.
“Petrotrin is a state-owned enterprise in the integrated oil and gas industry. Petrotrin therefore plays a pivotal role in the economy of TT and inevitably would be the concern of citizens and more so our client acting on behalf of the citizens of our country,” he wrote.
Bayley said they have advised their client that as Opposition Leader, her ability to comment freely on all aspects of governance, including the performance and transparency and accountability of state-owned enterprises is constitutionally protected and vital to the democracy of TT.
He said his client, having been provided with a copy of the report from a reliable source, felt duty bound to disclose it to the public adding that Petrotrin has since confirmed that the audit report was authentic. “Our client’s comments were therefore based on an official and bona fide document.”
He said the lease operator would have been aware that its dealings would be held to a high level of accountability and transparency.