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“Throwing cash into the sea”

Saturday, April 15 2017

ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said the contract signed under the former People’s Partnership (PP) government to lease the Super Fast Galicia has created a situation which is tantamount to, “throwing cash into the sea.” Meanwhile, former works and transport minister Fitzgerald Hinds said reports which allege that Cabinet rejected a note sent by him to extend the Galicia’s lease are, “totally false.” In an interview on Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he had sent “very disturbing documents” surrounding the leasing of the Galicia (which started under the PP), to Al-Rawi. In confirming he had received those documents from Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, Al-Rawi said he will be dealing with this, “as a matter of urgency” because of the “great inconvenience to the people of TT” that this matter has caused .

The AG vowed to complete his analysis of the documents within the coming week. He said he will then provide his legal opinion and recommendations as to any action to be taken in respect of any wrongdoing in this matter. Al-Rawi said that “on the face of it,” the Galicia issue is deserving of attention .

In particular, Al-Rawi said the issues of proper procurement and value for money in the leasing of the Galicia are important to this country’s taxpayers .

The AG said it is a fact that the operation of the vessel from the waterfront alongside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain has damaged the area and this is reflected in a claim from the hotel for millions of dollars in damages .

Al-Rawi said it is also a fact that the Galicia has never been able to operate at 100 percent since it arrived in TT. Saying the arrangement which the PP entered into to lease the Galicia was a long term arrangement without any possibility of it being changed to an interim one, Al-Rawi described it as a “transactional gun to the head.” He said because the draft of the Galicia is too large for its current berth next to the Hyatt, the Port Authority would have to spend $50 million every two years to dredge the harbour, just to berth the vessel at Queen’s Wharf. Al-Rawi said while the substitutes to replace the Galicia in the interim may be “less than ideal,” the public needs to be a little more patient and understanding .

“We inherited a terrible situation,” the AG said .

The TT Spirit, TT Express and a barge are among the options being considered to handle the cargo load of the Galicia.Two Coast Guard supply vessels are also being considered as options. Al-Rawi also said no “sane-minded businessman” would have continued to operate the arrangement which the Galicia has been working under .

Noting that tenders have been issued for a replacement cargo vessel, Al-Rawi said the best option at this time is to ensure any inconveniences that arise until a proper vessel can be obtained to take over from the Galicia. “This is a matter of logistics,” Al-Rawi said. The Galicia ends its operations on the sea bridge on April 21 .



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