Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat yesterday slammed what they described as reckless statements made by the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) about the fake oil scandal at state oil company Petrotrin. Gopee-Scoon and Rambharat gave their respective condemnations prior to the defeat in the Senate of a private motion filed by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.
Rejecting earlier claims from Opposition Senator Anita Haynes, Gopee-Scoon declared, “There is no egg on our faces.” Noting that Petrotrin has many challenges, Gopee-Scoon said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has publicly stated his commitment to deal with those challenges and this has been reflected to date. Dismissing Haynes’ remarks about A&V Drilling’s owner Nazim Baksh being Rowley’s friend, Gopee-Scoon said, “I too knew the director of A&V Drilling and he is the father of our former colleague (Allyson Baksh).”
“What is wrong with the friendship? What is it if one of my children is involved in one of these things? Why would I not pick up the phone and call? There is nothing wrong,” she added. Gopee-Scoon said the UNC failed to understand “this is a commercial arrangement.” Contrary to all of the UNC’s allegations, Gopee-Scoon said the facts show, “There was no time lost in Petrotrin dealing with the matter as soon as it came to hand.”
Stressing it was Petrotrin’s board of directors which took the lead on this matter, Gopee-Scoon said Petrotrin went in at the appointed time and conducted all of the necessary investigations. She reminded senators, Petrotrin also directed two independent external investigations be conducted. She said the UNC also did not understand “the matter was one that required process.” Rambharat said Petrotrin has referred this matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and terminated the contract with A&V Drilling last December.
Against this background, Rambharat said the UNC’s motion is hypocritical, convoluted, premature and unnecessary. He said the public must remember that under the former People’s Partnership administration, no action was taken when allegations of corruption were raised at Petrotrin. He said the statements of then energy minister Kevin Ramnarine on that matter demonstrated the flaws in the motion brought by Mark. In her contribution, Haynes insisted the UNC was doing its job as the Opposition and not trying to take credit for anything.