GIVEN the government's announcement that Wilfred Espinet has been removed as chairman of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings (TPH) and as a board member of its subsidiaries, the Prime Minister must be asked: Who is he trying to fool?
UNC MP for Pointe-a-Pierre David Lee called on the PM to tell the nation what has changed, causing this sudden, out-of-the-blue removal of Espinet, when only in March he said in Parliament he had confidence in Espinet. In an address to the nation in January, too, he expressed support for Espinet.
“The Prime Minister was quite content when Espinet was undertaking his reign of destruction which resulted in over 9,000 being placed on the breadline, hundreds of businesses being closed, our fuel security being jeopardised and our national patrimony being torn apart,” Lee charged.
“When Espinet told the nation, 'All, all, all going home,' the Prime Minister didn’t utter a single word to the citizens who elected him.”
For over 11 months, Lee said, the PM sat by as Espinet engaged in "the most callous, compassionless and cruel modus operandi."
“What is even worse is, during Espinet’s tenure the PM allowed the views and calls of Espinet to supersede some of his own Cabinet members.” An upset Lee said the PM must give answers to the nation as to why he has now acted after the carnage and destruction has been done.
“The country will never forget nor forgive the hatchet job Wilfred Espinet undertook for the Rowley regime,” he said.
However overdue Espinet’s removal may be, Lee said his replacements give no confidence, comfort or hope for the growth of these entities.
The Rowley administration has placed “square pegs in round holes.” he said, and the company identified by government to be the pillar and saviour of the national energy sector will now have leaders with no experience in this field.
“How would the government achieve their plans of increased oil production, energy security, and industrial efficiency when none of these individuals have a track record of any substance within the energy sector?”
As a matter of fact, he said besides the concerns generated by the high-profile relations and family ties of some of these new appointees, the greater concern is over what he called the conflict of interest of some of these individuals. He pointed out that the new chairman of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd was also the PM’s lawyer in his defence against the "fake oil" allegations.
“Given that these investigations are still outgoing, how can he now chair the company which is a critical player in these investigations?”
He also questioned the appointment of Newman George, who besides serving on numerous boards already, was chairman of the HDC when numerous allegations were raised against housing minister at the time, Marlene McDonald.
“These appointments have not only thrown the future performance of these companies into doubt, given the lack of experience, but have further thrown their integrity into disrepute, given the questions surrounding these individuals,” Lee said.