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Monday 21 October 2019
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Commentary

The whodunit mystery land

Clyde Weatherhead
Clyde Weatherhead

CLYDE WEATHERHEAD

SOME TIME AGO it was popular language to refer to mystery films in which the scriptwriters left the revelation of the culprit of some gruesome act to the last few frames of the movie, keeping audiences in enraptured suspense to the very end.

It appears the old blockbuster movie writers have crept into the ceaseless drama that is our political landscape.

Just a look at today’s headlines takes us into the mysterious world of what appears more incomprehensible than the last instalment: Who did it? The first leak, Plot to clear Marlene, Misplaced philanthropy, Racial distrust.

The hot topics – HDC-CGGC sweetheart deal, Who leaked the leak to person of interest in six-year old investigation? NiQuan does what Petrotrin and government couldn’t – or could they?

Well behind it all are the same old worn-out themes – corruption, no transparency or accountability, private sector business acumen superior to state.

That HDC-CGGC deal

A classic whodunit tale if ever there was one.

The largest ever housing contract involving the State’s housing corporation, and nobody knows how it got there – total mystery.

The sweeteners including tax exemptions are included, immediate upfront payment of the entire contract cost, most expensive per unit floor space buildings, penalties for termination guaranteeing compensation for loss, and more and more goodies.

Yet the Finance Ministry, Attorney General, Housing Minister, the PM who was housing minister when the outline agreement was finalised, the entire Cabinet, the HDC board, like Schultz in the Hogan's Heroes comedy TV show all claim – I see nothing; I know nothing.

Some days ago I asked: “The HDC is accountable to at least one JSC. Cabinet is accountable to Parliament. Can we expect that Parliament will investigate the HDC-Chinese company contract and it’s cancellation by Cabinet?”

On Sunday, a columnist hoped that the “excellent opportunity to pursue transparency and accountability” would be grasped by the Government.

Niquan raises US$120m

Remember the failed gas-to-liquids plant that was part of the disastrous upgrade project at Petrotrin? The same project which saddled the company with an enormous $13 billion debt that it couldn’t repay and led to its closure and a mothballed refinery?

Remember that the same badly engineered plant was sold in another deal to buyers just months before the closure of the refinery and the new owners of this plant (a part of the refinery) were guaranteed a supply of gas to turn into liquids?

So the mysterious plot thickens. The new owners can raise more than the US$100 million they said it would take to get the plant up and running by the end of 2019. But the Government and Petrotrin couldn’t raise a cent and the new owners do not own a single gas field or well.

I almost asked where are they getting gas from to process, since there isn’t enough to supply the gas plants in Pt Lisas and ALNG Train One is threatened. But I remembered that NiQuan with a former state board chairman aboard was guaranteed gas through a new state company (not NGC) as part of the deal.

This smells kind of like the honey in the HDC-CGGC deal. Again, I am forced to remember the four-year-old amended procurement law is still not effective and anything goes.

The leak, the leak – not WASA

A government minister, under investigation in a million-dollar payout to an unregistered company for the past six years is arrested and charged in a tight-lipped “secret” operation that periodically held media attention.

Suddenly, shortly before his departure on an overseas mission, the PM – claiming again like Schultz, I know nothing, I see nothing – suddenly recalled that a month before the arrest the same minister confided in him that she was “tipped off” of her pending arrest by the Opposition Leader in the tearoom or at an office or place unknown.

In dramatic style, the Opposition offers a counter-plot – this is all a ruse to clear the accused minister by exposing police bungling or collusion with the Opposition to remove a minister.

Well, why not? Wasn’t it an opposition leader who presented handwritten e-mails, which the police say “cannot be substantiated,” to Parliament in what was not a plot to remove a sitting prime minister and other ministers?

Hollywood has nothing on us.

Spy vs spy and cloak and dagger whodunit in imitable Trini dramatic style designed to keep the audience glued to the screen and guessing who the real culprit is. Maybe the butler did it. Or the mysterious stranger.

So how do we make sense of all these mysterious revelations and intriguing plot machinations

It has been suggested that such high matters of state are best left to those who are clothed with the armour of parliamentary privilege and have the right to engage in such intrigues and machinations without fear of inciting disaffection among groups of inhabitants.

However, we the people, who are saddled with paying the bill for all the sweetheart deals and bear the embarrassment to our nation by the self-serving antics of those more suited for the Bold and the Beautiful or Dallas, do know when something is not right and what we do not want passing as governance.

At the risk of embarrassing the powers-that-be and facing sedition charges, we must demand answers and that those responsible must be held accountable without the diversionary tactics and games.

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Clyde Weatherhead

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