UNC in desperate bid to sow US-TT discord
‘What Persad-Bissessar knows is that mere perception, with a little tweaking here and there, can feed the suspicion among the population and beyond and can wreak the chaos she envisions for TT in the run-up to the critical 2020 election that can consign her to the political graveyard’
ERROL S PILGRIM
IF THERE’S one thing upon which both his detractors and his supporters would agree is that Dr Rowley is not a stupid man.
Yet, this is what a desperate Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her sidekick Dr Roodal Moonilal are seeking to infer by their most recent and – to date – most outrageous bid to grab the news spotlight. And they do not seem to care to what extent their efforts might undermine this country’s foreign policy.
They have accused Rowley and his government of knowingly being involved in unproven actions that could sour this country’s long-standing good relations with its largest trading partner, the US and even cause the US to impose economic sanctions against TT.
What they are saying is Rowley has suddenly taken a decision to shoot himself in the foot and to trash everything he has been doing to safeguard this country’s economic prospects in these already deeply challenging times.
Both Persad-Bissessar and Moonilal have latched on to a Reuters report about Venezuela having received a 150,000-barrel shipment of gasoline last month from a company owned by shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti.
A Venezuelan by birth, Ruperti is on record as having previously shipped gasoline to Venezuelan ports in 2002, when a strike at state oil company PDVSA against the late president Hugo Chavez prompted fuel shortages. The Ruperti move helped Chavez regain control of the sector.
The Reuters report said the recent controversial fuel shipment came from Ruperti’s company, Maroil Trading, and was offloaded at the port that services central Venezuela’s El Palito oil refinery.
There was no information pertaining to TT having directly shipped the fuel to Venezuela.
But, as explained by Newman George, chairman of the TT state-owned company Paria Fuel, Paria did in fact sell 150,000 barrels of oil. But the buyer was Aruba and not Venezuela against whom the US government has imposed strict economic sanctions.
Had TT sold this fuel to Venezuela it would have amounted to a sanction-breaking action that could provoke severe repercussions from the US government with far-reaching economic consequences for this country.
But in response to a UNC question in Parliament last Wednesday, Prime Minister Rowley categorically denied any knowledge of Paria having made any fuel sales to Venezuela. Energy Minister Franklin Khan also responded, acknowledging the Paria sale to Aruba and emphasising a truism of the energy industry: the seller cannot be held responsible for determining the end-user of the product sold.
Said Rowley: “For the Opposition Leader to be out front in scaremongering and giving life to rumours that Trinidad and Tobago has dangerously broken US sanctions against Venezuela and we have failed to answer allegations of that nature is as low as Mrs Persad-Bissessar has ever gone.
“To undermine the country’s foreign policy is one thing, but to invite others to do so is as dastardly and disgusting as it could ever be.”
Taking his cue from his desperate leader, Moonilal has gone as far as writing a three-page letter to the US ambassador in Port of Spain, Joseph Mondello, under the heading: “The alleged use of Trinidad and Tobago’s resources to facilitate the sale of gasoline to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
The belligerent UNC Oropouche MP disregards all official information to the contrary supplied by the Prime Minister, his Energy Minister and the Paria chairman, and alerts Ambassador Mondello to the possibility that TT may have broken US sanctions against Venezuela and could now incur the wrath of the US in the form of similar sanctions against this country.
Moonilal forgot to include a wink-eye emoji in his letter.
Nor does his leader, Persad-Bissessar, care in the least way possible that the chairman of state company Paria has explained how the company has transacted business and that all of the official responses to the allegations have been clear and truthful denials.
So, the allegations do not have to be true.
What Persad-Bissessar knows is that mere perception, with a little tweaking here and there, can feed the suspicion among the population and beyond and can wreak the chaos she envisions for TT in the run-up to the critical 2020 election that can consign her to the political graveyard.
Says Rowley: “The Opposition Leader, in her desperation for relevance, is fuelling unfounded allegations against her own country in the hope that it will result in damaging sanctions which would destroy our economy and our friendly relationship with the United States.
“She invites cancellation of visas and a destruction of our economy in support of her Venezuelan president of choice, even as her country steadfastly relies on the rules-based Charter of the United Nations.”
And of course the lengths to which she has been determined to go to weave this unsubstantiated tale involving the US, Venezuela, Aruba and TT appears to be a clear indication that Persad-Bissessar will do almost anything to detract public attention away from the widespread acclamation accorded to Rowley, his government and his team of health professionals in respect of their world-leading response to the covid19 pandemic.
But it is to the extent that Persad-Bissessar silently acknowledges the fact that Rowley is a very intelligent man with leadership qualities to which all of TT can now honestly attest, that her pre-election recklessness is so rapidly rising.
"UNC in desperate bid to sow US-TT discord"