THE Prime Minister has described as dotish claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that Government is planning to sell the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery to a secret foreign buyer.
Speaking on Wednesday at a briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, he claimed Persad-Bissessar, in her desperation to divert public attention from her “humiliation” over a plagiarised congratulatory message to US president-elect Joe Biden – posted to her Facebook account on the weekend – used the claim that she had documents pointing to a secret deal for the refinery.
Claiming a pattern of “irresponsible conduct” by the Opposition Leader, he said she had tried to upstage Government by rushing to congratulate Biden, but ended up with a plagiarised speech which disgraced TT.
“By Monday night she needed a distraction,” Rowley reasoned.
He said Persad-Bissessar’s remarks on the sale of the refinery were undermining the people of TT, the labour movement, the banking system and the energy sector. Rowley appealed to her to stop.
He dismissed as “tomfoolery” her claim that these refinery negotiations should not be done without first passing procurement legislation. He asked if she had been concerned about procurement, why then as prime minister her administration awarded a hefty contract to the firm SIS for a Beetham wastewater plant.
Rowley indicated he was keeping an open mind on Patriotic’s bid, saying the sale either will or will not be made, but at the very least he will avoid TT having to foot a bill of $2 billion a year in operational losses.
He complained that the Opposition would not even support the T20 cricket tournament in TT, and further accused it of trying to stain TT’s name, over claims the UNC made on the construction of the Brian Lara Cricket Academy.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who also spoke at the press briefing on Wednesday, said any lien/mortgage on the refinery, alleged to be US$1.2 billion, would not block the sale, as a lien could be transferred onto other assets. He said the Government has been very open with the terms of Patriotic’s bid, such as requiring it to state up front the tax-breaks they’re seeking.
Energy Minister Franklin Khan said Trafigura, cited as a potential partner to Patriotic, had done US$177 million (TT$1.2 million) of business with the National Gas Company (NGC) in a five-year period, to combat Kamla’s claim Trafigura was a firm of dubious reputation.