The Opposition Leader attempted to deal a fatal blow to the acquisition process, hoping that it does not see the light of day.
That was how Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), summed up comments made on Monday by UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar concerning the negotiations between Patriotic Energies and Technologies Ltd and the government.
Roget condemned “in the strongest possible terms” all the assertions by Persad-Bissessar in what he called her campaign to deny the union an opportunity to protect its legacy and to advance TT.
“It was an attempt to deal a fatal blow to ensure that the man on the street, the sick in the hospital, the children born and unborn, the small man do not rise to economic prominence in this country,” Roget said.
He was speaking at a press conference at the union’s headquarters at Circular Road in San Fernando on Thursday.
Patriotic, the preferred bidder, is wholly owned by the OWTU.
Roget criticised Persad-Bissessar, saying if she wanted clarification on the sensitive acquisition process, she should have ensured it was accurate before dispensing it.
On October 31, when the government rejected Patriotic’s latest proposal for the Point-a-Pierre, Roget said the announcement brought sorrow and pain to the company and thousands of citizens. But he charged it brought joy to the heart of Persad-Bissessar.
Roget said that joy was short-lived, however, as the Prime Minister re-established the evaluation committee to review the latest proposal by the end of November. The original deadline was October 31.
Patriotic met with the “objective committee” on Friday and another meeting was scheduled after the conference to provide information.
“We are confident that Patriotic will come out victorious,” Roget said.
At a virtual meeting on Monday, Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the government had no legal authority to sell the Guaracara Refinery and Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd assets. She accused the government of fooling OWTU into believing that it could do so.
She charged the assets were mortgaged for US $1.173 billion.
Patriotic’s initial US$700 million up-front cash payment offer, she said, was reduced to US$500 million. Patriotic was also asking for government to cover $26 million in fees.
Persad-Bissessar said she had received information that Patriotic had approached a bank for the purchase price of $500 million. The company also approached Swiss-based commodity trader Trafigura PTE, Persad-Bissessar said, to provide the other $500 million. She said Trafigura PTE had a troubled history.
On Wednesday, at a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Dr Rowley described Persad-Bissessar’s claims as lies designed to damage the country. He also cited her plagiarised congratulatory message to US president-elect Joe Biden. Rowley said she felt humiliated for it and decided to “undermine and lambast.”
Roget too referred to her claims as lies. He commented on three points Persad-Bissessar raised— Trafigura, Paria and the new proposal of the purchase price.
She is obsessed with Trafigura, Roget said as he quoted from a TT Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) report (2014 to 2017) on energy companies’ performance, including multi-nationals.
Trafigura disclosed what it paid to state-owned enterprises like Petrotrin and NGC for their cargoes. Trafigura paid over US $80 million (Petrotrin) and over US $105 million (NGC), Roget said.
“The UNC was in government in 2014. These are two major revenue streams from the same Trafigura in 2014. The cabinet of TT must have known where these revenue streams came from,” Roget said.
“As prime minister, she ought to have known. If she did not know, then we are in deep trouble. It would be likened to sunshine can kill covid. To try to portray OWTU as being in some scandal and bacchanal with this ‘notorious’ company, its most outrageous and reckless.”
There are many multi-nationals with problems operating in TT, he said.
“Indeed, we had problems with multi-nationals from one to the other. Trafigura is no different. There is no way that the OWTU will hand over any assets of TT to any multi-national,” Roget said
On Paria’s issue, he accused her of attempting to spread disinformation to mislead the public by saying Patriotic’s original request for proposal did not include Paria.
“A refinery and port go hand in hand. We placed a bid for the refinery and the port, its public knowledge. It cannot go one without the other. If it does make sense, it cannot make dollars,” Roget said.
He reminded the media that he could not divulge details owing to non-disclosure agreements.
“We are now paying up front what we would have taken 13 years to pay, three-year moratorium and 10 years to pay it off. Guided by the experts, we came up with a price and that price was put forward in our proposal,” Roger said.
The Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL) is alleged to have used the assets of the Guaracara refinery and Paria as collaterals for loans inherited by the former Petrotrin.
The government formed TPHL after it restructured the former Petrotrin in 2018.