OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said both the Prime Minister and OWTU head have chosen to attack her personally rather than answer concerns she raised about the stalled sale of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery to the OWTU’s Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd.
At a virtual briefing on Friday, she said she was not the one who had shut the refinery, made thousands lose their jobs and mortgage these assets, as she challenged both PM Dr Rowley and OWTU leader Ancel Roget to, “Blame Kamla all you want.” She alleged Rowley lied about not closing the refinery and said Roget “stood like a mannequin” even as workers were thrown on the breadline.
“The PM and Mr Roget did not dispute any of the facts that I raised - the price at which our refinery will be sold, the mortgage and existing lien on the assets, the valuation of these assets and financing arrangements and the involvement of Trafigura.
“Instead of shedding light on the issues, they both chose to attack the messenger in order to deflect from the fact that they are incapable of responding to the message.”
Persad-Bissessar asked what price would be accepted for the sale and on what terms, and has Patriotic shown an ability to raise funds for an up front payment. She questioned RBC’s commitment to facilitate the deal plus Trafigura’s involvement. “Again we are forced to question whether another buyer is lined up, and this unpatriotic façade of a pro-union, pro-worker sale was nothing more than an election ploy?”
Saying the refinery is subject of a US$1.173 billion mortgage and a US$850 million bond, she calculated, “So the fixed and floating assets charge is over US$1.9 billion.”
She asked, “If you sell the assets for US$500 million, who is going to repay the US$1.9 billion that is outstanding? Is it the taxpayers?” Persad-Bissessar alleged no professional valuation report has said the assets are worth US$700, the sum Patriotic had originally bid to buy the refinery.
She said her role is to ensure assets belonging to the people of TT are not undersold. Persad-Bissessar again urged the sale to be subject to the Procurement Act. She asked if Trafigura had been subject a proper due diligence.
“Why did the government insist on the MOU with Trafigura given the international reputation and the link between Trafigura, Ruperti and the Maduro regime? She said she has not attacked the union but just demanded transparency. “These assets do not belong to Rowley and Roget.”
Persad-Bissessar asked who owned Patriotic. “There are no public records at the registry up to today - I had it checked - stating who are the shareholders of this company. There is not even an annual return for 2019, more than 11 months after one was due.
“Why is it that neither Rowley nor Roget was able to answer the questions that were raised? Why did both men seek to personalise their attack on me as opposed to dealing with the issues raised? Why the distraction?” She vowed not to be silenced but to bring accountability.