OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling on National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to say whether the Government has scrapped the leased Sikorsky S76D helicopter.
Enquiries into the current status of the helicopter were triggered by photos posted on social media of an aircraft similar to the Sikorsky being towed.
Earlier this year Moonilal called for a public inquiry into the helicopter, which the People’s Partnership Government leased in 2014, when he was Housing Minister, to provide aerial support to the Defence Force and the police.
He accused the Rowley administration of failing to implement any contractual obligations out of spite and malice because the helicopter had been leased by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government.
Moonilal said the helicopter had been left unused and rotting at Camp Cumuto for the last six years
In a statement on Thursday he called on Hinds again to tell the country the current status of the helicopter.
“Mr Hinds must inform taxpayers whether the aircraft was taken this week on a trailer from its Cumuto base to Point Lisas, and whether it is being returned to its supplier or being reduced to scrap.”
He alleged, “The 'phantom' chopper is reported to have been moved under the cover of darkness to the Port of Point Lisas.”
He said Hinds must also say whether or not the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government has fulfilled the terms and conditions of the lease.
He recalled, “I had previously disclosed that the Rowley administration refused to honour the provisions of the lease, only because the legal arrangement had been entered into by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government.”
He complained, “While vulnerable fishermen are being abducted and killed in the Gulf of Paria, the Government left the taxpayer-funded aircraft idle at a Cumuto shed. Now the scandal has deepened even further.”
He called on Hinds to: “state whether the helicopter was surreptitiously moved to Point Lisas, and, if so, for what purpose, and whether the Government has adhered to the lease stipulations.
“The lease has been funded for almost six years by the people of Trinidad and Tobago, to whom Mr Hinds and the Government must properly account.
He wants Hinds to disclose the content of any agreement with the supplier arising from any court proceedings in New York as to how much the taxpayers of this country must pay.
In January, then National Security Minister Stuart Young acknowledged the company which leased the helicopter had brought proceedings against TT in New York and was claiming US$16-$18 million. Young said then the legal advice from Freshfields was to settle the matter and after negotiations, it was eventually settled.
Moonilal posed questions for Hinds to answer.
“What are the terms of any agreement reached between Vertical Aviation LLC and the government of TT? Bearing in mind that the supplier had sued the government for $88 million for breach of the terms of the lease.”
He said this "air asset" cost $100 million and the PNM Government left itto rot in a shed at Cumuto.
“The government from 2016 had failed to make lease payments, to obtain insurance and undertake a maintenance contract for the chopper. Additionally it was hidden in a shed away from the Civil Aviation Authority (CCA) which could not access the asset to provide a certificate of airworthiness.
“This sordid matter which has unseen and hidden cost to the taxpayers must be fully ventilated and disclosure provided by the normally loquacious Minister Hinds.”
Hinds did not respond to text or WhatsApp messages.
He is scheduled to host a media conference on Friday to provide an update on the electronic monitoring system.