PM: UNC helicopter deal left government tied up

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -

THE Prime Minister has advised the UNC against speaking about a Sikorsky helicopter procured while it was in office between May 2010 and September 2015, which he said tied up the Government like the proverbial market crab and caused millions of taxpayers' dollars to be wasted.

Addressing the issue at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Prime Minister's official residence in Blenheim, Tobago on Thursday, Dr Rowley said, "The Opposition would do well to keep quiet on that matter.

"That is one of the albatrosses that we found around our neck."

Someone in the last government (the UNC-led People's Partnership coalition), he said, " made an arrangement with that helicopter that cost millions of dollars, for a helicopter which largely could not be utilised."

The contract was such, he charged, that the Government was so tied up...the proverbial market crab...would be a laughing stock as compared to that."

Rowley said when the PNM returned to office in September 2015 and saw the arrangement in place for the helicopter, the Government "could not continue those arrangements for an item which was largely unusable."

He said when Parliament resumes in September, "The relevant minister will make a statement in the Parliament on that matter,"

In January, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said, "This matter is currently the subject of litigation, and it would be imprudent for me to say any more at this time, save that, the contract was never in favour of the people of Trinidad and Tobago."

On May 8, 2019, Young said taxpayers have to pay out $44 million owing to a civil court settlement related to the acquisition of two helicopters by the PP.

He said after investigations, it appeared there might not have been proper approval and there certainly was not Cabinet approval for the two contracts.

Young said one of the helicopters never came to TT because the certificate for it to leave Delaware, US could not be provided.

“It cost the taxpayers of TT hundreds of thousands of US dollars every month. They could not even utilise the helicopters.”

He said the licence of the other helicopter. which was provided to the National Operations Centre (NOC) by the former administration. ran out within a few months of its arrival.

“So by November 2015, it was no longer licensed to fly in TT."

He said legal advice from international lawyers Freshfields was that the Government and by extension the people of TT “had absolutely no defence to this contract that was entered into by the former administration.”

He recalled the company that leased the helicopter brought proceedings against the minister of national security in the courts of New York and made a claim of US$16-$18 million. Young said the legal advice from Freshfields was to settle the matter and this was done after negotiations.



"PM: UNC helicopter deal left government tied up"

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