Dr Roodal Moonilal. Photo: T&T Parliament
By Prior Beharry
WHILE there was no Carnival for 2021, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Limited was ole mas.
This was the comment from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal in the Lower House on Friday during a non-confidence motion against the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan.
Patriotic, a subsidiary of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union, has made three unsuccessful bids to acquire the Petrotrin refinery.
The debate got heated during Dr Moonilal’s contribution with Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George having to reprimand MPs including Finance Minister Colm Imbert who had told Dr Moonilal to sit down while he was speaking.
Dr Moonilal responded, “Who the hell is he…”
It was private members’ day and Pointe-a-Pierre MP Dr David Lee brought the motion against Khan saying that he has shown an inability to competently execute his duties “to bring certainty and stability to the national energy sector.”
The closing down of state-owned energy company Petrotrin was highlighted by Dr Lee in whose constituency of Pointe-a-Pierre the refinery is located.
Speaking right after, Khan said the decision to close down the Petrotrin was justified by it having an operating cost that consisted of 50% staff expenditure and that one of the four companies formed after its closure made a profit in its first year of operations.
He said, “The company (Petrotrin) did not have enough oil to run its refinery operations. It had to import two-thirds of the oil – 100,000 barrels a day – an on every barrel you refined you were losing US$5. You were importing oil to lose money.”
Khan said the restructuring of Petrortin has been a success story.
He added, “That probably is the understatement of the year.
Khan said Heritage Petroleum in its first year of operations in 2019 company achieved a net profit of $1.4 billion.
“And for the 12 months ended September 30, 2020, it achieved an additional profit of $884 million after tax,” he said.
Khan noted that Heritage has paid $1.9 billion to the state in taxes and royalties.
In his contribution, Dr Moonilal said, “The refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre is to be sold as scrap iron because of the lack of management and care and incompetence of the minister of energy.”
Quoting from Imbert’s statement to the House on September 20, 2019, Dr Moonilal said that government’s choice of the preferred bidder was Patriotic.
The Oropouche MP said, “And he (Imbert) boasted on that day. He beat the table. Madame Speaker, the Parliamentary carpenter had to come and fix the table when he was finished.”
Dr Moonilal added, “He said it was only a PNM Government that could give a workers a refinery to run. It is only a PNM government that could give business to a trade union and raised his voice to a crescendo that his was a great task to the minister…”
At this point Imbert interjected on a point of order. Moonilal said, “What standing order.”
Then Imbert told Dr Moonilal to sit down. Dr Moonilal said, “Who the hell is he…”
The Oropouche MP immediately said he withdrew the statement.
The Speaker called the House to order and told Imbert to apologise for “just losing control there by blurting out.”
Imbert said, “I apologise for telling the member to sit down.”
The finance minister said the no-confidence motion was about Khan and not him.
Dr Moonilal replied, “The matter deals with the refinery which is a key asset in the energy sector. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has taken a decision. It was taken not by the minister of energy. It was communicated by the minister of finance.
“And the Government attempted in this manner to indicate that a preferred bidder was the company associated with the workers. We predicted that their proposal will be in the dustbin. Today they have turned the procurement process for this refinery into ole mas.
“So while we had no Jouvert and ole mas for Carnival, the ole mas was really Patriotic Energies.
“Where in an unparalleled and miraculous series of events, they are meeting and treating with a bidder who has been rejected three times.”