By Sue-Ann Wayow
OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar wants to kill any chances of Patriotic Energies and Technologies Ltd acquiring control of the Guaracara refinery.
President General of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) that owns Patriotic Energies Ancel Roget, echoed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s comments that Persad-Bissessar’s statements concerning the proposed Petrotrin bid were disruptive, ill intended and could cause great injury to the very sensitive process.
The OWTU held a press conference on Thursday, one day after Rowley, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Energy Minister Franklin Khan spoke about the same statements Persad-Bissessar made on Monday night.
Persad-Bissessar made several claims based on documents she said were dropped in her mailbox and questioned the government about all the assets that previously belonged to Petrotrin, the new price being offered and what involvement foreign and “troubled” company Trafigura Group Pte Ltd in the bidding process.
Roget said that while he had no problem with questions asked by Persad-Bissessar as was her right to ask relevant questions on behalf of citizens, OWTU’s concern was inaccurate information being disseminated in the public.
“In such a sensitive acquisition process, knowing that you can request information if you are not clear, if you do not understand, or if something lands in your mailbox and you do not have the clarity, or before you go public, the same approach could have been taken to ask the OWTU what are these things about? No such approach was taken.
“And I want to put forward something here respectfully, that the honourable Opposition Leader had one thing on her mind, and that is to cause great injury and harm and I dare say, an attempt to deal a fatal blow to the acquisition process and to ensure that that process does not see the light of day.”
Roget emphasised once again that the purchase of the refinery was for the benefit of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, present and future and that OWTU was going through great pains to acquire the property and there was no way the assets would be sold or acquired by any foreign entity once acquired.
He said the acquisition was not just to put citizens back out to work but to preserve history, economic stability, to honour all those whose labour went into building Petrotrin and most importantly to put local citizens in charge of their own assets.
Roget quoted from a Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Report that makes mention of Trafigura Group Pte Ltd, the company Persad-Bissessar focusing on 2014 because she would have been Prime Minister during that period.
The report states, “In 2014, The Trafigura Group, one of the world’s leading energy commodity trading companies, started publicly disclosing what it paid to SOEs (state owned entities) such as Petrotrin and NGC (National Gas Company) for their cargoes. The company now reports the actual value and volume of products purchased from energy SOEs in all EITI member countries in which it operates, including Trinidad and Tobago.”
Roget said, “The Cabinet of T&T must have known where the major revenue stream came from. She ought to have known indeed, if she did not know, then we are in deep trouble.
“She ought to have known that Trafigura was dealing in T&T specifically for Petrotrin before 2014 but this report captures 2014 when she was Prime Minister and to try to portray OWTU as in some scandal and in some bacchanal and some sort of illusion with this notorious company Trafigura, we think that that is most outrageous and reckless and irresponsible on the part of the honourable Leader of the Opposition.”
He added that it was nothing new that multinational companies had issues while operating in T&T and Trafigura Group Pte Ltd was no different in such.
About the Paria Fuel Trading Company Ltd, Roget said, “You cannot operate a refinery without a port facility, a refinery that is identified as Guaracara and a port that is identified as Paria. So our response for the RFP, that request for proposal, and to put in a bid, it had to have been for both refinery and for port facilities for it to make any sense. More than that, for it to make any economical operational sense, for it to benefit the company and for it to benefit T&T, it is a matter of public records that we would have placed the bid for both the refinery and the port.”
Roget said he wished he could go into great detail but could not for obvious reasons about the price.
“We are bonded by non-discloure agreements. If we break that, we can be held to account. Our new proposal would have taken into account, the public offer made by the honourable Minister of Finance except to say that we are now paying upfront for what we would have taken 13 years to pay, and the net present value, what that would value in 13 years down the road, is what it would have worked out to be in today’s value. Using the formula and guided by the experts in this regard, we would have come up with a price and that price would have been put forward in our proposal.”
The president general said Patriotic Energies was working assiduously to meet the new requirements requested by the Government and that clarity on all issues will be provided for.
Roget added that it was becoming increasingly important to restart operations as soon as possible because the longer machinery remained dormant, the more investment will be needed for restart.
And he said the OWTU had an intensive plan for the short, medium and long term operations of the refinery including engaging with local hardwares, suppliers and contractors, providing much needed jobs and necessary training.