Although he accused Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar of creating mischief, Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah wants the Government to come clean on why it failed to negotiate the sale of Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery to Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd.During a virtual media conference yesterday, Abdulah said there are reports that Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL) used the assets of the Guaracara Refining Company (Pointe-a-Pierre refinery) and Paria Fuel Trading Co Ltd as security for the refinancing of loans inherited by Petrotrin.“Was permission or approval sought for a state company to incur these debts and was it obtained? If so, how did the Cabinet agree to sell to Patriotic when it knew what was taking place when the assets were mortgaged?” Abdulah asked. TPHL is the holding company formed in the aftermath of Petrotrin’s closure in 2018. Its subsidiaries include Heritage Petroleum Company, Guaracara, Paria and Petrotrin (legacy company).Shortly after the closure of Petrotrin, the Government said it would offer the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) the refinery at a preferable rate. The OWTU then incorporated Patriotic to bid for the refinery and was chosen as the preferred bidder. Patriotic offered an upfront payment of US$700 million but after months of discussions, the negotiations failed when Government rejected their latest proposal. However, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowely has since ordered a review of the proposal.
Speaking about the latest events surrounding the deal, Abdulah said: “The Government, you have to come clean with what you knew and did not know with respect to the liens and mortgages. Are there other loans taken out with these assets to use as collateral?” During a United National Congress (UNC) virtual political meeting on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar accused the Government of tricking the OWTU with a negotiation while it could not legally sell the assets. She said the refinery and port assets were part of a mortgage for US$1.17 billion. Persad-Bissessar also claimed that in 2020, Patriotic decreased its offer for the refinery and port assets by US$200 million. She said Patriotic also asked the Government to cover $26 million in fees. Responding to those claims, Abdulah said Persad-Bissessar was, in fact, trying to scuttle any possible deal between Patriotic and the Government. He recalled that the UNC was always against the sale of the refinery, acknowledging the previous commentary from Pointe-a-Pierre MP Dr David Lee and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, who felt it should remain under state control.However, he urged the Government not to be frightened by the UNC, as the party does not hold the nation’s interest. Noting Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s revelation that the Government has to pay Paria US$20 million for importing fuel, he said this would change once the refinery restarts. Additionally, he said citizens would benefit from a Patriotic-operated refinery.“Do not get spooked. Continue the negotiation process with Patriotic. That is the best and only way to get economic activities going with the restart of the refinery and port facilities,” Abdulah urged the Government.