Sunday 22 September, 2019

PM slams UNC leader's 'jammetry' on Petrotrin oil fraud

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has criticised Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar for engaging in "jammetry" over the Petrotrin "fake oil" scandal.

Speaking at a Post-Cabinet conference on Thursday, Rowley said the Opposition Leader sought to "buss a mark" before the full facts of the matter were confirmed.

The “fake oil” issue was raised by Persad-Bissessar on Sunday.

Persad-Bissessar cited an internal audit report dated August 17, which alleged A&V Oil and Gas Ltd billed Petrotrin for oil it did not produce and had, in the process, defrauded the state-owned company of close to $100 million.

Persad-Bissessar also alleged that A&V was a financier of the People's National Movement (PNM) and had close ties with the party.

Rowley said Persad-Bissessar sought to gain political mileage from the issue.

He said he was not upset that Persad-Bissessar had brought the matter to the public's attention but noted that the internal audit report was a preliminary report and the full facts had not been established.

"Let the facts be confirmed and let the chips fall where they may," he said.

"To jump off on a preliminary inquiry and start accusing everybody you know of being part of some grand conspiracy resulting in Petrotrin oil being stolen, to me, was a bit of an overreach.

"You can behave as an effective Opposition Leader, and the country is much better for that, but jammetry is not the way to deal with these things if you are going to get the best out of it. Sometimes that sort of behavior in itself might be an impediment to getting to the root of the problem." 

He said investigations must be completed to determine who should be held responsible.

"There is a way to treat with these things, especially if you want a particular outcome. Firstly, where there are allegations of this nature, it is imperative to find out what happened, who is responsible and who should be held accountable."

Rowley admitted that he was a friend of Haniff Baksh who manages A&V but said his friendship with Baksh has nothing to do with the allegations being made.

He said the allegations must be of great concern to every citizen and if any wrongdoing is confirmed, there would be no protection from the government for wrongdoers.

"It matters not who you are, whether you are PNM, NPM or the alphabet, you are not to expect any protection from the government, and all citizens wherever you are located, if you engage in corruption, you're on your own."

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