Kamla slams Government ‘antics’ over Piarco judgement

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – File photo

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday accused Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi of “antics” in earlier giving news of a US court’s final award to TT of $1 billion in a civil lawsuit over the controversial Piarco Airport project.

She chided him for not pursuing multi-million-dollar lawsuits over failed investments in state entities when he was attorney general.

Al-Rawi made the announcement at a televised virtual briefing.

Two hours later, in a statement, Persad-Bissessar scoffed at him.

She said, “Faris’s antics over the ‘news’ about the Piarco civil corruption cases in the US courts would be amusing if it disclosed anything new, noteworthy or even newsworthy.”

Persad-Bissessar complained of his ditching a $1.2 billion lawsuit against former Petrotrin head Malcolm Jones for losses in the failed gas-to-liquids (GTL) project and dropping a $35 million claim against the former PNM-appointed board of E-Teck over the failed Bamboo investment.

She said Petrotrin’s $1.2 billion loss in the failed GTL project had led to Petrotrin’s eventual closure.

“Had Al-Rawi pursued that claim, there is no doubt that the public would have benefited from a billion-dollar judgement and Petrotrin would not be closed today with thousands on the breadline.

“He should also be speaking about his Government’s failure to appeal the AV Drilling matter by going against the advice of their own senior counsel. This cost taxpayers over $100 million.”

Persad-Bissessar was also critical of the Government’s non-defence against lawsuits for breach of contract by former foreign service attaches Ashton Ford and Elvin Edwards.

“Even more troubling was the case against Ashton Ford where no defence was filed. When that matter came up for a trial on the May 15, 2019, no lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General attended court. As such, the case was undefended by AG Al-Rawi. As a result, the High Court by Judgement dated March 18, 2022, awarded the sum of $2.65 million in damages, cost and interest to Mr Ford and Mr Edwards.”

She said Ford was a PNM former general secretary and Edwards a former mayor of Arima, run by the PNM.

“It is interesting that Al-Rawi is desperately trying to distract attention from the judgement of the Privy Council regarding the holding of Local Government elections, which is due to be delivered on Thursday morning.

“We cannot help but wonder whether Al-Rawi’s shenanigans are an attempt to create a diversion to distract people’s attention away from this historic judgement.

“After all, he was the one who, together with Rowley, proudly announced the proclamation of section 18 and the postponement of local government elections from March 2023 to March 2024.” She vowed to expose Al-Rawi for alleged incompetence.

“The chickens are coming home to roost and his attempt to use this case as a political comeback in the face of his series of well-known legal defeats is transparent and laughable. His place as the most incompetent AG, alongside (Reginald) Armour, is sealed in the annals of our political history.”