Friday, February 28, 2014

Commentary: PP government made right decision on OPVs; Imbert out of line

A Chinese built Long RangePatrol Vessel
Colm Imbert’s statement that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s decision to buy a Long Range Patrol boat from China is “the height of absurdity” is itself an absurdity.

A media release on Monday from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar got a commitment from China that it would deliver the vessel to the T&T Coast Guard in the shortest possible time. 

Read the story 
China promises Long Range vessel for Coast Guard

Imbert was commenting on that decision and made reference to the present administration’s cancellation of an order placed by the Manning government for four Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) with a British shipyard.

The PP government cancelled the order based on several grounds including:
  • OPV 1 was already overdue by one year
  • OPV 2 was three months late
  • Major issues and deficiencies with the OPVs 
  • Overall, there were serious obstacles to the proper execution and implementation of this project
The matter went to arbitration and BAE had to pay the government TT$1.4 billion as a full and final settlement without the government having to pay any money to BAE. The settlement meant the PP government was able to repay the OPV loans inherited from the Manning government and have a surplus of TT$340 million. (Please click here for specific details)

Imbert knows all of this and is trying to score cheap political points. In fact it was his boss, Keith Rowley, who tried to stop the arbitration process stating that Trinidad and Tobago would lose if it tried to take on the mighty BAE. And when the government won, Imbert and Rowley spread lies about the PP government losing and having to pay million when the it was BAE that had to pay.

There is also a contradiction in Imbert's criticism. While he is saying the government should not be buying from the Chinese he is also admitting that the long-range vessel is "more or less the same as an offshore patrol vessel, just different terminologies, but it is the same thing," Imbert told the Express newspaper. 

National Security Minister Gary Griffith has raised an important question in response to Imbert. If the Chinese boat is the same as the one the Manning government had ordered why was the government at the time paying twice the price? 

"I am very glad Mr. Imbert said there is no difference because he should tell the nation why then did the PNM spend some $800 million when the cost of these vessels is half the price?” Griffith told local media. The minister also said the decision to buy the vessel from China was based on “sound advice from our naval experts” and questioned whether Imbert has suddenly become a naval expert.

One of Imbert's absurd comments was that the people building the boat don’t speak English. "How are Trinidadians going to be trained to use Chinese boats; will the instructions come in English? These are the questions we have to ask. It makes absolutely no sense," he said. "Our Coast Guard men will now have to be going to China where English is not the native tongue, at least with the BAE vessels, they were coming from England so the instructions would have been in English,” Imbert said.

What utter nonsense! China is a world leader in international trade and supplies goods and services to almost every country in the world. Everybody (except Imbert) knows there is no language barrier between China and its trading partners. Why would someone as “educated” as Imbert make such a foolish statement?

What Imbert should be doing is sticking to the real reason why the PP government cancelled the OPV contract. 

And he should also explain how he presided over the purchase of a boat – the MV SU – for TT$25 million and spent another TT$27 million to repair it. And the boat never sailed once. He was the cabinet minister responsible and must take responsibility for the mammoth waste of state funds. 

The former minister should also explain the absurdity of buying a blimp that was always grounded and why the government in which he served bought four helicopters at six times the cost.

Imbert and the PNM have spent the past three and a half years criticising everything the government has done or tried to do and they have not offered the country a single alternative option. They are bankrupt of ideas and believe that their obstructionism would return them to office. 

By contrast the government is focused on what is needed and what it is doing. According to Griffith the government is getting the best advice on the matter from experts in the field and is looking at all the relevant factors such as  finance, the specifics of the vessel, including the electronic system and compatability and maintenance. 

“I can assure that the Prime Minister has been excellent as the chair of the National Security Council. China has given us a proposal and we are exploring it. This is not an off-the-shelf item. We also need to look at what the Chinese has to offer and whether this vessel would be compatible with our system and could be linked to our radar,” told the Guardian newspaper.

Jai Parasram - 27 Feb. 2014

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai