Friday, July 1, 2016


Malcolm Jones
There is something unusual about the sudden news of the departure of Malcolm Jones from the government’s Standing Committee on Energy. Unusual because while Jones and the government acknowledged the resignation, no one seemed to know when it happened when questioned by the Express newspaper.

Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre said it was “months ago”; Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley declared it was “many moons ago” and Jones himself was unable to name a date but confirmed it was “weeks ago”. A day later it seems the amnesia was cured and Dr. Rowley declared that it was 23 March 2016 and confirmed by cabinet in April. It’s amazing how the man who wrote the resignation letter didn’t know the date; he wasn’t even close.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this news is that Jones’s name featured prominently in last week’s no confidence motion in AG Faris Al Rawi and nobody mentioned a word about Jones quitting the energy post although according to their statement on Thursday it happened since March.

PM Keith Rowley
Why the secrecy about such a matter?

Apart from the resignation date there seems to be some confusion about WHY Jones resigned. Jones said he quit because he found himself “unjustly tried”. Rowley and his energy minister told another story; Jones was only appointed for a short time.

This is what Rowley told the Express: "We needed him to help us understand a few things in the industry and now that that is done, he resigned." Perhaps he should have told Jones.

So what exactly were those “few things” that Jones had to help the government “understand”? And when did he deliver them?

Could one of them be to advise on a new deal on the Gas to Liquids plant at Petrotrin? It was Jones who was the mastermind behind that failed multi-billion project that he started under the Manning PNM administration. So did Rowley think it was best to bring him to continue what he started?

The opposition quite rightly wanted to know the justification for appointing Jones to advise on energy matters when he was the man who presided over one of the biggest scandals in the energy sector and was facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit for a breach of fiduciary duty arising out of the billion-dollar gas-to-liquid plant (GTL) project.

Rowley appointed Jones knowing that Jones was facing that lawsuit. And to compound the contempt for the people Attorney General Faris Al Rawi dropped the lawsuit against Jones, claiming that the legal advice he received showed that the case against Jones was too weak to get a conviction. And the State must now pay Jones $2 million in damages.

And while the opposition was going after Rowley and Al Rawi on the Malcolm Jones matter, the government quietly entered into an agreement to sell the abandoned GTL plant to a company called NiQuan, which like World GTL, has no experience in the business and even worse, has no money or solid guarantees that it could raise the money.

That added another dimension to the already confusing story of how Malcolm Jones could be in hibernation for five years and suddenly return as an energy expert advising the government. Or as the PM put it, making the government understand “a few things”.

But consider one really important disclosure from Rowley, who admitted that GTL was “one project that went horribly bad”. He said Wendell Mottley is taking over from Jones. 
Wendell Mottley
Mottley is the man who arranged the international financing from Credit Suisse for the GTL plant and now, it seems that he can be of service again in that regard to help out NiQuan and those locals closely connected to it.

The lingering question is whether Jones’s role was to ensure the sale of the GTL plant to NiQuan. In November 2015 – just weeks after Jones was appointed to the energy committee – Petrotrin chairman Andrew Jupiter sought and received approval from Finance Minister Colm Imbert to sell to Niquan. And the public doesn’t know if Imbert made that decision unilaterally or whether it went to cabinet, as it should.

Now that the deal is done and the “few things” taken care of, is Rowley bringing in Mottley to take care of another “few things” before dumping him too?

So while Jones may have chosen the wrong word to explain his departure the reality is he was in the public eye. And that pressure from the opposition in particular became too much for him to bear.

But that’s his story, not Rowley’s. Rowley told reporters it was never his plan to keep Jones for the long haul… just for “a few thing”. So we can only guess about those “few things” because the Rowley government loves secrets.

The Jones explanation sounds more credible than the PM’s. Many people who have to walk in Jones's shoes would have felt the pressure and quit. The amazing thing is this: how is it that he didn’t remember that those pressures caused him to resign way back on March 23rd? And Rowley didn’t remember as well – that is until Thursday when it all came back to him. Something is fishy about it.

Commenting on Jones's resignation, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it is “only the start." She told local media, "With a track record of a loss to Petrotrin and the people of T&T over $3 billion in just one project, the Prime Minister made him an integral part of a number of decisions taken on the future of energy…the nation demands answers and the Prime Minister must start talking!"

Good luck with that. But if Rowley does start telling the country what’s really going on he should also say whether Jones is really gone or whether he has just become invisible to avoid the media and opposition glare. He should also clarify the roles of people like Ken Julien, Petrotrin chairman Andrew Jupiter, National Gas Company chairman Gerry Brooks and John Andrews. 

Jai Parasram | Toronto - 01 July 2016
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Jai & Sero

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Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
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