Thursday, February 22, 2018

Man with the hammer

Keith Subero logo55

Mark Fraser

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday caused me to recall Mark Twain’s line,“To the man with a hammer everything looks like a nail”. A story in Scotland’s Glasgow Evening Times first triggered my reflection; it left me thinking about the AG’s now-familiar rants, and attempts at spin-doctoring.

In yesterday’s newspapers he categorically condemned and refuted the article headlined “Clyde shipyard bosses win £130m compensation battle” which he said had “gone viral on social media on certain sites associated with and supportive of the Opposition”.

“This is political mischief of the highest order,” he said of the circulation of a November 15, 2012 article which focused on the claims of the Opposition Leader that the Government had lost the OPV arbitration and had to pay British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) millions of dollars.

The Evening Times first reported that the Clyde shipyard had won the battle. Later it was corrected to state that BAE indicated “a settlement” of $1.3 billion—$200 million less, or more of a pyrrhic “victory”for the taxpayers than the AG had claimed last year. Last year, the AG boasted that because of his judicious decision the Government had won the arbitration; he swanked then that $1.5 billion would be returned to the Government’s war chest against crime.

After the Government cancelled the order in 2010, BAE sold the three vessels to the Brazilian government; the British High Commission in a crisp statement explained later that BAE could not be paid twice (by both T&T and Brazil) for the same vessels. Last week, the AG was again chanting victory after the Appeal Court ruled against six former directors of Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Co. (eTeck), who claimed that the negligence suit against them was filed after the four-year limit.

“This is a red-letter day in corporate governance in this country. This judgment is ushering in a new era in governance of State enterprises for this government and all governments past, present and future,” he assured. In his elation, he praised the judgment as “especially important” because similar issues were raised in negligence lawsuits against former board members of Udecott, UTT, and Petrotrin.

From his expressed jubilation, one may conclude that he may have been transformed into Twain’s character —the man so possessed by the power of the hammer that he goes in wild search of nails.

But is that the reality? It is speculated otherwise that his search is said not to be so wild, and that the hammer’s use reserved—to be used specifically on individuals who served under the PNM government.

So is the eTeck suit all about Prof Ken Julien? Over the past four years, the AG has proven to be fast on glib, and bunglingly slow on delivery. In his last-minute search for delivery points, hammering away up to the Privy Council to nail the professor would be ideal.

Walking through downtown Arima last week, the quality of life Trinbagonians enjoy suddenly struck me anew.

At the time I admitted to myself: “The profits of Point Lisas have shaped our daily lives”. In the 70s, Dr Eric Williams envisioned Point Lisas as an estate that could produce industrial products for the world market—but it was Prof Julien who headed a team which included Sam Martin, Eldon Warner, Ken Snaggs, attorney Mary Moore and many others who were the “mechanics” of Dr Williams’ dream.

Thirty years later, Ken Julien, having pioneered the unique, world-class multi-billion Point Lisas Estate, is brought before the court to answer charges for a $30 million investment that allegedly failed.

In the “new era of corporate governance” one expects that the AG will question Environment Minister, Senator Ganga Singh, who served as CEO of WASA, when it was ordered to pay the $100 million to the Israeli firm, Merhav Mekorot Development, for breach of contract.

The era should mean the AG also nailing down the unaccounted millions at LifeSport, pursue the First Citizens IPO scandal and other questionable matters at Caribbean Airlines, T&TEC, the Airports Authority, Lake Asphalt, to name a few. In my reflections, I also recalled another line from Mark Twain: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as you please.”

/A former Express news editor, Keith Subero has since followed a career in communication and management.