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Government got lucky, says Rowley

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

A slice of luck.

This country got lucky and escaped liability to the tune of millions when Brazil purchased the three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) after the People's Partnership Government cancelled the contract, says Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan claimed victory this week in arbitration proceedings with shipbuilders British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) Systems where it was settled that BAE would pay some $1.382 billion to the Trinidad and Tobago Government.

The Government cancelled the contract for the OPVs in September 2010, saying that the vessels were overdue and not done to correct specifications, and arbitration proceedings followed between Government and BAE.

Speaking to the media during the Parliament's tea break yesterday, Rowley said Government lost out on a good deal with the OPVs and is now back to square one--no vessels and porous sea borders.

The same vessels which this Government rejected, he said, were now in good use in the Brazilian navy and in addition that country is building another four to five identical vessels.

The People's National Movement (PNM), he said, had argued that the capricious cancellation of the OPV contract would expose this country to serious liabilities.

"The Attorney General must come clean and tell the people of Trinidad and Tobago up until the point where the Brazilians bought the vessels we didn't have a leg to stand on," said Rowley.

He said had the Brazilians not bought the vessels, then BAE's claim against this Government would have been $700 million.

"Up to the point where BAE found a buyer, Trinidad and Tobago had this noose around our necks...in our case it was a slice of luck that Brazil bought the vessels."

Rowley noted that Government now has intentions of buying long-range patrol vessels from Colombia, which will serve the same purpose as the OPVs—patrolling the waters.

"When the PNM set about to obtain the OPVs there was a proper transparent procurement process involving open tendering by international parties...today we are hearing an announcement that this Government has entered into an arrangement with Colombia to supply us with vessels.

"What was the process this Government used to choose the Colombians for whatever the Colombians can offer, not to mention what cargo they will bring," Rowley added.

He said further that the United National Congress when in Opposition had taken issue with the former PNM government over the OPV contract, claiming there was corruption in the procurement.

Rowley said in the arbitration proceedings no mention was made at all about corruption.

This country, he added, was spending $50 billion plus annually yet this Government does not see it fit to spend $2 billion for the OPVs in the interest of national security.

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