Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's statement on the OPV Settlement
The nation can feel duly proud and relieved on the historic and successful settlement of the OPV arbitration which has resulted in the payment of close to $1.4 billion ($1.382 billion) to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a significant and important legal victory for our nation in many ways.
When the government assumed office in May 2010, it inherited an OPV project that was riddled with difficulties:
· OPV 1 was already overdue by one year; and
· OPV 2 was three months late.
· There were major issues and deficiencies with the OPVs
· Overall, there were serious obstacles to the proper execution and implementation of this project.
The former administration tolerated and accepted the unreasonable and inordinate delays. I was of the view that while the government should respect and honour its contractual commitments, we should equally insist on compliance with the contract by BAE consistent with the country’s rights under the OPV contract.
The government took a strong stand in this matter: it was not prepared to compromise the nation’s interest any further. We refused to sign a supplemental agreement negotiated by the former administration that would have had the effect of condoning the prolonged delay in exchange for liquidated damages.
Today, I feel vindicated by the decision I took, as we have been able to repel a $700 million claim against our country and emerge victorious with a settlement of $1.4 billion.
While many appear to be shell-shocked by the positive result – we are not. There is no “secret deal”, or hidden, undisclosed, future cost or supplemental agreement; the $1.4 billion represents full and final settlement without the government having to pay any money to BAE.
The settlement will not only mean that we will be able to repay the OPV loans we inherited but shall also provide a surplus $340 million which can be utilized for the benefit and upliftment of our people. By repaying these loans early, we have also saved $57.149 million that we would have been compelled to make otherwise.
When I instructed the Honourable Attorney General to fight this arbitration, I did so with the full knowledge that Trinidad and Tobago, as a small country, was about to take on one of the largest and most powerful military defence corporations in the world. I was, however, guided by the principles of law, truth and fairness and firm belief in our competence to settle the matter in our nation’s favour.