What the hell? Can one set out to sell a State asset by mistake?
‘Wth’ is a milder version of the social media acronym used to express surprise or disgust. It was my response to the Minister of Energy’s implausible media release on Monday last related to the failure of Petrotrin.
It is an equally appropriate response to the revelation of the respective concerns of two High Court judges about security arrangements for the Judiciary and the process for appointments soon to be made to the Court of Appeal and a lack of internal dialogue.
On Sunday last, the Chairman of the successor companies to Petrotrin stated an intention to sell Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited (Paria Fuel)—the entity supposed to obtain a supply of fuel to meet our country’s day to day needs following the shut down of the Petrotrin refinery.
The Chairman stated that there was no need for the Paria entity. There followed his extraordinary statement that: “Paria was not a determination to be a business. Paria was a reaction to the fact that you needed to have ongoing supplies. What we did was to form Paria quickly.”
Some troubling questions immediately arose: Was there no definitive plan to obtain fuel supplies to replace those previously provided by the Petrotrin refinery? Wth? Do you form a company for that vital purpose by reaction or vaps? What fuel supply security, if any, do we have?
While pondering upon these questions, the Minister issued his release the next day contradicting the Chairman’s statement—right hand slapping left hand.
The Minister’s statement asserts that the Parent Company of Paria Fuel, had been ‘directed to withdraw and retract any advertisement or Request for Proposals (RFP) that may have been inadvertently issued for the sale of Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited’.
The reference to an ‘inadvertent’ issue of RFP is pure kicksin’. It is in the light of that I ask: How the hell can one set out to sell a State asset by mistake?
To add to the shambles, the Prime Minister at the post Cabinet media conference on Thursday reportedly said that the door on a sale of Paria remains open—apparently if such a proposal comes as part of a bid for the refinery which is for sale. Does anyone in the Government really know what they are trying to do?
Turning now to the continuing dark clouds over the Judiciary, the judges’ letters were followed closely by statements from the President of the Republic that she is troubled and grieved by divisions in the Judiciary.
The President’s statement suggests that the concern of the two judges may be genuine and substantial. Readers will also recall that I recently pointed out how judges of the Court of Appeal were putting distance between themselves and the Chief Justice.
Remarkably the President’s statement—said to be part of a television interview scheduled for broadcast later today—implies that institutional descent has been steep.
“One can only hope, however you go, you will eventually reach bottom,” said the President. “One can only hope that we don’t reach there; and after that, we can only hope that we rise.”
With respect, the President is not a mere bystander in matters concerning the Judiciary. As she acknowledges, she was part of it for twenty years. One wonders why she left before the mandatory retirement age. One may also legitimately inquire whether the matters about which she is troubled were manifest to her while she was there and contributed to her early departure.
She is now uniquely placed to advise and warn against inappropriate appointments to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission or to the Bench when she is asked to make them.
The President is also uniquely placed to advise and warn the Prime Minister—in the course of their regular meetings keeping her informed of the state of the country—about the dangers of an unstable Judiciary and the urgent need for him to make a decision on the Law Association’s recommendation that he trigger section 137 proceedings in respect of the Chief Justice.
Can we expect her leadership to be far firmer than mere forlorn expressions of hope?