I wrote recently about the startling decision of the government to reject the offer of Patriotic Energies and Technologies Limited (Patriotic) to acquire the Petrotrin oil refinery, which the government closed down.
When the titular head of the Ministry of Energy, Senator Franklin Khan, announced the sudden rejection, he gave no reason for it other than to identify three broad business heads in respect of which there were allegedly problems.
The country was left confused because the government had chosen Patriotic as the preferred bidder and wanted the deal completed before the August General Election.
By its conduct, the government created an information vacuum. The creation of this vacuum had three natural consequences: the media would investigate why the deal was rejected, informed commentators would also try to work out the reason, and persons opposed politically to the government would robotically cry out that some dirty business was involved.
Given the rampant inequality pervading our socio-economic structure, there was also an inevitable but reasonable suspicion that persons with a vested interest in the status quo would not want a company owned by a trade union to gain a place at the investment table.
I am returning to the Patriotic matter because I see what happened as part of a consistent pattern of failure of all our governments to account in plausible terms for their acts and omissions. They invariably seek to obscure everything that is being done or undone in the population’s name.
The negative consequences of the information vacuum are compounded when, as is normal in a relatively free society, explanations are sought and the government responds with incomplete and frequently angry answers. All our governments ‘tote feelings’ and that too interferes with the ability of its members to speak sensibly to the citizenry.
And so it is with the Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) matter. There are questions that will not go away regarding what is the true nature of the business, its sources of cash, and for what oblique purposes the police may have ‘raided’ the DSS premises in the guise of a search for arms and ammunition.
Uninformed statements about the practice of sou sou and high horse condemnation of sou sou participants, who are drawn by the universal lure of financial benefit, as stupid or greedy, is nothing more than smoke to screen the handling of what the prime minister himself has described as a threat to national security.
Put simply, the reluctance of governments to level with us creates mischief spaces into which mind-benders and mischief-makers can eagerly crawl.
Meanwhile, because Kamla running a political bus’ fete, she and those clinging to her will always be grateful when the current government gives them a mischief space into which to crawl.
After minister Khan’s summary rejection of the Patriotic bid, the prime minister reportedly instructed that it be reconsidered; but we are not stupid people and it was swiftly found out that a mortgage or other charge on the assets that Patriotic intended to acquire was a stumbling block.
It was certainly helpful when informed commentators worked out that a charge on the assets was a problem and said so. The prime minister acknowledged a mortgage, but sought to downplay it as a problem for the acquirers by reportedly saying:
“If there is a mortgage on an asset and it has to be sold, it simply requires a change of the relationship between the seller and the mortgagor (sic) and you work out whatever you have to work out; and the sale takes place and you determine what happens to the proceeds.”
That’s nice and cozy if the seller is to receive proceeds, but we were told at one stage that Patriotic, the buyer, was not being asked to put cash up front, so what anticipated proceeds are there?
Last week, I had to say farewell to my Belmont compere, Edward Duggins. He was an honest and sage but self-effacing person, one of those close to me who would never let my feet leave the ground.
He probably would have approved of this advice to our governments to make a practice of more fully disclosing material facts.