…We have to make that honest assessment…Our society has become despondent, a resignation to decadence, where everyone owes everyone else a favour it seems… (1981)
…Who will rechart the ruin?… (1970s)
—Quotes from Leroy Clarke’s MACO interview 20 February 2016
Then they fill yuh head with all kinda story
Until truth becomes a mystery…
Now is time to Boom Up History!
—Boom up History (3canal) © 2008 Machette Music
In my previous article, Camille Robinson-Regis was incorrectly named as a member of Cabinet in January 2009, when she was in fact serving at that time as our High Commissioner to Canada.
The voices of our leading Artists urge us to search for meaning, if we are serious about building a civilisation out of the lies and ruin we inhabit. That kind of serious building requires a solid foundation which must contain sober reflection and acceptance of responsibility by both the people and the leaders. This is the Season of Reflection, so this week I am looking backward to go forward. A Sankofa pause to delve into these sobering CL Financial events to try to derive some meaning. We have now passed Emancipation, so the series is moving onward to Independence.
In this article I will examine the positions taken by various leaders as the CLF crisis gathered force, culminating in the declaration of the bailout on 30 January 2009. There is either a sobering naivete or a lack of rectitude in the highest chambers in our Republic.
The main persons dealing with the crisis were the Cabinet, the CLF Chiefs and the Central Bank. The former Cabinet members from whom we need to hear are – Colm Imbert, who is the current Minister of Finance; Mariano Browne, then Minister in the Ministry of Finance; Conrad Enill, former Minister of Finance and Chairman of the PNM; Karen Nunez-Tesheira, then Minister of Finance.
The CLF Chiefs were Lawrence Duprey, Executive Chairman of CLF; Andre Monteil, former PNM Treasurer and CLF Group Finance Director, who reportedly played a leading role in negotiating the bailout for CLF; Michael Carballo, then CLF’s Group Finance Director; Gita Sakal, former Corporate Secretary and of course, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, former CLF Board Director, who is now a UNC MP.
The Central Bank at that time was led by its Governor, Ewart Williams, who is now Adviser to the Minister of Finance.
The first and hugest mystery for me in this history is just how did Karen Nunez-Tesheira become our country’s Minister of Finance, given that she did not have any specific financial training or background? More telling yet, was the fact that, as Minister, she was effectively senior to Mariano Browne who is eminently qualified and experienced in accountancy and finance. That appointment by the late PM, Patrick Manning, left our country, at its moment of maximum peril, with a Minister of Finance, who was a CLF shareholder, with little or no finance background.
Mariano Browne was the one person in that Cabinet who would have been qualified and experienced to handle this crisis, but he was the junior in the negotiation and in fact has repeatedly stated that he was sent out of the country on official business on the days when the crucial meetings took place. To me the entire episode, which mystified me at the time, seems to be a manifestation of the long-term planning which became evident in CLF’s campaign to gain control of Republic Bank Ltd.
The principle of Collective Cabinet Responsibility, binds all the members of the Cabinet to its decisions.
Apart from the composition of the Cabinet, we have to reflect on the fundamental terms of the CLF Shareholders’ Agreement. That Agreement is deeply flawed as it allows the CLF chiefs to retain their shares, does not charge any interest and contains no term for repayment.
According to Mariano Browne, in his critique of the ongoing bailout in an email sent on 8 August 2017 to a large chat group –
“…There is no security document agreed repayment programme or guarantee document…”
- So just how did we agree these astonishing concessions in the CLF bailout?
- Did CLF propose to pay no interest and waive any repayment period or was it the State’s advisers who suggested this approach?
- Were any objections raised by the Minister of Finance?
- Did the Governor of the Central Bank endorse this stunning giveaway?
- How did we, the taxpayer, agree to pay out these huge sums of interest-free Public Money to investors and depositors who went into CLF to get the high interest rates?
- Who was safeguarding the Public Interest?
- Was that a living concept in those crisis meetings?
I appreciate Michael Harris’ support and would repeat his call that either the DPP give us an urgent, detailed update on the matters arising from the Colman Report or the government must publish the Report. After all, the public has paid a reported $120M for that exercise.
The Ministry’s Mysteries
On 4 August 2017, the Ministry of Finance made a Media Release to give details of Peter Permell’s EFPA policy. Permell is Chairman of the CLICO Policyholders’ Group and has been a steady critic of the way the bailout has been handled. That Release stated that Permell had sold his CLICO policy on 22 May 2012 and that he no longer had any claims against CLICO.
Although no amounts were stated, Permell strongly protested the publication of his financial details.
The High Court ruled on 22 July 2015 that the Ministry of Finance must give me the details I requested under the Freedom of Information Act, including –
“…Any list of the creditors of CL Financial existing as at the date of the request, the names of the EFPA holders, the dates of the repayment of EFPA holders and the identities of those whose investments have been repaid…”
The Ministry filed its detailed case in the Appeal Court on Friday, 30 December 2016, and in that filing, stated its objection to the High Court ruling to publish the names, claiming that confidentiality would be violated. Yet the very Ministry publishes the exact details about someone who has been critical of the Minister.
For some public officials, information is currency, for others it can become ammunition. For me, it is our property and to be used in our interest. We need all the details of all these payments published without any further delay.
© 2017, Afra Raymond. All Rights Reserved.