Today, I must once more address the latest developments in the very troublesome, controversial ‘Fuelgate’ fiasco that is currently engaging the public’s keen attention.
This after media reports now state that the head of the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has denied Prime Minister Rowley’s claims that this body was responsible for allowing a private Venezuelan jet to enter T&T without doing required due diligence.
The jet is owned by Venezuelan State oil company PDVSA, which was sanctioned by the US since last year. Its presence in T&T’s soil also puts our country at risk for similar sanctions. It transported Venezuelan VP Delcy Rodriguez and a team of PDVSA officials to an official inter-Governmental meeting with PM Rowley on March 27, 2020.
The T&T border had already been closed to all travel but was specially reopened to facilitate this controversial visit. Several of these officials, including VP Rodriguez, are facing money laundering and narco-terrorism charges in the US, and have been banned from traveling to most countries.
Shortly after the visit, State owned Paria sent a gas fuel shipment to Aruba, which allegedly ended up in Venezuela. This has prompted a probe by the US Government for a possible breach of sanctions it has placed on Venezuela.
PM Rowley now faces increasing calls from the public to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this highly questionable and still unexplained meeting was not in fact the genesis of this dangerous ‘Fuelgate fiasco.’ This after he has consistently given differing reasons for this mysterious visit, causing a serious breakdown of trust and public credibility in him and his Government.
He had first claimed that it was to discuss the Covd-19 pandemic. Last week, I provided a copy of the passenger manifest of this flight to show that the meeting was in fact primarily attended Venezuelan PDVSA officials. PM Rowley then bizarrely claimed that he did not know the identities of the delegation since he was not introduced to them.
He also said that the Civil Aviation Authority was responsible for the monitoring of the national border. But in an article in the Saturday Guardian (May 9, 2020), the Director General of the TTCAA, Francis Regis, adamantly refuted this claim, noting that it was best directed to the National Security Minister.
It is now clear that PM Rowley’s ongoing, contradictory, incredulous utterances continue to provoke more questions than answers in this Fuelgate fiasco. He has now also managed to also cast serious implications on the proper, effective and efficient functioning of the senior public servants and Ministers of National Security and Foreign Affairs Ministries, as to why:
– The requisite due diligence NOT done by the National Security Minister to allow PM Rowley to know about the various US sanctions/drug and money laundering charges on VP Rodriguez and PDVSA officials, as well as the possible detrimental consequences for T&T
– The Foreign Affairs Minister failed to apprise the PM of the names, background and other relevant information for the Venezuelan delegation
– The PM was never informed that this meeting was in violation of the Inter American Treaty of reciprocal assistance
At this point, the only way to truly get to the bottom of this whole imbroglio is for PM Rowley to ensure that the Fuelgate Fiasco is comprehensively and urgently debated in the Parliament. Here, he must provide ALL relevant documentary evidence to prove his thus far seriously dubious claims on this matter.
Our nation’s international reputation, and public trust in the Public Service system is now at serious stake. Citizens therefore, deserve nothing less than truth, transparency and accountability from the Government. It is time for PM Rowley to come to the Parliament, the official place of the people’ s business, and put this Fuelgate fiasco to rest once and for all.
Stay safe and God bless.