Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has publicly apologised to businessman Robert Amar for making an error on the involvement of former finance minister Wendell Mottley in the Sandals project plan.
The PM has also humbly apologised for not seeking to clarify the issue when it was raised by Amar during Rowley’s conversation with media personnel last Thursday at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's.
Amar had raised the issue of Mottley’s involvement as head of a committee appointed by Government to oversee the deal in its early stages as the media questioned Rowley on Sandal’s pull-out from Tobago last week. However, the PM denied this was so and told Amar he had got his information wrong.
Rather, Rowley said Mottley was only invited by the Government to deal with the gas negotiations and chaired in a Cabinet sub-committee on energy.
But Amar stood his ground and promised to provide the proof.
Subsequently, a video of Rowley announcing the committee on June 29, 2016, was posted on social media. In that clipping, Rowley named Mottley to head the appointed committee to deal with Sandals.
In a statement via the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, Rowley apologised to Amar.
“An apology is extended to Mr Robert Amar, who raised the name of Mr Mottley as being involved in the Sandals project and was told he was incorrect. The Prime Minister apologises for not clarifying as herein described,” the release stated.
Rowley confirmed that in 2016 the Cabinet appointed Mottley to a committee which was tasked with leading negotiations with Sandals. However, he said the Government did not enter the negotiations phase with Sandals and so "the committee was not operationalised."
"Up to the point of discontinuation of the Sandals project, the preparatory work that had to be executed was done through a Special Purpose Company (SPV) chaired by Mr Neil Wilson in Tobago," Rowley said.
"This work was mainly site and topographical surveys in order to determine where the facilities were intended to be located in order to advance the approval process at the Environmental Management Authority and Town and Country Planning."
The PM added that unfortunately, even before the completion of these necessary preliminary works from which the definitive answers would have emerged the brand owners declined any further participation and exposure.
"It should be noted that Mr Mottley did not get involved in the Sandals project as was originally intended. He, however, was directed to and functioned very effectively as a negotiator on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago on important natural gas negotiations matters," Rowley said.
- by Rhondor Dowlat