Facts, truth and leadership in government – Part 1

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Earl Huntley is a retired Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Former CARICOM Ambassador to Haiti, and Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

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By Earl Huntley

Saint Lucia – Grynberg oil exploration agreement

The United Workers Party (UWP) developed its template for its Machiavellian distortion of the truth in its first term in office in our current epoch that is during 2006 – 2011, when it announced to the world that Dr Kenny Anthony and I had been involved in a shady transaction with an American oil magnate, Jack Grynberg.

Allen Chastanet, prior to being prime minister was part of the then UWP Cabinet, as minister for tourism. Don’t forget he was the tourism minister that a judge declared to be a stranger to the truth concerning a judicial inquiry into the conduct of the Cabinet of ministers on the Tuxedo Villas affair.

Besides that, Chastanet, as prime minister, with the connivance of a hired writer and lackluster Television talk show host, has continued to misguide the public about the Grynberg oil exploration agreement so that today, the name Grynberg has come to denote something scandalous and even ‘corrupt’, when the agreement with Grynberg was simply a genuine search to ascertain whether Saint Lucia possessed oil and in the event that it did, to develop this resource.

Facts and chronology of the Grynberg – Saint Lucia oil story:  Oil at Dauphin 2000 – 2004

Sometime in 1999, I visited Dauphin Beach for the first time in decades and found my hands and feet blackened from oil in the water. I recalled my boyhood stories at Monchy of oil appearing on the beach at Dauphin.

Older inhabitants of the community confirmed that this had been happening for at least one hundred years. I decided that the phenomenon needed further exploration and testing.

At the time, I was the permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs and international trade and decided to request Saint. Lucia’s ambassador in Washington, Sonia Johnny, to see whether she could identify a small oil company that might be interested in carrying out tests in the area to discover whether or not there was a source of oil.

Because, I was acting on a hunch, I decided, I would not yet draw the matter to the attention of the authorities.  My approach was to first quietly find out whether there was any possibility for oil exploration in the area, and if there was, then to inform the government of Saint Lucia (GOSL), of the situation.

Ambassador Johnny contacted a small company out of Denver Colorado, Grynberg Petroleum, who confirmed their willingness to carry out the tests and required that I send samples of the water and the sand from Dauphin beach to them. Grynberg had been recommended to ambassador Johnny by the ambassador of Grenada with whom Grynberg had just signed an agreement for exploration in Grenada.

Jack Grynberg came to Saint Lucia to visit Dauphin. According to him, the black cliffs around the beach, and other factors indicate the presence of oil.  He theorized that the oil was offshore and not on land. Based on the tests carried out in Colorado and his visit to Saint Lucia, his expertise as a geologist, Grynberg wanted to sign an agreement with the government of Saint Lucia for a license to explore for oil offshore Saint Lucia. (How his expertise made him a millionaire with his Texas find.)

I then introduced him to prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony and explained to the prime minister what had occurred. Grynberg subsequently submitted a draft agreement for signature. On the advice of the then-attorney general, Petrus Compton, prime minister Anthony and Jack Grynberg signed the agreement on March 28, 2000, granting RSM Corporation, Grynberg’s company, the rights of exploration for oil and gas in Saint Lucia waters. The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines also concluded an agreement with Grynberg at the same time. Grynberg believed that all the islands have oil and that its source is from the Orinoco in Venezuela.

The Agreement: Article two of the agreement gave RSM the sole rights to explore for oil in the designated area and if oil was found in a commercially viable quantity, the company had the exclusive right to develop the resources, all at its expenses. An Annex to the agreement delineates the area on the east coast of the island where exploration is to take place.

The government hereby grants the company an exploration license. The agreement was for an initial four-year period. A development license was for an initial period of 30 years with the option to renew for another 20 years afterward.

While it held the exploration license, the RSM paid the government a fee based on the extent of the area under license. Grynberg was paying Saint Lucia US$19,000 a year during the first four years. If it obtained a development license, it would also pay for that and in the event, oil and gas were discovered, RSM would pay the government of Saint Lucia royalties, based on rates that were in the agreement.

The agreement also provided for force majeure – a situation which would prevent the company from carrying out its responsibilities under the agreement and this included disputes over government’s control or ownership of the exploratory area. Grynberg invoked the force majeure clause because Saint Lucia’s boundaries with Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines had not been marked out and so RSM wanted these settled to avoid disputes with these countries in the event that oil was found. Much has been made of this by people like Rick Wayne but the force majeure clause only absolves RSM from its exploration responsibilities; it does not suspend the agreement.

Despite invoking that clause, from 2000 – 2004, Grynberg, with our assistance, undertook considerable research and hunting down of studies which had been carried out by the governments of Canada and France on possible oil resources in the Eastern Caribbean. From January 2004 to February 2004 Gyrnberg Petroleum carried out seismic surveys in Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada using a vessel leased from Geophysical Services Incorporated (GSI) of Calgary, Alberta Canada.

March 2004: Prime minister Anthony and RSM sign an extension of the original agreement for an additional three years, expiring March 2007.

December 2006: Elections in Saint Lucia, and a new government with Sir John Compton (SJC) as prime minister.

February 2007: Earl Huntley meets with Sir John Compton (SJC) to inform him of agreement and its expiration date, and that RSM desires its extension.

March 2007: An official of Grynberg’s RSM meets with SJC to discuss a further extension. SJC agrees but informs that that he must take the matter up with his Cabinet. The minister for economic development, Ausbert D’Auvergne, is to examine the agreement and to advise Cabinet on it.

March 2007: Extended agreement expires.

May/June 2007: SJC is hospitalised. D’Auvergne informs Huntley that the RSM agreement is still being analysed by his team.

September 2007: SJC’s time on earth expires.

October 2007: Stephenson King, as prime minister receives a cheque of USD$26,089 from RSM, for annual rental payment. The cheque is not cashed as the government ponders its options.

November 2007: Huntley meets with Stephenson King, the new prime minister, in early November, who says he knows all about the agreement and will sign it. Two weeks later King signs the extension agreement, which is handed over to Huntley by King’s secretary, but who on the same day later retrieves it [from Earl Huntley] at the behest of King.

Earl Huntley submits a memo to the permanent secretary of foreign affairs, detailing issues related to the GOSL/RSM oil exploration agreement and indicating he had files on the matter.

December 2007: Huntley takes up appointment as CARICOM’s ambassador to Haiti.

Grynberg writes King, submitting copies of data from the seismic survey, exhorts him to sign the agreement as he can find the oil.

February 2008: Anthony Severin, permanent secretary external affairs, contacts Freshfield soliciting guidance and advice on how GOSL ought to proceed with RSM. Freshfield Bruckhaus and Derringer were representing the government of Grenada at the ICSID against RSM.

March 2008: King receives another cheque from RSM, reflecting payments for New Year.

March 2008: Freshfields provides preliminary perspectives on how GOSL may approach the RSM matter. They advise the GOSL to return the cheques to Grynberg.

July 2008: Huntley returns from Haiti and hands over all files on Grynberg to the ministry of external affairs.

August 2008: Cabinet by Conclusion No 856 of 2008 agrees to the engagement of Freshfields to handle or terminate the agreement with RSM.

February 2009: RSM, by letter dated February 18 formally notifies GOSL of its intention to take the matter to arbitration

April 2009: Freshfields presents detailed strategic analysis with options that the GOSL may consider, in light of their success in their handling of the Grenada arbitration matter.

Richard Frederick, then minister of physical planning, on April 27, during the 2009 – 2010 budget debate, makes the agreement between GOSL and RSM public, and a document of the House of Assembly. In the process [he] accuses Dr Anthony of selling-out Saint Lucia’s patrimony over its territorial sea for 58 years and Huntley of collaborating with Grynberg to bleed Saint Lucia, and of benefitting personally from his relationship with Gyrnberg.

Huntley comes to Saint Lucia and publishes an extensive two-part article in the Voice of St Lucia explaining the Gyrnberg oil story refuting Frederick’s claims. Huntley also gave radio and television interviews.

July 2009: Cabinet considers the options presented by Freshfields and agrees that the GOSL will seek assistance from the ComSec to renegotiate the agreement with RSM.

October 2009: Grynberg official is in Saint Lucia to discuss the renewal of the agreement, meets with ministry officials, provides them with all information requested but is not accorded an appointment with relevant ministers.

April 2011: [Richard] Frederick, during the budget debate, knowing it’s an election year made a statement designed to mortally wound Anthony’s political fortunes. He made the following statement about the GOSL/RSM Oil Exploration Agreement:

“Since when an individual’s liability to the government is discharged by paying a minister? And don’t tell me it means government. If the government had to be inserted, a government would have been inserted here. So, you see why all the rights to our waters were sold: because the agreement clearly says royalties shall be paid to the minister personally.

“The very main signatory to that agreement makes every piece of noise with any bit of authority conferred on a minister but today you are signing an agreement so that if the person gets oil and they owe the government four percent or six percent they have to pay you. It wasn’t said by me. It’s in the agreement and the agreement is signed by Anthony who was prime minister at the time and signed it. We are dealing with a man who has a PhD in law.

“We are dealing with a man every piece of legislation that comes here if it gives the minister any little bit of authority, he says no, don’t give the minister any authority, cater for transparency. But you as prime minister can sign an agreement to pay the minister personally.”

Rufus Bousquet, the external affairs minister and Guy Joseph, the infrastructure minister also joined in the attack on Anthony.

Dr Anthony released a television statement in response to their charges.

July 2011: With general elections imminent, prime minister King addressed the nation on the Grynberg matter claiming that the government had accidentally discovered  ( repeat for emphasis) the agreement between Saint Lucia and Gynberg, that Huntley had retained files and information on the mater despite requests to return them, and that, I was a business associate of Gyrnberg who had been benefitting illegally from that relationship.

[Ausbert] D’Auvergne, King’s former physical planning minister, and now leader of The National Development Movement (NDM), publishes a statement in the Voice newspaper exposing King’s address as based on lies, confirming that King had signed the Grynberg renewal agreement in 2007, and revealing that [he] D’Auvergne had been instrumental in having the document retrieved from Huntley. He also followed up television interviews declaring that the government’s latest pronouncements were a ploy to discredit Anthony and Huntley before the elections.

King, his attorney general, Rudolph Lornenzo, and their public relation spokesman attempt to push back on D’Auvergne’s revelations.

November 2011: General elections in Saint Lucia was won by the SLP, and Anthony returned as prime minister.

April 2012: RSM files request for arbitration with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

May 2013: King, as leader of the opposition, hypocritically writes to the governor-general seeking information on the contractual agreement drawn up in March 2000, between Anthony on behalf of GOSL and Jack Grynberg, chief executive officer (CEO) of RSM Production Corporation.

He also expressed concern that the governor general’s authority may have been usurped and that an illegal act may have been committed, either by Anthony or Grynberg when they signed the agreement.

The UWP claim that Anthony could not sign the agreement under the Minerals Act has been shown to be without basis because, under the Interpretation Clause of the Act, the relevant minister has the power to sign.,

June 2013: Governor-General responds to King’s letter, that she has no first-hand knowledge of the matter of which he wrote, nor had she been briefed by any prime minister, nor for that matter had she ever requested any such information from any prime minister on the matter.

December 2013: ICSID rules in favour of Saint Lucia, deciding that RSM is to pay all cost advances during the pendency of the arbitration process, and to refund Saint Lucia USD$100,000.00. The panel also decided that RSM was to post security costs in the form of an irrevocable bank guarantee in the sum of USD$750,000.00, and the matter adjourned till May 2014.

April 2015: ICSID panels vacated or set aside a decision as to the next hearing date. The panel also agreed that the vacation would be lifted if within six months RSM had posted the USD$750,000.00 in security costs that had been imposed on them in 2014. The panel also agreed that should RSM not post the security cost by the stipulated deadline, the GOSL could apply for dismissal of the case. (RSM never posted the security cost)

December 2017: Chastanet attempts to resurrect Grynberg with an empty statement to the House of Assembly, calling for the opposition and anyone with information to help the government unravel the Grynberg matter.

2018-2019: UWP surrogates, in particular, Rick Wayne and Norbert Williams continue to attack Dr Anthony and Huntley on Grynberg; with Wayne religiously slandering Huntley concerning it.

From this chronology of events, it is quite clear that it was the UWP which has created all the confusion over the Grynberg / Saint Lucia oil exploration agreement.

Their members have lied to the public about the UWP’s role and are continuing to lie and publish the false narrative that Kenny Anthony and Earl Huntley delivered Saint Lucia into a multi-million dollar lawsuit through the conclusion of the exploration agreement with RSM; and that they personally benefited from their relationship with Jack Grynberg.

It is a UWP manufactured truth that they will continue to proclaim into and throughout the next election campaign, which must be debunked for what it is.

Not a damn seat for them to quote from Lord Kitchener’s 1981 calypso immortalizing George Chambers prediction of the Peoples National Movement (PNM) victory in Trinidad and Tobago elections.

 

A synopsis of facts, truth and leadership in government

To be continued… Part 2 – The level of Saint Lucia’s public debt.

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