By now it must’ve occurred to even the conveniently deaf and dumb that the palpable silence of the normally garrulous Labour Party leader on the subject more and more Saint Lucians are referring to as “this election’s most important topic” speaks volumes. As sordid as may be the suggestion, let us force ourselves to recall that the first time any of us learned the Saint Lucia seabed had been leased to an American businessman was when the Castries Central MP touched lightly on the subject during his contribution to the 2009 Budget debate. For close to a decade, the matter had remained a closely guarded secret between the then Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and Earl Huntley, at the time permanent secretary at External Affairs ministry. Quite uncharacteristically the prime minister had on the occasion kept his thoughts to himself, even as Richard Frederick repeatedly torpedoed his style of governance. It was left to the trusted Huntley, four years after his retirement from the civil service, to inform the public about the secret transaction via a piece in The Voice entitled: “The Story of the Dauphin Oil Project” wherein he revealed that on orders from the prime minister himself he had kept in his possession all related documents. Moreover, that Huntley had in his private capacity invited a Denver, Colorado oilman named Jack Grynberg to evaluate the sea at Dauphin’s oil potential. At some later point he had personally taken Grynberg to the prime minister from whom the American obtained a license to explore the Saint Lucia seabed—an area more than fifty times the size of the island’s land mass.
The matter came up a second time during the most recent Budget debate, when a now far better informed Frederick and two fellow government MPs also questioned the secret arrangement with the Colorado oilman Grynberg. But nothing they said was enough to elicit a single word of enlightenment from the former prime minister. Not until several weeks later, with mounting public interest in the now exposed oil-exploration project, did the opposition leader break his silence. What he said took the form of a televised address to the nation, in the conspicuous absence of inquisitive reporters. For the most part the speech echoed Earl Huntley’s story published in The Voice. The former prime minister said the “allegations” by Frederick & Company were neither new nor true, that they had been concocted for the sole purpose of defaming him in an election year.
He said Huntley had in his published article “explained the background” to the Grynberg transaction—including the line that “Grenada was first to engage Grynberg Petroleum . . . the governments of Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines followed suit.” As will soon be seen, this was not Kenny Anthony’s only contradiction of the story that just seconds earlier he had endorsed as reliable background information. Regarding the named two other OECS territories, this is what Huntley had written: “I introduced him [Grynberg] to Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and explained to him what had occurred. The prime minister agreed to grant the license and Grynberg subsequently submitted a draft agreement for signature. The then attorney general Petrus Compton suggested that the Commonwealth Secretariat vet the draft. After the Commonwealth Secretariat had approved the draft, 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’s waters.
“Based on what he had seen in Saint Lucia, Grynberg was also interested in signing an exploration license with St. Vincent and the Grenadines because he believed that if there was oil in Saint Lucian waters, then oil would also be present in St. Vincent, Grenada and Dominica. The minister responsible for energy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the time was John Horn, and in discussions with him he said to me that Saint Lucia and St. Vincent had nothing to lose agreeing to grant licenses for exploration and so St. Vincent also concluded an agreement with Grynberg’s RSM. Grenada was to do the same.”
As has been several times repeated in these pages since Kenny Anthony’s televised address on the matter: Grenada actually hooked up with Grynberg in 1996, a full year before Anthony took office and four years before Grynberg’s first visit to Saint Lucia at Huntley’s personal invitation. Grynberg had caused the Grenada government serious force majeure-related headaches that began just two weeks after signing their agreement, some involving sister territories. So much, then, for Huntley’s revelation that “St Vincent concluded an agreement [and] Grenada was to do the same.” So much for Anthony’s contradictory recollection that Grynberg, having signed with Grenada, “the governments of Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines followed suit.” Anthony is correct about the signing sequence. But how could he not have known that just two weeks after inking his agreement with the Grenada government Grynberg had invoked its force majeure clause, or that by 2000 the oilman was well on his way to a New York tribunal, having sued the Grenada government for breach of contract?
Then there is the matter of Petrus Compton’s advice. If as both Huntley and the former prime minister Kenny Anthony claimed the draft Grynberg agreement was approved by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, then how to explain the crucial difference between the draft and the contract that was actually inked on 28 March 2000? The so-called draft agreement Grynberg produced and signed in1999 (see accompanying reproduction) contains a vital condition also in the agreements of Grenada and St. Vincent. And it is this, under Article 3: “As soon as possible but in no event later than ninety (90) days after the Effective Date, the Company shall apply for, and the Minister, under and in accordance with the Act, will grant to the Company an Exploration Licence over the area described in Annex A and shown on the map in Annex B. This Licence shall be substantially in the form of the draft license set forth in Annex C. The Exploration Licence granted pursuant to Article 3 hereof shall be for an initial period of four years commencing from the date of the grant of the Licence and shall, subject to the Act, on application duly made by the Company, be renewed for two further periods of two years each in accordance with the Act.”
True enough, the above forms part of the draft agreement drawn up by Jack Grynberg, and is in harmony with his contracts signed by the governments of Grenada and St. Vincent. However, it is not to be found in the agreement that Kenny Anthony signed in 2000 (see accompanying reproduction) and which states at Article 3: “The Government hereby grants the Company an Exploration License covering its interest in the Agreement Area for an initial term of four (4)years from the Effective Date, subject, however, to the force majeure provisions of Article 24. Upon application duly made by the Company, the Exploration License shall be renewed for two (2) further periods of two (2) years each. Subject to Article 27, each Development Licence referred to in Article 8.6 shall be granted for an initial period of thirty years. Upon application duly made by the Company, each Development License shall be renewed for a further period of twenty years.”
Kenny Anthony, his lawyer for all seasons Anthony Astaphan and several other defenders of the faith have insisted that the three agreements were in all ways the same. Of course none have so far produced supportive evidence of their claim. Astaphan has also attempted to make much of the undisputed fact that none of the agreements was signed by the governor general, as if indeed that meant all the signings were in accordance with the laws of the respective territories. In all events, had Dame Pearlette signed the Saint Lucia agreement she’d have done so only in her capacity under the Minerals (Vesting) Act, not necessarily as governor general. But regardless of who signed for St. Vincent and Grenada, the following is undeniable: “A person shall not prospect for or mine any minerals except by the authority of a license granted by the governor general and in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in the license.” So says the earlier cited Minerals (Vesting) Act. Did the experts at the Commonwealth Secretariat advise then Prime Minister Kenny Anthony to rewrite Article 3 of the draft agreement, and thereby make the Minerals (Vesting) Act obsolete? Did ComSec advise the then prime minister to leave the governor general out of his arrangements with Jack Grynberg?
The current prime minister, Stephenson King, recently revealed in a televised address that his staff had failed to discover anything in the government’s files remotely related to the Commonwealth Secretariat and Kenny Anthony arrangements with Jack Grynberg. Moreover, King has pleaded publicly with his predecessor for assistance in bringing the matter to a satisfactory conclusion—so far to no avail. His party’s PR had this to say last week: “When you want a man’s help you have to know how to approach him. You have to approach him with respect. You can’t be insulting a man on one hand and on the other be expecting him to help you.” Meanwhile, I’ve been reliably informed that in May 2009 the Commonwealth Secretariat had advised the King government that a search for legal advice to the government of Saint Lucia—which would’ve been dealt with by the secretariat’s Special Advisory Unit—had failed to uncover anything connected with the Grynberg contracts. The search included ComSec’s “registry, archives and scanfiles.”
Moreover, nothing in the files handed over by Earl Huntley to the King government suggest the Commonwealth Secretariat’s advice was ever solicited, let alone given. As the Prime Minister King suggested in his most recent TV address to the nation, the ball is yet again in Kenny Anthony’s court. Or in the court of former AG Petrus Compton!
Last week a new name entered the controversy. No surprise that Kenny Anthony’s frontmen have latched on to his coattail like drowning rats clutching at half-submerged straws. How ironic that the Labour Party’s drones had for at least three uninterrupted years bombed cavernous holes in the very reputation behind which they now seek to hide! Ausbert d’Auvergne, whose past will forever be his present and future, let it be known last week that he (or someone else at his behest) had singlehandedly rescued Stephenson King from the dangers of the road traveled eleven years ago by Kenny Anthony with no one to guide him. D’Auvergne has so far not proved his statement in The Voice that Stephenson King had spoken other than truth when he said his government never signed an agreement with Jack Grynberg—and that he and his legal advisors had instead sought to extricate Saint Lucia from the mess in which Kenny Anthony had dumped the country.
This is Earl Huntley’s recollection of what d’Auvergne had referred to: “In February 2007 I met with then Prime Minister John Compton to brief him on the subject [endorsing the Grynberg contract] in advance of a meeting with Aggie Kupermann, an agent of [Grynberg’s] company, who was due to visit Saint Lucia to have an extension of the agreement signed. I gave Prime Minister Compton a copy of this background paper.”
Imagine that! Just when did the external affairs PS metamorphose into Grynberg flack or, as the oilman himself put it, “my trusted representative?” What was the special arrangement between the two? When precisely did it begin? The first time Grynberg set foot in Saint Lucia, perhaps? Long before he sat down for secret talks with the island’s prime minister, maybe?
Whatever! By Huntley’s published account, before Compton gave his signature he first “wanted to draw the matter to the attention of his Cabinet of Ministers.” Huntley also claimed, without evidence, that Compton had “agreed with Prime Minister Anthony that there should be no public information on the matter at this time.”
Yeah, right! How convenient that dead men tell no tales. In his own heyday Compton had taken to parliament the then controversial issue of a Hess storage facility at Cul-de-Sac which, placed alongside Grynberg, is like comparing a red ant to a pachyderm. But Huntley is an honorable man, and we know from experience how truthful our honorable men can be. I can’t help but wonder what went through the mind of Kenny Anthony’s trusted repository when Compton insisted on bringing his own Cabinet into the equation—in direct conflict with Kenny Anthony’s earlier decision.
In his published account Huntley writes: “It is my understanding that Prime Minister Compton brought the matter to his Cabinet and that the Minister of Economic Affairs, Ausbert d’Auvergne, asked that he first peruse the agreement before the PM signed it, since there were two other similar requests. The agreement has been with Senator d’Auvergne from that time. In May I spoke to Mr. d’Auvergne on the phone about the agreement and he told me officials at his ministry were still examining the document. I have since been unable to speak to him again about it despite several attempts.” Unlike Compton, who has been pushing daisies nearly four years now, Mr. d’Auvergne reportedly is evidently still pursuing a career as prime minister and well positioned to validate Huntley’s references. He has so far chosen not to.
Yes, so here in 2009 is Huntley filling in the Stephenson King government about what had transpired between him and the deceased Compton (what was the Cabinet secretary doing?), his dusted public service hat firmly in place: “Grynberg Petroleum and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed the extension to their agreement in New York in September and Grynberg has submitted another copy of the Saint Lucia agreement for Prime Minister King’s signature, along with a new check for the license. Grynberg is expected to commence exploration in 2008.”
You got that right, dear reader: Eight years after he signed on to begin immediate work. By 2008, however, even Grynberg’s “trusted representative” was having his doubts, albeit unexpressed. He advises the King government: “I believe the renewal of the license should be conditional on clear undertakings by Grynberg that exploration and drilling in Saint Lucia should start in 2008, regardless of his problems with Grenada, as he now has sufficient data on Saint Lucia to do so. There should be an agreement with him that failure to begin exploration and drilling within the first half of 2008 will trigger the termination of the agreement with Saint Lucia.” (Who knows whether the proffered advice was cooked up by Grynberg and his “trusted associate?”)
If only Huntley had imparted similar advice to the secretive Kenny Anthony. Now he was in effect saying to Stephenson King: Tell Jack Grynberg to go jump in the sea at Dauphin with his stupid force majeure claims. Regardless of his Grenada problems and clauses that say disputes will be settled only by the ICSID, tell him to begin work in 2008 or else!
This is what Huntley had written to his friend the oilman colleague nearly four years earlier, in a missive dated 23 September 2004: “Dear Jack: I have just returned from vacation today and found your letter of September 2, 2004 concerning the seismic ship and survey. Thanks very much for the information. Of course while it is natural for us to be anxious for things to move faster, given the enormous implications for the country if our theories prove right and the pressures for positive results arising from local political developments, please be reassured that we are not blaming you for the pace so far. We do appreciate and understand why this has been and will be a lengthy process and I further wish to stress that we are highly impressed by your total commitment, financial and otherwise, in the project.”
Again, no complaint about the force majeure clause invoked by Grynberg six months after signing his agreement with Kenny Anthony, and which placed on hold all of the oilman’s contractual obligations. Huntley, writing on the prime minister’s office letterhead, and conceivably echoing Kenny Anthony’s sentiments, is “not blaming” Grynberg for delays. Indeed, he says he and the prime minister “appreciate and understand” the delays even after four years of absolutely nothing done. Earl Huntley knows which human body parts are most susceptible to moist stroking. Having reassured Grynberg he goes on to write: “Congratulations on the issuing of the license from the government of France. I shall be discussing with the Prime Minister the question of resolving the boundary issue with Martinique and will keep you informed.”
Finally this: “I would be grateful if you would kindly Fax future correspondence to me at the following number instead of the one to which you sent your last note [the prime minister’s office number]. The number is 758 451 8765.”
By “your last note,” was Huntley referring to the 19 May 2004 notification that Grynberg had wire-transferred to Huntley’s account that day $US6,489? In my next dispatch I will attempt to answer that question. I will also revisit the way Earl Huntley typically conducted government business when he was a civil servant. Also his enduring strange relationship with Kenny Anthony!
Author’s Note: The preceding article was first published by this newspaper on 10 August 2011. Since last week’s House meeting, when MP Guy Joseph revisited the shocking details of the Ramsahoye investigation into the issues of Rochamel and Frenwell, I have received several requests (challenges?) to provide information pertinent to the arrangements between Jack Grynberg and Kenny Anthony. Grynberg’s related breach of contract appeal is expected to come before the ICSID a few weeks from now.