By now it must’ve occurred, even to the conveniently deaf and stupid, 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—and I don’t mean sotto voce. As sordid as is the suggestion, let us force ourselves to recall that the first time any of us, regardless of political stripe, learned the Saint Lucia seabed had been leased to an American businessman was when the Castries Central MP touched on the subject during his Budget presentation in 2009.
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 the permanent secretary at External Affairs. Quite uncharacteristically, the prime minister had kept his thoughts to himself even as Richard Frederick typically bombarded his style of governance. Four years after his retirement from the civil service, it was left to Huntley to inform the public about the Jack Grynberg transaction via a published piece in the Voice entitled: “The Story of the Dauphin Oil Project.” He revealed therein that on orders from the prime minister himself he had retained in his possession all related documents. Moreover, that he it was who had in his private capacity invited the Denver, Colorado oilman Jack Grynberg to evaluate the sea at Dauphin’s oil potential. At some later point he had introduced Grynberg to Kenny Anthony for the purpose of obtaining a license to explore the Saint Lucia seabed—an area more than fifty times the size of the island’s land mass. What transpired from here remained classified, without a word to the prime minister’s Cabinet.
The matter was brought up a second time during the most recent Budget debate, when a far better informed Frederick and two other government MPs in turn questioned the secret arrangement. But nothing they said was enough to elicit a single word of enlightenment from the former prime minister or from his former tourism minister Philip J. Pierre. Not until several weeks later, with mounting public interest in the now exposed oil-exploration project, did the opposition leader speak on the issue. 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 2009 story. The former prime minister said the MPs’ “allegations” were neither new nor true and had been concocted for the sole purpose of defaming him in an election year.
He said Earl Huntley in his Voice article had “explained the background” to the so-called Grynberg transaction—including that “Grenada was first to engage Grynberg Petroleum [and] 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 St 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 be 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, four years before Grynberg’s first visit to Saint Lucia at Huntley’s invitation. He had caused the island’s government serious force majeure-related headaches that began just two weeks after signing their agreement, some involving sister territories.
So much for Huntley’s explanation 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 right on signing sequence but how could he not have known that just two weeks after inking the Grenada agreement Grynberg had invoked force majeure, or that by 2000 the oil man 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 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 reproduction opposite) 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 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 License over the area described in Annex A and shown on the map in Annex B. This license shall be substantially in the form of the draft license set forth in Annex C. The exploration License granted pursuant to Article 3 hereof shall be for an initial period of four years commencing from the date of the grant of the License 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 Grynberg, and is in harmony with those of Grenada and St Vincent. However, it is not to be found in that signed by the prime minister of Saint Lucia in 2000 (see page 9) 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 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 further periods of two years each. Subject to Article 27, each Development License 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 Tony Astaphan and several other interested party parties have insisted that the three agreements were in all ways the same. All have so far failed to produce supportive evidence of the obviously uninformed, if not deliberately deceptive, 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 lands. The point is that one of them should’ve carried Dame Pearlette’s signature.
Regardless of who signed for St Vincent and Grenada, it remains indisputable who is the licensing authority in Saint Lucia: “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 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 then grant Grynberg his license? Who advised Kenny Anthony to leave the governor general out of the particular transaction?
The prime minister recently revealed in a televised address that his staff had failed to find anything in the government’s files remotely related to the Commonwealth Secretariat and Kenny Anthony’s largely confidential arrangements with Jack Grynberg. Moreover, the prime minister has publicly pleaded with Kenny Anthony for assistance in bringing the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.
Anthony’s response, at any rate, as in effect it fell out last week from the mouth of his public relations man: “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.” To which I say, Lord preserve us!
Meanwhile, I’ve been reliably informed that the Commonwealth Secretariat had in May 2009 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 Huntley suggested the secretariat’s advice was ever solicited, let alone given. As the prime minister suggested in his most recent 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 front men have latched on to his coattail like drowning rats clutching at half-submerged drinking 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! The gentleman 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 saved the current prime minister from the road Kenny Anthony had traveled eleven years ago, with no one to guide him.
The Voice contributor has so far not verified his statement that the prime minister 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 for the mess created by Kenny Anthony.
This is Earl Huntley’s recollection: “In February 2007 I met with then Prime Minister John Compton to brief him on the subject in advance of a meeting with an agent of the company, Aggie Kupermann, 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 oil man himself put it, his “trusted representative?” Was there a 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 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 verification that Compton had “agreed with Prime Minister Anthony that there should be no public information on the matter at this time.”
Yeah, right! And 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 alongide Grynberg is like comparing a pachyderm to a fonmi rouge. But Huntley is an honorable man, and we from experience how truthful are our honorables. I can’t help but wonder what went through the mind of Kenny Anthony’s secrets repository when Compton insisted on bringing his Cabinet into the equation, the precise opposite of what his immediate predecessor had insisted on.
In his published account, Huntley writes: “It is my understanding that Prime Minister Compton brought the matter to the 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 still pursuing a career as prime minister and well positioned to validate Huntley’s references.
Yes, so here in 2009 is Huntley filling in the King government about what transpired between him and the deceased Compton, 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.”
Yes, 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 problem 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.”
Were those Huntley’s original words or were they put into his mouth by his Colorado colleague. 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 ocean with his stupid force majeure claims. Regardless of his Grenada problems and clauses that say disputes can only be settled by ICSID, tell him to begin work in 2008 or else!
Then again, who knows with Earl “Helenites” Huntley? This is what he had written to his oil 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 oil man’s contractual obligations. Huntley, writing on the prime minister’s office letterhead and presumably echoing Kenny Anthony’s sentiments, is “not blaming” Grynberg for delays. Indeed, he is 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.” Conceivably, he is referring to the prime minister of Saint Lucia, not France, but you never know!
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 US$6,489? In my next dispatch I will attempt to answer that question and also revisit the way Earl Huntley typically conducted government business when he was a civil servant. Also his enduring strange relationship with Kenny Anthony!