Time for King to come clean!

L-R: Prime Hon. Minister Stephenson King and Lawyer Anthony Astaphan QC

Just when I was on the verge of genuflecting before Anthony Astaphan’s unbending submission that the Colorado oilman Jack Grynberg signed agreements with the governments of Grenada (1996), St Vincent and the Grenadines (1999), and Saint Lucia (2000) that are in all ways similar, another re-examination of the documents demanded I resist the temptation.

Indeed, I am reminded of the alleged old wives’ tale that lawyers are generally interested only in the truth that serves their clients—admittedly, a shocking proposition that would explain why so many appear less concerned
about whether an accused client committed the crime than with the loophole via which they might avoid doing time.

There is the popular view that what separated Johnnie Cochran from the average choo-mama case advocate, was his ability to see, hear and speak only such truth as might set his client free—a natural talent not taught in law school and which, I venture to point out, Anthony Astaphan appears to possess in spades. Even on the rare occasion when more holes have been drilled in his airtight case than there are bums in William Peter Boulevard, he has stubbornly resisted the possibility that he misjudged the evidence. Always, it is the other guy who cannot understand—or a biased judge who reneged on a private arrangement or, as in this particular instance, a writer who has slanted his report.

As already admitted in earlier dispatches, I have the greatest regard for Astaphan’s wizardry, particularly when applied to his use of words. Consider his definition of maladministration: “A big and empty word thrown out to feed the lions, a manifestly contradictory, if not dishonest conclusion, if intended for Kenny,” by which the lawyer referred to his favorite Saint Lucian client the former prime minister of Saint Lucia’s involvement in what is generally known as The Rochamel Affair, the focal point of the 2009 Ramsahoye Commission of Enquiry. Then again, who am I to come between powerhouse legal eagles over the natural and ordinary meaning of words big or small? My only recourse is the universally renowned good old Oxford English Dictionary, wherein maladministration is defined as follows: “The act of managing or administering inefficiently, badly—or dishonestly.”

Now consider this comment on the STAR website by our linguistic Houdini QC, in relation to my article entitled: Did King renew Kenny-Grynberg Agreement?:

“Your article, with its usual slant, is inaccurate. Grynberg had the same agreement/license in Grenada as in Saint Lucia. If not, what do you think invoked or caused the Arbitration Awards (there were two) where Grynberg’s main point was that the government’s refusal to extend on force majeure grounds was unlawful? There can only be arbitration if there was an agreement/license. In other words, if there was no agreement/license there could not have been arbitration at all. Now see Article 26 of the Saint Lucia agreement license. If there was or is a live dispute, why has Grynberg not written the government in over two years or invoked the arbitration clause? Two years of silence and inaction is a long time to do nothing if you intend to go to arbitration. So what does this silence and inaction say or indicate?”

I will resist the temptation to throw the ball back in Mr Astaphan’s court and not cite the 10-year silence that surrounded his client’s secret relationship with Jack Grynberg. But to answer his question: Grynberg has no reason, as they say, to make noise. As will soon be clear, he figures he is sitting pretty, with the law on his side. He has nothing to gripe about. But should the current government even attempt to cut a deal with someone else, then would he go to arbitration to defend his effective ownership of the Saint Lucia seabed.

As for Astaphan’s assertion that “Grynberg has not written to the government in over two years or invoked the arbitration clause,” the following establishes the irreducible truth: “We regret that your government intends to initiate a competitive bidding and respectfully remind you that under the agreement, Article 26, any dispute shall be
resolved amicably. But if it cannot be resolved, the dispute ‘shall be submitted for settlement by arbitration to the International Center for Settlement Disputes (ICSID) . . .’ We intend to rely on this clause of our agreement.”

Signed by CEO and president of RSM Corporation Jack Grynberg, the telling letter—from which the above is taken—is addressed to Saint Lucia’s foreign affairs ministry. It is dated 18 February 2009!

Remarkably, what in his letter Grynberg refers to as “our agreement,” Astaphan chooses to cite as “agreement/license.” He claims with characteristic hubris that Grenada and Saint Lucia had “the same agreement/license,” and like the good—no, excellent—defender of his own truth that he is—proceeds to enlighten me in the fashion of a kindergarten teacher taking a tiny tot through the alphabet. If Grynberg did not have the same agreement/license in Grenada and Saint Lucia, he asks in that idiosyncratic patronizing tone so familiar to observers of his performances at the bar, “what do you think invoked or caused the arbitration awards where Grynberg’s main point was that the government’s refusal to extend on force majeure grounds was unlawful?”

What indeed? As always, the truth is as simple as it is verifiable. Contrary to Astaphan’s calculated assertion, Grenada never signed an “agreement/ license.” The Grenada agreement, like St Vincent’s, insisted that Grynberg apply to the appropriate authority for an exploration license “as soon as possible but in no event later than 90 days after the effective date [meaning the date the agreement was signed]. 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 . . .”

Gryberg applied some three years later than the stipulated time and, as per agreement, the Grenada government (for a multitude of other reasons we need not go into here; in any event, see article opposite) refused him the exploration license, at which point the oilman turned to the International Center for Settlement Disputes ICSID. His claim was denied, on the basis of his late application for an exploration license. There was never a question of Grenada’s “refusal to extend on force majeure grounds,” as Astaphan so pointedly asserts.

One might well ask (while imitating the lawyer’s tone of condescension): How can something be extended that in the first place never existed? (It is worth noting that just two weeks after inking the Grenada agreement, Grynberg invoked its force majeure clause. Yes, two weeks after signing he abruptly, I almost said conveniently, discovered boundary issues!)

Only in the case of Saint Lucia is there an agreement/license—a major difference. Says Article Two (by Earl Huntley’s word, secretly signed by Kenny Anthony on behalf of the government): “By this agreement, the company is exclusively authorized to carry out explorations in the agreement area . . . and if a commercially exploitable petroleum reservoir is discovered during the period the company is exclusively authorized to conduct development operations . . .” (My italics)

Then there is this 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 (my italics). Upon application 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.”

On the evidence, what Mr Astaphan asserts with characteristic chutzpah is askew from the verifiable truth, at variance with the recorded reality. I repeat: only in the case of Saint Lucia was an exploration license inherently granted according to the agreement of 29 March 2000. But up ahead there may be an even more contentious issue that centers on the all-important question: Was Kenny Anthony, when he was prime minister, authorized to grant licenses to explore for oil anywhere in Saint Lucia? At which point I need to ask: Was Kenny Anthony, when he signed his agreement/license with Grynberg, acting on the expert advice of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London—as claimed by both the former prime minister and Earl Huntley? Did Kenny Anthony take Petrus
Compton’s advice and consult with a “specialist petroleum lawyer” before affixing his signature to the agreement/license? Is there any evidence of this on the government’s files? If yes, then why has the government not confirmed, in the name of transparency, what the leader of the opposition said about the Commonwealth Secretariat and AG Petrus Compton in his most recent televised address?

In the meantime, there is the imposing Mr Bumble figure of Anthony Astaphan. What exactly is his role in this particular matter that clearly is Saint Lucian through and through? With good reason, the prime minister of his native Dominica had steered clear of Grynberg, as had Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados. So why is Astaphan so hell-bent on taking on questions best answered by Saint Lucia’s former prime minister himself? After all, we are on the verge of another general election—not a trial.

As inconvenient as it may be, the indisputable truth is that in this particular matter that obviously centers on good governance and public accountability in Saint Lucia, Astaphan has no locus standi. Indeed, he comes across like a defense lawyer interested exclusively in his client’s welfare. Saint Lucians should be hearing directly from
Kenny Anthony—as well as the day’s prime minister Stephenson King. It is they who are campaigning for another
shot at governing our lives and our country, oily seabed and all—not the Dominican word magician Anthony
Astaphan QC!

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