As great as is the temptation to engage her in a round or two of tit-for-tat (not that I consider myself equipped to play) I must resist making a big hullaballoo about the August 25 headline from the office of the prime minister’s one-of a-kind press secretary: SAINT LUCIA WINS ANOTHER ROUND! (Already I faintly hear the out-of-key chorus: Maysier, look who talkin’ about headlines-wee!)
However, I can’t help wondering about her motives for stating, on the one hand, that the government of Saint Lucia has won another round in the on-going [my emphasis] arbitration with RSM Production Corporation, the company owned by Jack Grynberg, and on the other: “The latest order does not determine which party is correct on these matters. It relates only to the costs of the proceeding”—scheduled to come before the ICSID tribunal in February [emphasis mine].
How can a process scheduled to begin next year also be on-going?
Could it be the press secretary’s contempt for the collective intelligence of the local media is yet again showing? Could she have counted on our “media workers” to be blinded by the light of that “wins another round” capitalized headline?
To be fair, she clearly states the ICSID’s reasons for granting the petitioners their latest appeal: that Jack Grynberg, perchance his breach of contract suit should prove unsuccessful, be ordered to post a guarantee of US$750,000 to ensure Saint Lucia’s costs are paid by order of the tribunal. US$750,000! And what if, by some miracle, Saint Lucia should lose? Grynberg is demanding, in that event, a preposterous US$500 million. Will we be in a position six months from now to pay even a quarter of that?
Grynberg had been earlier ordered by the ICSID to “pay all the advances toward the administrative costs of the arbitration.” Is the exact figure classified?
Ms JnPierre-Emmanuel generously added for our edification that the tribunal’s order was a first. Her research had revealed that in all previous ICSID cases the contending parties had each paid 50% toward administrative costs.
My own exhaustive investigations indicate Jack Grynberg is hardly the kind of guy nice girls would happily take home to meet their mamas—unless of course such nice girls and their mamas were gold diggers with a thing for contentious oilmen.
The question that has always stumped this particular scribe: Bearing in mind all there is to read on the Internet about Grynberg’s idiosyncrasies, especially when dealing small countries with oil potential, such as Grenada, why did foreign affairs permanent secretary Earl Huntley secretly introduce the Colorado explorer to Saint Lucia’s prime minister?
Even more perplexing, why did Kenny Anthony, who could quite possibly quote the Saint Lucia Constitution—in particular, Section 41—blindfolded, entertain Grynberg?
Why did the prime minister instruct Huntley to keep to himself all that had transpired at the secret get-together, and divulge not a related word to Mario Michel, Philip J. Pierre, the brothers George and Jon Odlum, and his other Cabinet colleagues?
By her own admission, not even the governor-general, who alone is constitutionally authorized to license oil explorations on this Rock of Sages, was let in on the Grynberg deal. This sorry situation remains unchanged to this day.
But the Jade’s mama didn’t make no fool. Notice how subtly she suggests Grynberg’s suit had resulted from Stephenson King’s resurrection of a contract that her boss had in 2009 pronounced dead and buried?
All of that, while also stating: “The Tribunal’s order summarizes the parties’ claims and defenses, saying that the case arises from an offshore petroleum exploration contract . . . that according to RSM’s [Grynberg’s outfit] position, boundary disputes developed, affecting the exploration area, in particular Martinique, Barbados and Saint Vincent, which allegedly prevented RSM from initiating exploration.”
In other words, Grynberg had given Kenny Anthony certain undertakings, reneged on them, then had sat back for years and never once lifted a finger to fulfill his contract.
One wonders: Why didn’t our famously litigious prime minister at this point sue Grynberg for breach of contract? The record shows he not only ratified Grynberg’s complaints without argument, but that he also increased the acreage to be explored.
Now here comes the how is me uhn part: According to the earlier cited release issued on Monday: “RSM also claims that former prime minister Stephenson King signed a three-year extension to the contract but then retrieved the document before it could be delivered to RSM. RSM claims that the extension is valid, even though RSM never received it. RSM has asked the tribunal to declare
the exploration is still in force and effect.”
I have read Grynberg’s suit. I did not gather from reading it that it has anything to do with an alleged renewed contract, which Grynberg admits is hearsay, anyway, and which neither Earl Huntley nor Ausbert d’Auvergne—both campaigners for Kenny Anthony at the time of the 2011 elections—has so far proved was anything more than a figment of politically-heated imaginations.
Ausbert d’Auvergne, whom King had reluctantly fired from his administration to appease Richard Frederick and others shortly after Sir John’s passing, has acknowledged on record his surprise upon learning his boss had renewed the Grynberg contract. After all, the government had earlier decided to do the precise opposite.
In any event, this is what the Jade wrote in a related press bulletin dated 20 April 2012 and released nearly two weeks later. It is calculatedly vague: “The Corporation [RSM] bases its case on two grounds. Firstly, notwithstanding two previous extensions by the former SLP administration to continue exploration, it could not complete its exploration because of the failure to resolve boundary disputes between Saint Lucia and neighboring states.
“This failure, says the Corporation, constitutes grounds of force majeure. More will be said of this force majeure in due course.” It is difficult determining what are the Jade’s personal pronouncements and what she claims are Grynberg’s stated grounds for his suit.
Nevertheless: “Secondly, the Corporation claims the former prime minister Stephenson King did sign an extension to the agreement which he subsequently retrieved . . . The second ground is implicitly premised on the fact that the agreement was revived by former prime minister King’s letter, which was recalled but confirmed by Mr. d’Auvergne.”
As if citing Scripture, the Jade adds, in her own inimitable voice of authority: “These matters were publicly discussed prior to the 2011 elections.”
Surely, it would’ve been more precise to say “these matters” were a major part of the SLP’s election platform!
Paradoxically, the Jade goes on to quote Grynberg’s claim that the King government had in 2008 taken “the position that the agreement had expired” but it had subsequently been reported [King] had “taken steps to put the agreement area which RSM has the right to explore to competitive bidding. By claiming the agreement has expired and threatening to place exploration rights in the subject area out to competitive bid, Saint Lucia has breached the agreement.”
Nothing implicit about that. Grynberg is clearly citing breach of contract as the basis of his suit; not some allegation that remains to be proved.
In a letter dated 18 February 2000, Grynberg wrote to the prime minister Stephenson King: “We regret that your government intends to initiate a competitive bidding and respectfully remind you that under our 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 of Investment Disputes . . . We intend to rely on this clause of our agreement.”
It remains to be seen if Grynberg actually “posts security for costs in the form of an irrevocable bank guarantee of USD750,000 within thirty days of [the tribunal’s] decision” and whether the ICSID then accedes to a government of Saint Lucia request “to cancel the hearing date” or if the government “chooses to seek remedies other than postponing the hearing if RSM does not comply.”
To think that all of the above could have been avoided, and Saint Lucians spared the enormous cost when we can least afford it, if only the prime minister had done what needed to be done in the first place. By which I mean: 1) conducted a check into Grynberg’s background; 2) taken his own attorney general’s counsel and sought out appropriate legal advice; 3) included his Cabinet in his deliberations with the Colorado oilman.
Then again so could Rochamel and Frenwell have been easily avoided, not to say Helenair. At the very least we might’ve saved ourselves some $46 million!