What has become known simply as “Grynberg”—although it represents several things to different people, mostly egregious government—was until some ten years ago this nation’s best-kept secret, shared only by a highly privileged gruesome threesome: the day’s prime minister, one public servant of unique repute, and a notorious oil speculator based in Denver, Colorado.
According to documents accessed with much difficulty by this writer, in March 2000 Jack Grynberg had entered into an arrangement with Prime Minister Kenny Anthony that initially granted the oilman a four-year lease over millions of Saint Lucia’s seabed “for the conduct of seismic exploratory work.” If oil and gas were discovered, his company RSM Corporation would, as per agreement, apply for a further development license for 30 years with a facility for a 20-year extension.
Six months after the agreement was signed, that is to say, well into September 2000, there had been no actual exploratory work. Nada! Instead RSM presented an amendment to the agreement that included an extension of the exploratory period for another three years. It also contained the same force majeure provision earlier stipulated, wherein “all of RSM’s obligations are suspended until all boundaries are resolved.” This position was again signed by the day’s prime minister Kenny Anthony, evidently unwitnessed.
No Cabinet conclusion exists that references the above. The matter was never mentioned in parliament. In an angry letter to an inquiring opposition leader Stephenson King dated 3 June 2013, the governor general Dame Pearlette Louisy revealed she had no knowledge of, let alone contributed to, the Grynberg transaction—despite that she alone was at the time of signing, as now, the only person authorized by the Minerals (Vesting) Act to issue exploration licenses.
In 2006 Kenny Anthony’s Labour Party administration fell victim to the UWP, initially headed by Sir John and later by Stephenson King. Retired public servant Earl Huntley (referred to in Jack Grynberg’s official correspondence as a friend, project coordinator and representative) attempted several times to persuade Sir John to cooperate with RSM, all without success. King (who controversially succeeded the deceased Compton in 2007) was still prime minister when he notified Jack Grynberg of his decision not to honor his arrangements with Kenny Anthony.
In a letter dated 10 April 2008 King informed RSM that he considered Grynberg’s March 2000 contract with Kenny Anthony expired. He also took the opportunity to invite the American to join other bidders for exploration rights “in the subject area.” Grynberg responded with a threat that he would sue for breach of contract if King did not change course. But by the time the oilman put his words into legal action in 2012, Kenny Anthony was back in the prime minister’s saddle, therefore, answerable.
Even at this stage the prime minister chose to keep to himself all he knew about the Grynberg disaster. He did acknowledge in a press release, however, that his attorney general had assessed Grynberg’s claims and advised his government vigorously dispute them with the assistance of specialist foreign lawyers. It later emerged that five of the world’s most expensive lawyers were retained, four American and one from the UK. The matter came before a tribunal of the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes in October 2013, in New York City.
On 15 July 2016 the recently elected Chastanet government was officially notified that the ICSID tribunal had dismissed Grynberg’s breach of contract suit and its attached $US400 million damages claim—without ever considering its merits. In short, the ICSID panel had decided not to give the notorious schemer a hearing until he had set aside, as ordered, US$750,000 as guarantee of the government’s hefty legal costs and other associated fees, should the final ruling prove not in his favor.
Allen Chastanet must now decide whether not yet VAT-relieved, over-burdened taxpayers should foot the bill for a decision taken surreptitiously by Kenny Anthony sixteen years ago. (Does Frenwell come to mind? Does Rochamel?)
In its circumstances, then, does the contract Jack Grynberg and Kenny Anthony signed and resigned in 2000 represent a government transaction? Should the current prime minister require his tight-lipped predecessor to tell the people how the Grynberg arrangement came about in the first place? And if the answers to both questions should be no, then where do we go from here? Will Kenny Anthony be forced to pay up? What if he made advance payments to his lawyers out of the Consolidated Fund without parliamentary approval? Doubtless, Chastanet’s inherited attorney general will advise appropriately.
To paraphrase George Odlum: For too long the people have been taken on too many rides. It is high time politicians caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar receive the same treatment accorded regular citizens in similar circumstances!