For unfathomable reasons, many in this Christian country of ours seem to take lasting pleasure in saying, with reference to suspect government activities: “Forget about it; dat dead arready; move on move on!” As far back as 1998 Sir Louis Blom-Cooper had stated in his report related to an inquiry initiated by the newly elected Kenny Anthony government into a trio of events in public administration in the 1990s: “I have discerned a culture in Saint Lucia of studied indifference or, at the very least, inattention to the practice, even the concept, of public accountability—a cultural climate in which administrative torpor is often the consequence, and malpractices in government, including corruption, can thrive unhampered by detection or, if and when uncovered, by disciplinary action.”
Additionally: “The suspicion in the public’s mind that the machinery of government is not working, and consequently that corruption is rife, is almost as damaging to the public weal as individual corruption itself. Saint Lucians should be assured that failures and malpractices in government, once identified, will not go publicly unnoticed. Only a system of public accountability can ensure that.”
Quite obviously Kenny Anthony paid little attention to Sir Louis’ warning when he entered into a secret arrangement with a controversial oil speculator from Denver, Colorado—infamous in these parts for his legal battles with the government of Grenada back in 1997 over the lease of that island’s sea bed. In 2000 had Anthony signed an agreement with Jack Grynberg granting him “exclusive lease over Saint Lucia’s marine area, extending to the exclusive economic zone areas, for the conduct of seismic exploratory work . . .”
The lease was granted for an initial period of four years, to March 2004, but with a facility to apply for two two-year extensions during the exploratory stage. Six months after the agreement was signed Jack Grynberg’s company, RSM, had conducted no actual exploratory work. Nevertheless he presented an amendment to the agreement that was signed by the original parties to the agreement. Effectively the amendment enlarged the agreement area and invoked Section 24, relating to force majeure.
The effect was “the suspension of all of RSM’s obligations under the agreement until such time as the government established beyond all doubt Saint Lucia’s maritime boundaries and control over petroleum in all the area. The government ratified the enforcement of the force majeure provision that was based on the proposition that Saint Lucia had boundary disputes with its neighbors.”
A second amendment was presented in March 2004 and agreed to by the concerned parties. We need not go into further details of the contract. Suffice it to say that in 2012 Jack Grynberg sued this country’s government for breach of contract. Although details of the arrangement remain largely unknown, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony promised he would “vigorously dispute and contest the proceedings” to be conducted, as per contract, before ICSID. The prime minister added that his attorney general had already secured attorneys to represent the nation’s interests.
Less than a year later the governor general, responding to a query from the leader of the House opposition, revealed she had “no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract, arrangement or agreement made by anyone or entity in or outside government with Mr. Jack Grynberg or his Corporation.” She added that “no such contract, arrangement or agreement was ever brought to my attention in my capacity as governor general. That subject was never discussed with me . . . My advice was never sought and I played no part whatsoever in anything that may have transpired then or at any time subsequently.”
The Saint Lucia Constitution, at Section 65 says: “The prime minister shall keep the governor general fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Saint Lucia and shall furnish the governor general with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Saint Lucia.” Moreover, the governor general alone, under Saint Lucia’s Minerals (Vesting) Act, has authority for issuing exploration licenses.
It emerged earlier this year that the government’s lawyers, based on Grynberg’s reputation, had successfully petitioned the ICSID to put down US$275,000 as security in case his claim was not upheld. Grynberg stubbornly refused. Consequently, his case was dismissed without a hearing.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet confirmed several weeks ago that “the Grynberg case was closed.” Nevertheless, the new leader of government let drop that there were still several unanswered related questions, including the authority by which defense lawyers had been paid. He did not say at the time whether control of the Saint Lucia seabed had been restored to the people of this country. In all events, it has come to light that some three weeks ago the government’s lawyers notified Prime Minister Chastanet that Jack Grynberg had decided to appeal the ICSID decision. The matter is scheduled for hearing in March next year.
As I write there still has been no announcement from the government, let alone details of the contract allegedly breached in 2011. It will be interesting to discover on what basis the people paid some $2 million dollars to lawyers in the initial breach of contract matter—and what the appeal will cost. Another big question centers on whether the Grynberg issue can be considered a matter between Kenny Anthony and Jack Grynberg, bearing in mind its history that involved only one member of government!