Sources close to the government are saying Saint Lucia’s prime minister has been advised by law experts here and elsewhere that there is more than one way to pry out of his immediate predecessor the secrets of the infamous deal he allegedly signed with a Colorado oilman over sixteen years ago—and which has led to a breach of contract suit currently before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The devices include questions in the House via the Speaker; a commission of inquiry; the law courts. By all I learned this week, the government is leaning toward the third alternative.
Said one of my sources: “No one can predict when the former prime minister will show up for House sessions and we’re pretty sure the House opposition is not equipped to supply useful responses to Grynberg questions.” As for a commission of inquiry, my source recalled that “several Frenwell-related questions put to the former PM by the Ramsahoye Commission” remain unanswered to this day.
It is a matter of record that in his own time as prime minister Stephenson King had pleaded with the then opposition leader, via a televised address to the nation, for assistance in determining what to do about several disturbing claims by Jack Grynberg, a litigious Colorado oilman, one of them that the contract he purportedly signed with the Saint Lucia government in 2000, and on which he failed to deliver, would nevertheless remain alive and well thanks to its force majeure clause.
King has never been honored by his fellow parliamentarian with a response. Even after he was returned to the office of Prime Minister in 2011 Kenny Anthony continued to be tight-lipped on all matters Grynberg. When one opposition MP sought to resurrect what some of the prime minister’s frontline enablers had taken to referring to as “a dead issue,” the day’s House Speaker controversially blocked the MP’s query on the basis that the oilman had a breach of contract lawsuit pending in an American court against the government of Saint Lucia which, according to the Speaker, rendered the matter sub judice. But at last Tuesday’s House meeting Prime Minister Allen Chastanet effectively exhumed the presumed dead with his delivery of a “minister’s statement” that left no room for questions or comments, thanks to House protocol.
Among the PM’s revelations: the governor general, who alone is authorized under the Minerals (Vesting) Act to grant exploration licenses, had stated in writing that she has never privy to an arrangement between Jack Grynberg and any government of Saint Lucia; that the then prime minister had instructed a former public servant (the alleged finder of oil at the bottom of the sea at Dauphin, and the private importer of Grynberg to confirm his dream discovery) to secure all related documents; that the arrangement with the oil speculator remained a state secret for some ten years, unknown to the prime minister’s cabinet as well as the House opposition; that fighting Jack Grynberg’s suit had already cost taxpayers millions of dollars . . .
In a subsequent interview featured in last Saturday’s edition of this newspaper, opposition MP Ernest Hilaire commented somewhat cagily on the prime minister’s statement in the absence of the other signatory to the Grynberg contract, the MP for Vieux Fort South: Kenny Anthony. “I am only now researching the matter to fully understand what transpired [in 2000]. There are certain things I believe we need to have legal opinions on and there are some things that need more explanations. For example, one of the arguments that have been put forward is that the prime minister [in 2000] did not have the authority to sign the agreement. There is a counter view that where the Act speaks of the governor general as the one who grants the [exploration] license . . . that the Interpretation Act of Saint Lucia defines who is the governor general of Saint Lucia in that context. There is a view that says you have to go with the Interpretation Act . . .” The MP did not reveal the identity of his advisor. However, the Interpretation Act says “Governor General means the Governor General of Saint Lucia and shall include any person or persons administering the Government.”
Moreover: “Where a function of the Governor General under an enactment is to be exercised in accordance with the advice of Cabinet, any instrument required to be issued in the exercise of that function, other than a Proclamation, warrant or instrument to be issued under the Public Seal, may be signified under the hand of the Secretary of the Cabinet, and such signification is sufficient for all purposes.”
Additionally: “Where a function of the Governor General under any enactment is to be exercised in accordance with the advice of a Minister acting under general authority of the Cabinet, any instrument required to be issued in the exercise of that function, other than a Proclamation, warrant or instrument to be issued under the Public Seal, may be signified under the hand of the Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet, and such signification is sufficient for all purposes.”
As a general rule (United States, the UK, Mexico), when writing statutes, the legislature tends to use ordinary English words in their ordinary senses. The United States Supreme Court discussed the plain meaning rule in Camminetti v United States in 1917, reasoning “it is elementary that the meaning of a statute must, in the first instance, be sought in the language in which it is framed, and if that is plain, the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms.” And if the statute is plain and clear, the Court further warned that “the duty of interpretation does not arise, and the rules which are to aid doubtful means need no discussion.”
In Becke v Smith (1836) Justice Parke stated: “It is a very useful rule in the construction of a statute to adhere to the ordinary meaning of words used.” He restated the rule in different words in Grey v Pearson. “In construing statutes and all written instruments, the grammatical and ordinary sense of words is to be adhered to, unless that would lead to some absurdity or inconsistency with the rest of the instrument, in which the grammatical and ordinary sense of words may be modified so as to avoid that absurdity or inconsistency, but not farther.”
Not so long ago then Prime Minister Kenny Anthony successfully placed before the court a statute that contained what his attorney general’s office had deemed “a typographical error.” Chief Justice Janice Pereira adjudicated.
It remains to be determined how many people can at the same time be Governor General of Saint Lucia, and whether any one of them can on his or her own legally issue exploration licenses under the Mineral (Vesting) Act. There is nothing on record to suggest when Kenny Anthony entered into a 2000 contract with Jack Grynberg there were any witnesses to the signing. As for the Mineral (Vesting) Act, at Section 4-1: “A person shall not prospect for or mine any minerals except by authority of a license granted by the Governor General and in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in the license.”
As earlier stated, the governor general has in writing stated she has never had “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. No such contract, agreement or arrangement 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 consequently . . .” Nothing could be clearer than that! [See page 19.]
Ernest Hilaire attempted to explain why Dame Pearlette (never mind her office and her position under the Minerals (Vesting Act) was out of the loop on the matter of Jack Grynberg and his arrangement that for some 17 years has kept some 87 million acres of Saint Lucia’s sea bed out of local control.
Said the Castries South MP in his STAR interview published last Saturday: “Generally, when government signs commercial agreements they are not made public documents. When government signs international agreements, likewise they are not placed before parliament.” (Dear reader, does a certain controversial diplomatic arrangement involving a Saudi billionaire come to mind?)
Perhaps the more relevant questions to be answered are: “Was the agreement signed in March 2000 by Jack Grynberg as RSM Corporation’s CEO and Kenny Anthony ‘on behalf of the government of Saint Lucia’ an international agreement? Or was it simply another secret arrangement between a private individual, on the one hand, and another individual—with or without legal authority to act on his own ‘on behalf of a government’ and people with no knowledge whatsoever of the transaction?
As we used to say in a less advanced time: Film at 11!