During his appearance last Thursday as a guest on my weekly DBS-TV show TALK, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet promised a persistent caller he would at the next House sitting tackle the 16-year-old monster known simply as Grynberg. It first came to light during the budget address of 2009, when Richard Frederick revealed that “in March 2000 it was found out . . . that the last administration [with Kenny Anthony as Prime Minister] had signed an agreement with an RSM representative called Grynberg for oil exploration. I will make this a document of the House.” It would later emerge the so-called agreement was undated, and “signed for and on behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia” by Kenny Anthony. Jack Grynberg, President, signed on behalf of RSM Production Corporation. The then MP for Castries Central, Richard Frederick, referred several times to Earl Huntley, to which the Castries East MP Philip J. Pierre objected on the ground he was not present to defend himself. But the Prime Minister was—and despite several shocking revelations regarding the so-called Grynberg arrangement—said not a word, not a word, not a word in his own defense.
But when the Castries MP later placed on his vehicle a poster reflective of what he had said in the privileged House, the prime minister sued for defamation. He took the opportunity via HTS to warn others he would also take legal action if they dared to repeat Richard Frederick’s claims in relation to Grynberg. The case never came to court. Indeed, the name Grynberg was not again uttered in the House until after the 2011 elections, when a by then fully-informed Guy Joseph, the MP for Castries Southeast, sought to make passing reference and was blocked at the pass by the Speaker, on the interesting basis that Grynberg and the government were before the courts. It was not made clear whether he referred to the long-pending libel matter between the prime minister and the Castries Central MP or to Grynberg’s breach of contract suit against the government of Saint Lucia. In all events, following is the related statement by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, delivered before the House on Tuesday. (Statements by Ministers are not normally debated but the Castries East MP evidently could not resist. During his own contribution he seemed to echo the SLP’s defenders at all cost, when he sought to dismiss the PM’s statement as passé, on the basis that the former Castries Central MP had already dealt with the subject years ago when he made the Grynberg contract a document of the House, that the occasion was recorded in Hansard. Of course, while Mr. Pierre was not altogether wrong, still the devil resided in the details. What in 2009 the Castries Central MP made a document of the House has never been authenticated, let alone explained!)
Mde Speaker: According to the Laws of St. Lucia, under the Minerals (Vesting) Act, at Section 3: ‘It is hereby declared that all minerals being in, on or under any land of whatsoever ownership or tenure are vested in and are subject to the control of the Crown. In this section minerals includes all radio-active minerals as defined in the Radio-Active Minerals Act.’
“Under Section 4, Prohibition of Prospecting and Mining Except by Licence, Subsection 1: ‘A person shall not prospect for or mine any minerals except by authority of a licence granted by the Governor General and in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in the licence. 2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) of this section commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000 and to a further fine not exceeding $50 for each day during which the contravention continues. This section shall not be taken as authorizing the prospecting for or mining of any minerals in, on or upon any land except with the consent of the owner or occupier of the land.’
“Further, according to the Constitution of Saint Lucia, at Section 65: ‘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.’
“Mde Speaker: In a letter dated June 3, 2013, the Governor General addressed the Leader of the Opposition: ‘I write in response to your letter of May 13, 2013 in which you referred to the issue of ‘a contractual arrangement/agreement’ drawn up in March 2000, between the Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony on behalf of the Government of St. Lucia and one Mr. Jack Grynberg, CEO of RSM Production Corporation of Denver, Colorado. You expressed concern that the Governor General’s authority may have been usurped and that an illegal act may have been committed, presumably by one or the other of the parties involved.
‘On this matter I can only say that I have no personal or first-hand knowledge of any contract, arrangements or agreement made by anyone or entity in or outside Government with Mr. Jack Grynberg and his Corporation. No such contract or agreement was ever brought to my attention in my capacity as Governor General. That subject was never discussed with me, not even as part of the enormous investigative efforts which you indicated were initiated by the Ministry of External Affairs during your administration. My advice was never sought, and I played no part whatsoever in anything that may have transpired then or at any time subsequently. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, no Prime Minister from March 2000 (the date you cited) has taken up the subject with me, neither, admittedly, have I requested any information relating to it, since it would seem that successive administrations are content to have this issue of national interest aired out, debated and somehow resolved in the media.
‘Sadly the current situation reflects only too poignantly the general perception (and delusion) that the role of the Governor General in our governance system is purely ceremonial. Except, it would appear, when we are faced with a constitutional or legal crisis, as this one seems to be. I hope this throws some light on this still smouldering issue.’
“Mde Speaker, it would appear Members of this House are as much in the dark on this matter as clearly Her Excellency the Governor General has by her letter indicated she is. We have found no official record of the Grynberg transaction, neither in the files of Cabinet nor in Hansard. All efforts by the 2005 government to secure related information from its predecessors, including a televised address to the nation, proved fruitless. There has to date been no response. Nevertheless, in a press release dated May 20, 2012 the Office of the Prime Minister issued a press release that seems to point the finger at the sitting prime minister’s predecessor. It began as follows: ‘RSM Production Corporation, the company owned by Jack Grynberg, has instituted arbitration proceedings against the Government of Saint Lucia in respect of the exploration license which his company was granted several years ago, to undertake exploration for oil over a specified area of water offshore the coast of Saint Lucia. RSM Production Corporation claims that the company’s case against the Government is a simple breach of contract.’
“The release stated further: ‘The Corporation 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 neighbouring states. This failure, says the Corporation, constitutes grounds of force majeure. More will be said on this force majeure in due course. Secondly, the Corporation claims that the former Prime Minister, Hon Stephenson King did sign an extension to the agreement which he subsequently retrieved. This 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. Ausbert d’Auvergne.
These matters were publicly discussed prior to the 2011 general election.
‘RSM Production Company further alleges that by letter dated April 10, 2008, the King government took the position that the agreement had expired. Saint Lucia, it says, has subsequently reportedly taken steps to put the agreement area which RSM has the right to explore to competitive bidding. According to RSM, by claiming the agreement has expired and threatening to place exploration rights in the subject area out to competitive bid, St Lucia has breached the agreement. The arbitration proceedings have been filed with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes . . . The Government of Saint Lucia will vigorously dispute and contest the proceedings. The attorney general is in the process of assessing the claim and securing attorneys to represent the interests of Saint Lucia.’
“As I say, Mde Speaker, the press release I’ve just read says nothing about how St. Lucia got into the particular contractual arrangement with Mr. Jack Grynberg. The nation remains altogether in the dark on this matter. The Office of the Prime Minister issued on August 25, 2014 another press release, this time informing that the Government of Saint Lucia had won what it described as ‘another round in the ongoing arbitration with RSM Corporation.’ The release claimed that on August 13, 2014, the Arbitral Tribunal ordered RSM to post a guarantee of US$750,000 to ensure it will pay St. Lucia’s legal costs—if it is ordered to do so at the end of the case.
“The release noted that this was Saint Lucia’s second major success following the tribunal’s order on December 12, 2013 for RSM to pay all the advances towards administrative costs of the arbitration, which in all previous known cases have been paid 50% by each party . . . Finally, the release acknowledged the ICSID ruling did not mean the ICSID considered Saint Lucia’s defense on the merits to be successful. Since then RSM has appealed the ICSID’s decision not to consider his suit until he has deposited US$750,000 to guarantee costs should his breach of contract petition prove unsuccessful. Mde Speaker, this appeal still has not been settled. But whatever the result of Mr. Grynberg’s appeal, whatever the result of his breach of contract suit, Saint Lucians have the right to know how we found ourselves in this very expensive and embarrassing situation. Several important questions, legal and ethical, remain unanswered; several decisions unaccounted for.”
I need add that no answers came from Kenny Anthony; no explanations. He did not attend Tuesday’s House session. According to his party colleagues, he was “off-island somewhere!”