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Ramesh knocks NGC for ongoing SIS matterPublic funds being wasted

Published: 
Thursday, July 19, 2018
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Attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj at yesterday’s press conference. Photo by:RISHI RAGOONATH

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Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC says the National Gas Company is wasting millions of dollars of public money to pursue a case against Super Industrial Services Ltd (SIS) over the failed billion-dollar Beetham Waste Water Recycling Plant despite Monday’s ruling by the Privy Council.

During a press conference at his San Fernando Chambers yesterday, Maharaj said after two and a half years of litigation, T&T’s highest court - the Privy Council - dismissed NGC’s appeal on Monday (July 16) lifting a previous order freezing SIS assets.

The NGC had challenged a decision to strike out the gas company’s multi-million lawsuit which was heard before the Privy Council, but hours after Monday’s ruling the NGC obtained a new interim injunction to freeze $180 million of SIS’ assets to preserve its $400 million claim against the contractor and Rain Forest Resorts Ltd (RFRL), Maharaj said.

Describing this decision as puzzling, Maharaj said despite the Privy Council’s ruling and NGC’s liability to now pay SIS and RFRL costs as well as substantial compensation to the companies because of the claim and the freezing order, the NGC was now looking at restarting legal proceedings all over again.

Asking why the NGC had not taken steps to have arbitration done expeditiously, Maharaj said, “Since the award of the contract, the management of the contract and the actions taken by the NGC against SIS have received great public attention over the last four years. It must be regarded as puzzling why NGC has not taken steps to have the arbitration on this matter expeditiously so that the merits of NGC’s claim that SIS owes it money can be determined by arbitration.”

He said it was in the public’s interest for NGC to have expedited the arbitration process.

“NGC continues with the litigation by now applying to the High Court to correct their omissions and regularise their position so that the matter may be resuscitated and the litigation resumed all over again, which means its applications for relief from sanctions can go from the High Court to the Court of Appeal and to the Privy Council again, incurring substantial legal costs,” Maharaj said.

Noting that it was in the interest of democracy and public interest that the matters be raised, Maharaj said, “It is important for the public to know that as a condition... NGC had to give an undertaking to the court that it agreed to pay the damages which both SIS and Rain Forest would suffer as a result of the injunctions in the event that NGC did not succeed.”

He said SIS continues to operate, but its business operations and image have been severely affected by the failed project.

He also said it was clear that based on documents, SIS was taking the position that it was facing political victimization by the present Government. Saying he was not appearing for SIS, Maharaj said NGC owed it to the public to explain its decisions.

“NGC, in the face of the termination of the contract and the legal battles which have been embarked upon and are pending, have a duty to the country to give its side of the story in respect of the legal issues and the future of the plant.

“Has the Government decided to abandon the project? Does it intend to sell the plant? Why since 2016 to now has the plant not been constructed or if not constructed sold or be made available to the private sector?” Maharaj questioned.

NGC embarked on litigation against SIS in 2015 following delays in the US$162,055,318.77 project, which was due to be completed on October 21, 2016. The contract was eventually terminated on November 24, 2016, after SIS reportedly informed NGC it was unable to continue with the work, which included laying 34 kilometres of 36-inch pipeline from a base in Point Lisas to the plant in Beetham.

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