On a day when Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley’s legal credentials were repeatedly called into question, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler yesterday morning sought to drive the proverbial nail in her political coffin in an hour and a half long presentation in the House of Assembly in which he levelled serious accusation after accusation against Mottley.
The verbal onslaught began just before midnight and ended just before 1:30 a.m., with Sinckler accusing the Leader of the Opposition of simply engaging in a “witch-hunt”.
Mottley, a practising attorney, initially rose from her seat to answer charges surrounding payments she had received for legal work conducted on the controversial Four Seasons hotel project, but remained quiet for most of Sinckler’s presentation, which was characterized by a lot of side talk, but only a few interruptions.
Sinckler told the House that there was simply no truth to allegations made by Mottley in her Budget reply on Tuesday in which she accused the Government — in particular four ministers — of “selling out” Barbados by entering into a “sweetheart deal” with the Guernsey-based waste-to-energy management company Cahill Energy Limited. The Minister of Finance told the Parliament that “not a cent” of taxpayers’ money was going towards the project.
And in response to Mottley’s charge that Cahill Energy Barbados was a “shell company”, he said the practice of setting up special purpose vehicles was nothing new.
He further sought to defend Cahill’s name, pointing out that the Ralph “Bizzy” Williams-owned Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre, SBRC, which is a waste treatment facility, as well as the Ionics company, which was set up to convert salt water to fresh water, were both first timers in their respective areas.
The Minister of Finance also responded to Mottley’s accusations that no environmental impact study was done on the project, saying the Government had decided to undertake the study for itself to make sure that the “plasma gasification” technology was safe.
He also rubbished suggestions that he approved the project, along with Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, the Minister of Energy Senator Darcy Boyce and the Minister of Housing Denis Kellman without the knowledge of the rest of the Cabinet.
“Not true!” Sinckler exclaimed, while insisting that Cahill was required to comply with the island’s environmental rules and could be held liability in the event that it not hold up its end of the bargain.
He also dismissed Mottley’s contention that the island’s Solicitor General was not apprised of the waste-to-energy plan ahead of time, saying “she said what she liked and what she did not like and we appropriately executed the agreement”.
However, he did admit that Government had agreed to give concessions to the company and to provide it with land in an appropriate location in exchange for Cahill’s injection of US$350 million.
Overall, he said Mottley was guilty of waging “an insidious attempt” to give people the impression that this Government was corrupt and involved in underhand deals.
He further accused the Opposition Leader of engaging in “smut” and trying to “impute improper motives” on his part and the part of his colleagues.
“It is not Cahill, it is Crab Hill. It is not Cahill, it is Jose y Jose” said Sinckler, as he turned the spotlight back on Mottley, while highlighting her close relationship with businessman Anderson Cherry, the owner of a sewage company, which was given a contract by the former Barbados Labour Party administration to construct a police station at Crab Hill, St Lucy.
The Minister of Finance, while making reference to Auditor General Leigh Trotman’s recent findings on the problem-plagued police station, revealed that Mottley, who was minister of economic affairs at the time the project was under construction, had “dipped” into the ministry of the then Home Affairs Minister Dale Marshall to not only order Cherry back to work after the contractor had packed up and abandoned the project, but also instructed that he be paid despite sloppy construction work.
In a further dig at Mottley’s reputation, Sinckler also listed several other projects, including Edutech, St Leonard’s school, Kensington Oval, CBC, UDC, which he said showed a clear pattern of behaviour by the Leader of the Opposition.
“. . . and she now wants to carry that up to Bay Street [Office of the Prime Minister],” Sinckler said.
The St Michael North West MP said he had a lot more he could reveal about Mottley, including details on an alleged “Pegasus deal”, but promised to do so at another time.
He however did not miss the opportunity to reveal that the former BLP regime had agreed to a 99 year deal for the lease of prime beachfront land at Dover, Christ Church, a mere 12 days before the January 14, 2008 general elections in which the BLP was swept from office.
The agreement with Preconco was reportedly signed by then Minister of Housing Reginald Farley on behalf of the then Government.
Sinckler charged that it was the same Preconco, which Mottley was now accusing the DLP of being in bed with.