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Bird tells Spencer to apologise for talk about 3 PMs

John Sealy

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ST JOHN’S – Antigua and Barbuda’s Opposition Leader Lester Bird has called on Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to apologise for remarks he made in parliament questioning the competence of three Caribbean prime ministers.
This stand by Bird came in a Press release yesterday and based on a broadcast statement Spencer made in parliament last Friday when speaking about “success in borrowing US$68 million (BDS$136 million) from the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA to purchase 75 per cent shares of the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) currently in the hands of National Petroleum Ltd (NPL)”.
The Antigua Labour Party leader and former prime minister said that not only did the prime minister “mislead” the parliament on the facts of the financial transaction but he also chose the occasion to misrepresent the prime ministers of St Kitts and Nevis (Denzil Douglas); Dominica (Roosevelt Skerrit) and St Vincent and the Grenadines (Ralph Gonsalves).
Prime Minister Spencer had said that his government was borrowing US$68 million from PDVSA to buy 75 per cent of WIOC, then sell 40 per cent to a subsidiary of PDVSA, with the government having control of the company.
But Bird pointed out that since PDVSA would be holding a “note” for 60 per cent of the shares of WIOC as well as owning the remaining 40 per cent, it was the Venezuelan company that would be in control of the company, and not the Antigua and Barbuda government.
In his presentation, Spencer called on Prime Minister Douglas “to take note of how a government which truly puts people first goes about protecting the interests of its citizens”. Spencer was referring to a transaction in which, he said “St Kitts signed an agreement which gave Venezuela 55 per cent equity in the joint venture company”.
He claimed that the governments of Dominica and St Vincent “also yielded control to the Venezuelans under similar share structures”.
However, Bird said yesterday that Spencer’s remark “about the three prime ministers” was “offensive, and entirely inaccurate. Their arrangements with Venezuela were far better to benefit those three countries than that negotiated by the Spencer government”.
Bird said that the full terms of the agreement with PDVSA and WIOC should be made public for scrutiny. (PR)