Moonilal: Probe ‘rotting, hidden’ helicopter

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Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal

OROPOUCHE East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has called for a public inquiry into a Sikorsky S76D helicopter which was leased by the People’s Partnership government in 2014 but left in a camp at Cumuto by the PNM for the past five years.

“Five years they hide it there,” he charged. “Not even the Civil Aviation Authority could have gained access to the helicopter. The CAA could not do inspections or provide registration or airworthiness certificates.”

He said the People’s National Movement (PNM) regime has sought to scandalise and criminalise everything the UNC or PP government did.

Because the PNM administration failed to maintain its contractual obligations or file a defence when the matter was taken before a court in New York, taxpayers may now have to fork out $100 million for a default judgement over the helicopter.

“This is the real scandal that deserve a public inquiry by the JSC on National Security of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Speaking at the United National Congress’s (UNC) virtual launch of its by-election campaign on Monday night, Moonilal said the new, state-of-the-art helicopter was leased to provide aerial support to the Defence Force and the police.

When the PP administration left office, the Rowley administration failed to implement any and all contractual obligations, he claimed, out of spite and malice, because the helicopter had been leased by then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar government.

He said the Rowley government kept it hidden in a hangar at Cumuto and its neglct led to legal consequences.

“They defaulted on the lease and are now talking about sovereign immunity.

“The government was to enrol the chopper in certain internationally accepted maintenance programmes, pay insurance, but the TT government refused flatly to pay the monthly rental fee.

“Today this helicopter is at Cumuto, waiting on a scrap-iron dealer to pick it up. It cannot go back to the USA, since there is no export certificate of airworthiness.”

He said when the matter was taken to court in New York, government refused to put in an appearance, to file documents or offer a defence, and TT taxpayers may now have to pay in a default judgement for a helicopter that can only be sold now as scrap iron.

“If the taxpayers have to fork out $100 million for this idle piece of iron, it must come from Rowley’s gratuity, from Stuart Young’s salary and from Al-Rawi rentals. Not from the taxpayer,” Moonilal said.

Holding up a photo of the helicopter, hel said, “This matter has absolutely nothing to do with whether Gary Griffith gave sovereign immunity, whatever that means. This is about a pending default judgment in an American court as a naked example of malice, incompetence and corruption.

“They treated a legal and proper lease contract entered by the partnership just like they did with the Biche High School, the Ramai Trace Hindu school and everything the PP built.

“Their position was that the PP government leased a helicopter – we don’t want that. Leave it to rot like the Debe UWI campus. It took a pandemic to open the Children’s Hospital at Couva and the Debe campus.”

While government was able to abandon concrete, steel and glass, he said it could not abandon legal obligations arising from a contract, particularly one from a lease arrangement where it do not own the asset. He said the PNM government could have terminated the lease and send back the helicopter if it did not want to use it.

“It would have cost much less than the $100 million that taxpayers have to pay now for their spite and incompetence,” he argued. “At a time when our borders are overrun by fleeing Venezuelans on boat, rafts and swimming, we had for five years now a brand-new, spanking helicopter parked up in a shed in Cumuto.”

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