Letters to the Editor

Selective amnesia, Patterson

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Former Prime Minister P J Patterson described legislation by the Andrew Holness Administration to take over the 49 per cent stake in Petrojam held by PDVCaribe, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), as a “dangerous precedent” that would send “negative signals to foreign direct multinationals”; thus highlighting both his and the Opposition People's National Party's selective amnesia in regards to the history of policies that guided the Government of Jamaica's involvement in such acquisitions over the past 45 years.

To combat this amnesia, a little investigative journalism would have revealed that in the 1970s the Michael Manley-led Administration, in seeking to reduce dependency on foreign investment, nationalised with compensation all foreign-owned utility companies (electricity, telephone, and public transportation companies), and also purchased sugar factories and the foreign-owned Barclays Bank (National Commercial Bank).

In the 1980s when Exxon Corporation (Petrojam) decided to sell its Jamaican refinery, the Edward Seaga Government bought the company so that the country could refine oil locally and continue a re-export programme.

Similarly, the Government intervened when most of the major bauxite companies decided to close operations or leave Jamaica, despite its pro-foreign investment stance.

The past actions of the Government of Jamaica, like the intended present actions to ensure energy stability to the nation's growth and energy security, are therefore not a “dangerous precedent”.

In February 2015 the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell announced that: “Jamaica may just be one month away from learning which entity has made a firm offer for the 49 per cent stake in Petrojam held by PDVCaribe, a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).” According to Minister Paulwell then, the Venezuelan oil company had “advised the Jamaican Government in June 2014 that it would be selling its minority stake in the refinery — a decision that came after a years-long push to have PDVSA assume majority ownership and control of the asset, which is in need of upgrading”. ( The Gleaner, February 15, 2015)

The questions to be answered by Paulwell is whether he was lying to the people of Jamaica concerning Petroleos de Venezuela advising the then Administration of its intent to sell its 49 per cent stake in Petrojam.

Secondly, he could say if one or all of the intended buyers of the PDVCaribe shares were genetically aligned to the People's National Party.

Thirdly, if the Venezuelan Government had signalled its intentions to sell these shares, what could have led to a drastic shift in mindset? Was it the general election of February 25, 2016 that disrupted the divestment, or perhaps it is that the Nicolas Maduro regime prefers doing business with the People's National Party?

Finally, one can hear the deafening silence of the Jamaican Government, Opposition and Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica on Maduro's actions in December 2018, when the Venezuelan Government took control of installations owned by Goodyear ( Jamaica Observer, December 15, 2018) or earlier in May when Reuters reported that President Maduro seized the operations of Kellogg and handed it over to the workers. The collapse of the Venezuelan economy is due to rampant corruption and oppressive actions of Patterson's “Good Samaritan” on its own citizens.

Let us not fool ourselves in believing that in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) , the one who took care of the injured traveller (stranger), oppressed his own workers at home.

It was Martin Luther King Jr who said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Dudley C McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester


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