There are further signs that relations are strained between the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and the American-owned WRB Enterprises, the main shareholder of the Grenada Electricity Services Limited (GRENLEC).
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing, Minister of Health Nickolas Steele said that government, which is a minority shareholder of the lone electricity company on the island, was not invited to a GRENLEC Shareholders Meeting on Monday although a proxy was nominated.
According to Minister Steele, “the concern we have is that the Government of Grenada was not invited as a shareholder” and this can be interpreted as an antagonistic approach by WRB to the administration.
He called on GRENLEC to explain the reason for the shareholders’ meeting, why they found it necessary not to have government present at the meeting, and why it was necessary for government to have a proxy and not actually be represented at the meeting.
“…We remain reserved, we remain cautious, we remain concerned, but we continue to say we had a proxy at that meeting. We continue to adopt the position that we have no fight with WRB or any of the shareholders”, he said.
“We too are a shareholder, we seek to create an environment which we believe we have that allows the carriage of electricity to be at a level that is in the best interest of the public, that allows private individuals to seek their best interests, that maintains an environment that WRB themselves found very inviting in Jamaica… “, he added.
The senior government is contending that this environment should be one that allows WRB to continue to stay in Grenada and conduct business as well.
“I reiterate, we have no fight with WRB or any of the shareholders,” he said.
THE NEW TODAY understands that a resolution was passed at the Shareholders’ meeting, which speaks to the protection of GRENLEC’s assets.
The once government-owned GRENLEC was privatized during the 1990-95 period by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite with WRB securing a majority shareholding interest.
The Congress government was forced to sell the loss making utility as the island struggled to regain creditworthiness after a period of NNP rule under late Prime Minister H.A Blaize.
Dr. Mitchell who served as Communication and Works Minister in the Blaize-led government has consistently opposed the privatization of GRENLEC and vowed to repurchase the utility company.
Minister Steele told reporters that the current NNP regime believes that the right of all GRENLEC shareholders should be protected and maintained by the company.
“We hope that was the spirit of the resolution, to protect all shareholders’ rights and not to simply seek the protection of one particular shareholder or group of shareholders,” he said.
The Mitchell administration earlier this year passed in Parliament the Electricity Supply Bill, 2016 which, seeks to remove the monopoly status of GRENLEC in generating electricity.
According to Minister Steele, the bill was assented to on August 1st by Governor General, Dame Cecile LaGrenade.
GRENLEC has strongly objected to government proceeding with this new piece of legislation, claiming that it violates a clause in the signed agreement when the public/private partnership was formed.
At a media briefing days after the Bill was passed, Vice-President of Engineering and Regulation with WRB, Murray Skeete pointed to a clause in the original agreement which states that in the event that government changes the legislation in a way that will abrogate the rights of WRB and the rights of GRENLEC, it requires government to repurchase WRB shares.
Skeete said the agreement that was established between GRENLEC and government over the past 22 years when WRB formed the public/private partnership in 1994, it was put in place to protect both parties.
He pointed out that once one party sought to make changes to the agreement, the correct process is to engage the other party in negotiating a new agreement, which he said has not happened.
“I want to be very clear, if we are forced to protect our rights under the agreement we will do so,” the Vice-President said.