“Has the government scrapped the leased Sikorsky S76D helicopter?”
That’s the question being asked by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, following the publishing in social media of a photograph of a helicopter being towed.
In a media statement, Dr Moonilal called on National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to tell the country about the current status of the leased Sikorsky S76D helicopter.
“Mr. Hinds must inform taxpayers whether the aircraft was taken this week on a trailer from its Cumuto base to Point Lisas, and whether it is being returned to its supplier or being reduced to scrap.”
Dr Moonilal alleges “the ‘phantom’ chopper is reported to have been moved under the cover of darkness” to the Port of Point Lisas.
He said: “The Minister must also indicate whether or not the PNM Government has fulfilled the terms and conditions of the lease of the helicopter. I had previously disclosed that the Rowley Administration refused to honour the provisions of the lease, only because the legal arrangement had been entered into by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government.”
The Oropouche East MP stated: “While vulnerable fishermen are being abducted and killed in the Gulf of Paria, the Government left the taxpayer-funded aircraft idle at a Cumuto shed. Now the scandal has deepened even further. Mr. Hinds must state whether the helicopter was surreptitiously moved to Point Lisas, and, if so, for what purpose, and whether the Government has adhered to the lease stipulations. The lease has been funded for almost six years by the people of Trinidad and Tobago, to whom Mr. Hinds and the Government must properly account.”
Dr Moonilal also called on the national security minister to disclose the content of any agreement with the supplier pursuant to any court proceedings in New York as to what quantum of monies the taxpayers of this country must expend.
“What are the terms of any agreement reached between Vertical Aviation LLC and the government of Trinidad and Tobago?” Dr Moonilal asked. “Bearing in mind that the supplier had sued the government for $88 m for breach of the terms of the lease. This air asset has a cost of $100 m which the PNM government left to rot in a shed at Cumuto. The government from 2016 had failed to make lease payments, to obtain insurance and undertake a maintenance contract for the chopper. Additionally, it was hidden in a shed away from the Civil Aviation Authority (CCA) which could not access the asset to provide a certificate of airworthiness.”
He concluded: “This sordid matter which has unseen and hidden cost to the taxpayers must be fully ventilated and disclosure provided by the normally loquacious Minister Hinds.”