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Phillips: Petrojam, the mother of all scandals – PNP steps up calls for Wheatley to go

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is calling for the immediate resignation of Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley for what he has described as "the mother of all scandals" at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam.

"It has all the ingredients of all the other scandals put together. It has nepotism, the appointment of people in the corporation simply because of connections to the ministerial ranks of the Jamaica Labour Party, and the appointment of people at pay levels in excess of what was present in all the other government corporations," Phillips told a meeting of the People's National Party's National Executive Council yesterday.

"That one element was a scandal of itself, but there is more," added Phillips. He charged that Petrojam has been the scene of victimisation; the misuse, divergence and possible theft of taxpayer resources; and fraud.

"It is clear that the minister of energy (Andrew Wheatley) has breached the public's trust, and his position in the office can't be sustained. The minister must go, but that would not be the end of the story," declared Phillips.

He argued that it is obvious that the energy minister did not act alone.

"The prime minister presided over the Cabinet that appointed the absentee board, with a chairman resident overseas. Someone has to answer for the issue of how such a board became appointed, where apparently two of the members were not resident in Jamaica," said Phillips.

The three Jamaican board members have since resigned and have been replaced, but Phillips charged that the prime minister also chaired the Cabinet that approved a contract for the building of a wall at Petrojam that incurred a massive cost overrun.

"So, the prime minister also has to speak on this issue," added Phillips as he pointed to a story published in The Gleaner yesterday and declared that it is clear that the Government does not get the concerns of Jamaicans.

A senior Government source was reported in The Sunday Gleaner as saying that Prime Minister Andrew Holness is concerned that the controversy surrounding Petrojam could affect its value and that the Government plans to divest it, but Phillips argued that the main concern of the administration should be the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money that was stolen from Petrojam.