Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Signed, Sealed, Nothing Delivered

From left: John Ashe (rear), Teresa Liu, Roosevelt Skerrit, Ng Lap Seng (aka David Ng)
Courtesy UNOSSC

When Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica at the end of August 2015, Dominicans were left scratching their heads as to where our Prime Minister was on such a devastating occasion. Speculation was rife as to where he could be since he was not in state. This was further complicated by a series of mixed bits of information coming from the government's press office and close associates of the prime minister. Upon his return, one of the excuses Mr. Skerrit gave the nation for his absence was that he was attending a poverty conference; but that, as is customary with Mr. Skerrit, was not entirely the truth. When photographs began appearing on social media we soon discovered that Roosevelt Skerrit was in Macau, up until that time his favorite stomping grounds. With those photographs came the revelation that Mr. Skerrit had signed an agreement with Ng Lap Seng for the construction of a technology center in Dominica. Seven months later, Mr. Skerrit has not been forthcoming about his trip to Macau nor has he revealed the contents of the agreement with Mr. Ng.

Untold requests have been made of Mr. Skerrit and of UN officials for access to the details of the agreement he signed with Mr. Ng. The calls for information further accelerated after the arrest by US Customs agents of Mr. Ng on charges of smuggling over US$4.5 million into the United States. Subsequent to his initial arrest on smuggling charges, Mr. Ng has been slapped with a number of other felony charges including bribery of UN officials. We will return to this in a short while.

MiTC, has been relentless in our pursuit of the elusive agreement between Mr. Skerrit and Mr. Ng. Our colleague, Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press in New York, has pressed UN officials consistently over the past several months for information on this agreement. What was known then, as evidenced by the photograph above, was that it was signed under the auspices of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, headed by Ms. Teresa Liu, on August 26th 2015. Ms. Liu and other UN officials have been uncooperative in releasing the agreement.

Utilizing our extensive network of investigators and inside contacts, MiTC is reporting to the Dominican public that we have the Agreement signed by Mr. Skerrit and Mr. Ng.

Letter of Committment

The agreement you see here was delivered to one of our writers a few days ago. Although broad in scope and with few specifics, the Letter of Commitment (LoA) has a few notable details that ought to be examined. 

Returning to the UN bribery scandal that continues to unfold over in New York. You will recall that Mr. Ng was charged with bribing UN officials including former General Assembly President John Ashe from Antigua, and former deputy-UN Ambassador to the UN from the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo. Two weeks ago Mr. Lorenzo pleaded guilty to the charges against him and is said to be cooperating with prosecutors. Mr. Ashe is scheduled to appear in Manhattan Federal Court on April 8th.

The foundation of the charges against Mr. Ng and the others revolves around the attempt by Mr. Ng to have the UN approve and and pay for the construction of a "Global South-South Expo and Meeting Center" in Macau. Mr. Ng may have determined that bribing Ashe and Lorenzo (who would then use their influence within the UN) increases the likelihood that the Expo center would be approved and built in Macau, and that the contract would be granted to his company, Sun Kian Ip Group. How did Dominica's prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit get his hands in that pot?

The LoA between Mr. Skerrit and Mr. Ng states in part;

"Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation...wishes to provide financial support to the said South-South Technology Transfer Facility for SIDs, as an integral structure of the Member States proposed Global South-South Expo and Meeting Center in Macau."

Our analysis of this statement suggests that, in it's elaborate scheme to get the UN to approve the construction of the Expo Center in Macau, Sun Kian Ip and it's chairman may have sweetened the pot by agreeing to "provide financial support" for a technology center in Dominica. We have delved into numerous UN press releases and documents and we could not find anywhere reference is made to a South-South Technology Transfer Facility in Dominica being discussed at any official level. That leads us to suspect that this may have been a spur-of-the-moment opportunity, or close to it, for Mr. Skerrit to extract something from Mr. Ng. What that may be is open to speculation, but Mr. Skerrit has not mentioned this project to Dominicans. Mr. Skerrit has the propensity to inflate the most insignificant to a level totally undeserving of the occasion. Look no further than his welcome home ceremony after having purchased a doctorate in India. Why then, would he not mention a major project like this if it was legitimate?

It is worth noting that Mr. Skerrit was the only Head of State at a conference of lower-level governmental officials. In fact, the conference on poverty that Mr. Skerrit alluded to upon his return was organized by the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP). Membership in that UN-affiliated organization is targeted towards world cities and the conference is attended by the Mayors of member cities. Roseau, Dominica is not a member of WACAP. So why would Mr. Skerrit be at a conference on poverty organized by a federation of cities to which Roseau is not a member?

Here is Mr. Skerrit at the WACAP conference in Macau last August (WACAP Macau). As you can see, there is no reference to a South-South Technology Transfer Center in Dominica in the news release. Where did this idea and the intent of Sun Kian Ip's financing of the center come from? This question is even more important when you take into consideration that less than three months earlier, the government of Bangladesh hosted a meeting on financing for the South-South Technology Center. There is no reference in the Memo (below) as well as the 6-page summary attached to this memo (not pictured) from the Bangladesh Finance ministry official of the Center being located in Dominica, nor is there any reference to the Caribbean or Latin America.

Memo from the Bangladesh Finance Ministry

The LoA between Mr. Skerrit and Mr. Ng goes on to confirm that the agreement is between the Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit and the Chairman of Sun Kian Ip Group Ng Lap Seng. It further states that Mr. Ng's company commits to make a "financial contribution, the amount of which will be determined upon final consultations with the signatories and other relevant stakeholders". With Mr. Ng under house arrest in New York and unable to do much, we can only presume that plans for a Technology Center in Dominica are on the shelf. But was it even going to happen? 

  1. How was Mr. Skerrit able to negotiate and obtain an agreement to finance a technology center in Dominica?
  2. Where did Mr. Skerrit intend to get the personnel to staff and operate this center?
  3. What was Mr. Ng getting out of this deal with Mr. Skerrit?
  4. What was the real purpose of Mr. Skerrit being in Macau?

We have these and many more questions for Mr. Skerrit. We would appreciate it if he could make himself available for an interview.

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1 comment :

  1. So Herbert Volney is on Caribbean News Now Hitting MITS? Smh


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