Tuesday, September 26, 2017


In the ongoing drama over what has popularly become known as 'Ferrygate' a question has arisen over whether or not a letter of credit was irrevocable or not and whether or not the taxpayers of this country have had to pay out some US$3 million for the infamous ferry called the "Cabo Star".

Spokesmen for the Government and the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) have suggested in the newspapers that the letter of credit was revoked and therefore no money has been paid or will be paid to Bridgemans, the owners of the Cabo Star. But the various statements coming from these spokesmen have been obfuscatory at best or down right ignorant and dishonest at worst.

Let's start with the classic definition of a letter of credit: a letter of credit is a contract made between an issuing bank and a seller of goods or services being supplied to a buyer of those goods or services. A normal mercantile contract usually stipulates that the letter of credit is irrevocable, which means that the buyer cannot cancel it. You have only to look at it to understand why. The whole idea for a letter of credit is to ensure that the seller is paid no matter what. In other words, the buyer cannot come up with some later excuse and refuse to pay because he (the buyer) wants out of the deal that he has made with the seller.

It is trite law that the contract between the issuing bank and the seller (which contract is the letter of credit) is a separate contract and is independent of the original contract between the buyer and the seller. In other words, the bank is bound vis-a-vis the seller to pay upon presentation of the letter of credit and its accompanying documents once everything is in accordance with the terms and conditions under which the letter of credit was issued. The bank is bound to pay even where there may have been a breach by the seller under the original contract which would have enabled the buyer to reject the goods.

The only exception to this rule is where there has been a fraudulent presentation of documents to the bank which contain material misrepresentations of fact relating to the letter of credit which the seller knows to be inaccurate. But these fraudulent statements must relate to the contract between the bank and the seller. The contract between the buyer and the seller is a completely different matter.

Of course, apart from fraud, if any documents relating to the letter of credit are forged, that forgery could also void the letter of credit.

So, you can understand that the terms "irrevocable letter of credit" and "letter of credit" really are one and the same thing. All of which could help to explain why the "Cabo Star" turned up in Trinidad last week. It has been reported that the letter of credit becomes due on Thursday 28th September, 2017. It might have been a condition of the letter of credit that the vessel had to be in Trinidad waters by that date or the letter of credit would be null and void. If that was the case, then it looks like the letter of credit will have to be paid ... if it hasn't been already!

But it doesn't explain exactly what has happened in this whole "Ferrygate" fiasco or why we don't have all of the facts. Certainly, getting to the bottom of this has been more difficult than pulling the teeth out of a chicken ... and, yes, I am aware that chickens don't have teeth!

Monday, September 18, 2017


Dear Mr. President,
I don't know if you are aware of it (but you ought to be), but a lot of practicing attorneys were prevented from attending the speech by the Chief Justice in the Convocation Hall today. A young attorney reported to me that he attended the Church service and wanted to go to listen to the Chief Justice's speech. He said that he was aware of the call for a boycott but as this was his first year as an attorney he wanted to take part in every aspect of the ceremonial opening of the Courts.

Imagine his surprise when he turned up for the speech and saw with his own eyes that the Convocation Hall was about ninety percent empty but was told by an usher that he couldn't get in because "seats allocated for attorneys had already been filled."

Now you've only got to look at it to see that this is absolute nonsense and very wrong. Frankly, I am astonished to hear that in a matter such as this that practicing attorneys rank behind lay persons. One would have thought that the ceremonial opening of the Courts are more for us than for anybody else.

In these circumstances I request and require a definitive statement from the Law Association on this. Does the Law Association agree that practicing attorneys should rank behind "invitees and other dignitaries" in matters such as this? In other words, we, the members of the Law Association are not as important to the Courts of this country as foreigners and other so-called "dignitaries"?And our Association accepts this?

If the Council of the Law Association believes that this is acceptable kindly tell the membership and please explain why. I know that members would be most interested.

For the record, I personally think that this exclusion of attorneys was unacceptable because we are officers of the Court and should therefore rank before anybody else in all ceremonies relating to the Court.

It is probably better that I leave unexpressed my opinion as to the real reason why there was this exclusion of attorneys other than to note that this opening of the new Law Term was not without controversy.

Yours faithfully,

Robin Montano

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


I have deliberately not written anything on this blog for the longest while (actually since March of this year)! The truth is that I felt that I wasn't making a difference and that there was no point in continuing with what felt like battering my head against a brick wall. But a lot of people have been asking me 'to come back', as it were, and a friend just wrote to me adding his voice to those who have been telling me that I should. Actually, he kind of pushed me over the edge.

So! I'm back. There is a lot to talk about and a lot that is going on in Trinidad and Tobago that needs to be talked and commented about. So, in no particular order, here goes:

1. The Speaker of the House of Representatives
If ever there was a Presiding Officer of a parliamentary Chamber who ought to be removed it is this one. Clearly, Mrs. Annisette-George simply doesn't understand how vitally important the role and function of an impartial speaker is. Last Friday (8th September) was the last straw. (Okay, that's not vey good English but you understand what I'm trying to say.) Last Friday she saved the Government's proverbial bacon by using her casting vote not once, not twice, but three times!! Now the Speaker's casting vote is supposed to be used to maintain the status quo.  She didn't do that. For example, on a motion to adjourn the House there was a tie. Unbelievably, she voted with the Government to adjourn! The House was in session. How could she do this?
No. It was very wrong. Frankly, if I was advising the Leader of the Opposition (and I am not) I would tell her to file a motion of no confidence in the Speaker, recite exactly what took place on Friday and then sit down after a very short five minute speech. I would challenge the Government to say why they think that behavior was acceptable and not reply at all. Let the country be the judge. You would know that the Government will use its majority (wrongly in this case) to have it's way, but that wouldn't be important. What would be important was to see who in the Parliament was prepared to put country before Party.

2. The Abuse by the Police and the Army with their sirens
It is getting impossible to go anywhere where there is traffic without some police or army vehicle turning on its siren and barreling down the wrong side of the road pushing all and sundry out of the way. Take two personal examples: about a month ago I was going down to Chagaramus. It was about 4pm and the traffic coming out of 'Chag' was bumper to bumper and at a standstill. All of a sudden an army car with heavily tinted windows and a flag (obviously an army big wig) came barreling down on my side of the road with its siren blaring. I refused to pull over. The driver rolled down his window and waved his arm signaling me to get out of the way. I waved back signaling him to go jump in the nearest lake. To the best of my knowledge, Venezuela hadn't declared war on Trinidad and there was no emergency other than the big wig not wanting to sit in traffic with the rest of the plebians. In any case, to the best of my knowledge the army has no legal right (except in times of war or states of emergency) to use its sirens. I was kind of hoping that the soldier might try to arrest me, but he didn't! That case would have been a great one to defend!
The second example occurred about ten days ago. My office is at the bottom of Abercromby Street. To get to it one has to drive east along Independence Square and turn left at the Republic Bank corner. My wife was driving me at the time. When we arrived at the corner an unmarked police vehicle turned on its siren and blue lights and dashed in front of us. Now, there is such a thing as radio and it is always possible that there is a genuine police emergency and the police (unlike the army) do have special powers, so my wife quite properly gave way. But (and here's the thing) the policeman stopped his car obliquely opposite my office and went into a snackette to get his breakfast. I know. I followed him because I wanted to see what was the emergency. I said nothing, but honestly? It was very annoying. And very wrong.

3. The Ferry and Petrotrin Debacles
There is so much that has been said about these two scandals that I'd probably be simply repeating what others are saying. At this time therefore all I will say is that what do you think that Keith Rowley would be saying about these scandals if all the facts that are in the public domain now were in the public domain in the hypothetical situation where he was the Leader of the Opposition instead of being the Prime Minister and Kamla Persad Bissessar was the Prime Minister instead of being the Leader of the Opposition. When you have figured that out you will understand everything.

There is a lot more and I promise to write again soon. But tht's it for now!