KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Member of Parliament Nigel Stephenson failed to mention last week that EC$1,133.08 from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition was among the EC$2.6 million LIME says the government owes for telephone services.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told journalists on Monday that Stephenson did not mention the figure when he detailed on radio the amount owed by several government department.
“People are not interested in the truth. I am interested in the truth. … We must seek truth from facts and let the real world validate the facts,” he said, noting that I-Witness News had reported on Stephenson’s pronouncements.
“I told … Nigel Stephenson … ‘Man how you can go and put up something and did not up the name of the Leader of the Opposition?’ He said, ‘You expect me to put that?’” Gonsalves said in recounting a conversation with the South Leeward Representative on Monday.
“I am interested in the truth you know. I am giving you everything unvarnished. How can you take those fellas’ word seriously? Are they interested in the truth?” Gonsalves further stated.
He said there were several problems with the list sent to the government by LIME, including the inclusion of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.
“The Leader of the Opposition should not be on this list,” Gonsalves said, noting a decision in 2010 to disburse quarterly the EC$150,000 subvention to run that office rather that the government paying its bills directly, as had been the case before.
“I told Nature Stephenson ‘Man, why weren’t you just honest? Say the Leader of the Opposition is on it but it is a relatively small amount and they will organise and pay it.’ But you saw it’s left out.” Gonsalves said.
“You must decide who you can trust…. When there is a problem, who addresses the problem honesty and who want to do mischief?” he further stated
“I don’t want to get involved with Stephenson because I try, as best as I can, not to fight below my weight class. Sometimes, it is unavoidable in this business but I try not to. He can say what he wants about me but the press can ask questions on this,” he further stated.
Gonsalves that that Stephenson created the impression that they have “a white angel and they want to, in a sense, allow people to throw words at the public servants” but it was the public service that sent the list to the Office of the Leader of the Opposition as part of a verification exercise throughout the public service.
He said that the Director General of Finance and Planning had written to the various government departments, including the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, to verify that the sum quoted by LIME corresponded to the departments’ internal records.
“So, when they put this list up, they didn’t say that this is what LIME is claiming,” Gonsalves said.
He further said that the opposition cannot be excused by claims that they did not know that the figure quoted were in dispute.
“Well, that would have been the conclusion but for the fact that the Leader of the Opposition got such a letter. … So they can’t say that they got a list without the Leader of the Opposition listed because they got this from the Ministry of Finance and Planning.”