KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 13, IWN – The age and health of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ mother does not change the fact that $1 million was withdrawn from her account at the Building & Loan Association, the opposition says.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said on Tuesday that in the announcement on Monday he was underscoring the fact that the withdrawal took place when BLA was under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, which Gonsalves heads.
Gonsalves, speaking separately at a press conference on Tuesday, accused Eustace of “nastiness” over the disclosure of the transaction.
He said he did not know that two of his brothers had on Oct. 1, 2012, withdrawn some $1 million from an account that his mother, who is 93 and has Alzheimer’s disease, has at BLA.
Gonsalves said Eustace had made the disclosure to politicise the BLA issue.
But, Eustace, speaking on Nice Radio on Tuesday, said:
“All this thing about Alzheimer’s, that doesn’t change the fact that the money was withdrawn at a time when they are encouraging persons to save Building & Loan; when you go forward and make a contribution of $21,000, you are taking out more than $1 million. One has to be very consistent in these matters and that is all I am saying in relation to that,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves on Feb. 4 invested $21,000 at BLA on behalf of one of his daughters and urged Vincentians to invest also and not to withdraw their deposits.
“The issue we face here in this matter has to do with the institution itself; it’s role in our economy and any failure in that regard, its impact on the 20,000 [persons] who are members.
“That’s what we are dealing with. We are not dealing with the condition of the Prime Minister’s mother’s health. It is the movement of the resources from the institution while telling people you must leave yours there. I just want to make that statement very clear …” Eustace said.
“You know, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is sometimes easy to say things to people which really don’t change materially what has happened and the impact of your decision. So, he can remain where he is, as far as I am concerned, where that matter is concerned…
“You know, in the world of politics here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, sometimes, a lot of statements are made to the public. And people don’t have the background to the statement. They get carried away,” Eustace further stated.
There was a run on the BLA after a Jan. 18 letter in The Vincentian newspaper by Ministry of Finance economist Luke Browne, who asked if BLA was about to collapse.
The Financial Services Authority on Feb. 1 took over management and control of the BLA.
Gonsalves has since announced that a run on BLA in 2009 drained $10 million.
On Tuesday, he read a July 2012 report that said the BLA might not be able to meet such demands for withdrawal of such large deposits.