Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses a press conference where he disclosed information from a confidential report on the Building & Loan Association in Kingstown on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses a press conference where he disclosed information from a confidential report on the Building & Loan Association in Kingstown on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 13, IWN – Many might know him for his current status as prime minister. But, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is also an accomplished defence lawyer and he displayed some of those skills at a press conference on Monday.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, laid out a defence for Luke Browne, the Ministry of Finance employee whose letter in a newspaper triggered the latest run on the Building & Loan Association (BLA).

The defence came as Gonsalves read from a confidential report that detailed the financial situation at the BLA in 2009.

In his letter, Browne had raised concerns about the management and financial health of the BLA and said he did not rely on any inside information when he wrote the opinion piece.

The obvious question a journalist might have asked was, “Did Mr. Browne, as an employee of the Ministry of Finance, have access to that report?”

But Gonsalves obviously anticipated that question.

“I have this information locked away in a particular filing cabinet in this building which only my personal executive secretary knows so that if I were to drop down dead, she can go and tell the next person, this is where the PM had a lot of confidentials saved,” Gonsalves said in his presentation at Cabinet Room in the Administrative Complex

Luke Browne, the Ministry of Finance economist that wrote a letter in January asking if Building & Loan Association was about to collapse. (Photo: Facebook)
Luke Browne, the Ministry of Finance economist that wrote a letter in January asking if Building & Loan Association was about to collapse. (Photo: Facebook)

He said the particular cabinet contains “all kinds of confidential stuff”.

The details Gonsalves revealed on Teusday shows that the BLA has been experiencing problem since as early as 2009.

“So, I hear the story that things were going great until Luke write a letter. That is why I have not been drawn on that letter.

“I don’t agree with the headline Building & Loan on the verge of collapse. If the letter had been headlined ‘Building & Loan in need of reform’ — and there may be one or two things the way in which it is written: a younger man writing something, he would be more acerbic than a more experienced hand like myself writing it, or, for that matter you,” Gonsalves said, as he gestured at media workers at the press conference.