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Central Kingstown representative and Vice-president of the NDP, St. Clair Leacock.
Central Kingstown representative and Vice-president of the NDP, St. Clair Leacock.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 15, IWN – An opposition politician says his statements were misconstrued to suggest that he wants the Building & Loan Association (BLA) to collapse so that the New Democratic Party could gain office.

“That is the propaganda machine of the other side at work. Lets get rid of the mischief,” Central Kingstown representative, St. Clair Leacock, said on Hot FM on Wednesday.

“I would be irresponsible, reckless and out of order to ever want to suggest that Building & Loan should collapse in order for the New Democratic Party to survive,” Leacock said.

Some media reports and commentary on Leacock statements at a press conference on Monday, said he was making such a suggestion.

I-Witness News, in its report, said Leacock seems to see the embattled BLA as an opportunity for the party to correct what it seemingly considers missteps from 2010, when the then National Commercial Bank was being privatised.

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Gonsalves described the privatisation as a “master stroke” and went on to win a third term in office, albeit by a one-seat majority.

“We have done our part here and we will continue to do it. But we are a political party. In the same breath that we must save Building & Loan, we also have to save thyself, save the New Democratic Party,” Leacock said at a press conference Monday.

“In the case of the National Commercial Bank, the problem was small people who were saving and who were at risk to lose their shirt. Over 5,000 such people, I understand, could have lost their money in the National Commercial Bank. We took the moral highway, the principled approach, and some may argue we lost the election because we put St Vincent before the New Democratic Party.

“On this occasion, it is not those who were saving; this is those who are the investment class of this country who are now at risk. People need to take that on board. Over 1,000 houses can go up,” he further said on Monday.

But Leacock said on Wednesday that he would be irresponsible to suggest that the BLA be allowed to collapse so that the NDP could be elected.

“In fact, it is so nonsensical; there is no relationship. How [can] the collapse of Building & Loan assist the New Democratic Party?”

He said that last week, in a meeting with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) — which is temporarily managing the BLA, he made “a straight and direct statement” that the NDP has “always been nationalist in our thinking, we have a strong national fervour, we understand national sovereignty.

“It was great pain to St. Vincent and the Grenadines when we lost the National Commercial Bank. I said they are coming to us because they wanted our political support and we were endeavouring to do all in our powers to keep the Building & Loan alive.

“I also said that we recognise that we are at risk in that regard, that if we tell people continue to put their money and, after three months, things don’t work out for them, we can be at risk and vice versa.

“In fact, I asked them pointedly, ‘Do you think that in the circumstances you are facing now that anyone would bring monies and deposit with you, where there is a lack of confidence?’ And they had their own reservations,” Leacock said.

The FSA took over the BLA on Feb. 1, after a run on the institution, triggered by a letter in a newspaper by Ministry of Finance economist Luke Browne.

Leacock said Wednesday that people were asking the NDP when it was going to disclose that it had met with the FSA.

“… this is a time when we recognise that the least you say with respect to the Building & Loan matter, it’s the better for them. Every statement, every discussion, every disclosure puts that association in more and more difficulty.

“And I held the view that what was disclosed by the Prime Minister yesterday in that three-hour conference, in a sense, spelt the death knell of the Building & Loan Association,” he said of a press conference by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

“But, let us be clear, our position is that people have to look around for themselves and make their judgement on the matter; who want to deposit, fine. If people want to withdraw, fine.

“But I am not going to make a statement that Building & Loan must fall for the New Democratic Party to rise…

“So let us be very clear, Vincentians are free, on the basis of all the information before them, to make their own objective judgement on the matter. And the New Democratic Party will never, ever find itself in a position where it is putting itself before country. … I have always been nationalist in my endeavours. … Look at the man, look at my track record, look at my history. I didn’t get myself here by standing on other people’s shoulders or making other people suffer so that I can increase,” Leacock said.

“Major didn’t say that. So, correct that bleeping statement from your bleeping brother for me please,” he said, seemingly light-heartedly at the end of the call.