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Junior Bacchus  will chair the meeting (Internet photo).
Junior Bacchus will chair the meeting (Internet photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 21, IWN – Three shareholders of the Building & Loan Association (BLA) have organised a meeting for fellow shareholders today –Thursday.

The meeting comes three weeks after the Financial Services Authority took over the building society after a newspaper letter by Ministry of Finance economist Luke Browne triggered a run on the 72-year-old institution.

The meeting is being organised by Junior Bacchus, Cools Vanloo, and Jeanie Ollivierre.

It takes place at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown from 5 p.m.

Bacchus, speaking on Hitz FM’s “Hitz Talk” on Sunday, said he will chair the meeting.

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He said there will be verification of membership of the BLA of persons attending the meeting, but persons can attend on behalf their relatives overseas.

Persons can present a transaction slip or other documents issues by the BLA to prove their membership, Bacchus said.

The meeting will adopt standing orders and Vanloo will give an overview of the BLA, focusing primarily on the way forward for the organisation.

Bacchus said the meeting will give members “a chance to vent” and will also seek to allay their fears.

It will also present a resolution for adaption, with a view to strengthening the work of the FSA, he said, noting that the FSA said in a press release last week that it “welcomes any constructive action on the part of shareholders, members and the public geared towards helping us to help the Association”.

But Bacchus said that while there is an FSA invitation for engagement, the nature of that engagement was not defined.

“So, the meeting, to some extent, will define itself,” he said.

‘a matter of necessity’

The FSA said last week that its intervention into the BLA was “undertaken as a matter of necessity in order to stabilize and strengthen the Association.

“The Association had taken little or no successful corrective action for major problems over several years, even though those problems were pointed out to the Association, AS WELL AS the corrective action to be implemented.

“Compounding these problems in January 2013, was a strain on the liquid resources of the Association due to the panicked reaction of some customers of the Association to a newspaper article of January 18th 2013, entitled ‘Is the Building and Loan Association on the verge of collapse?’

“The FSA had no confidence that the required corrective action would be effected in a timely way under the present management and control of the Association. This was reinforced by the Association’s position of allowing millions of dollars to be immediately withdrawn from the Association, sometimes on a daily basis, instead of enforcing its own mandatory Rule of a notice period of three months (Rule # 77, Rules of the Association, Revised 2000). This continued even AFTER the FSA advised strongly that the said Rule should be enforced,” the FSA said.

The intervention has spurred intense debate with many persons siding with the position of the political party they support.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who on Feb. 4 deposited $21,000 into BLA after the FSA intervention, has called on Vincentian not to withdraw their deposits.

But Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace announced one week later that $1 million was withdrawn from Gonsalves’ mother’s account at the BLA.

Gonsalves later said he did not know that his brothers had withdrawn the money and that a former director of the BLA had advised them to do so.

Eustace has told depositors to make their own choices about their investments at BLA.

The FSA, in its release, did not refer to these developments but said, “One’s perspective on the Association and its intervention by the FSA, should NOT depend on which political party one supports.

“Ensuring the survival of the Association should not just be the objective of the FSA but a national objective, one that every Vincentian citizen holds dear.

The FSA is committed and focused on its primary objective of restoring the Association’s efficiency, profitability, solvency and stability,” the state agency said.