Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, left, and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. (IWN file montage)

The government and the opposition are at loggerheads yet again — this time, over duty-free concession on disaster relief items, which was granted by the Director General of Finance and Economic planning, but denied by Cabinet.

The Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration has refused to grant duty-free concession to disaster relief supplies sent by Vincentians in Canada to the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

The items are intended for distribution to persons affected by the December 2013 floods.The NDP was, on Sunday, calculating the cost of import duty, VAT, and Customs Service Charge on some 45 barrels and cartons of relief items.

In a Jan. 20 letter to NDP Chairman, Sen. Linton Lewis, the office of the Director General of Finance and Economic Planning, approved 100 per cent waiver of import duty, VAT and Customs Service Charge on the items.

But in a Jan. 23 letter, also to Lewis, the Director General of Finance and Economic Planning, Maurice Edward, said the approval “was conditional on Cabinet’s ratification in accordance with the law governing such matters.”

Edward said that Cabinet, in its Jan. 22 meeting, denied the application for duty-free concessions.

Opposition and NDP leader, Arnhim Eustace, told I-Witness News on Sunday that his party will try to raise the money needed to clear the items at the Customs.

Eustace, in January, told Parliament that “over my dead body” will disaster relief items coming to the NDP pass through the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

He restated that position at a press conference last week, saying, he will not work through NEMO, and that he has “sufficient evidence” that disaster relief was not being distributed “properly”.

“And therefore, I don’t trust them to be involved in the distribution,” he said.

Asked what the NDP will do if the duty-free concession was not granted, Eustace said, “If the government wants them to stay there in the Customs and rot, then they can take that decision. I know there are people out there who need the stuff.”

On Sunday, Eustace repeated his allegation of political interference in the distribution of disaster relief items, telling I-Witness News, “The experience we have had in the past, particularly around election time, has been that the materials are used in a purely political fashion. That is happening again.”

He noted that Minister of Works, Sen. Julian Francis, who is general secretary of the ruling Unity Labour Party, is coordinating the distribution of disaster relief items that pass through NEMO.

“If it was just NEMO, I won’t have a problem, because I would assume that they are going to be fair. But if the person appointed by the government is the general secretary of their party and a minister of government, that is not NEMO. He will direct NEMO what to do and how to give,” Eustace said.

“I believe my attitude would have been different if it was a straight NEMO distribution. But when you appoint a minister and the general secretary of the party at a time when people are thinking that the elections might not be far away, that’s what will happen; it happened in 2010. There are a lot of people still waiting for things from 2010 in our party.”

The government purchased EC$6 million worth of building materials after the passage of Hurricane Tomas in 2010, but some persons whose homes were damaged have not received any of these materials.

Some of them claim that they have not been assisted because they are supporters of the NDP, an allegation that the government has denied.

 

Eustace said that the NDP is concerned about the interest of all persons affected by the disaster and not just its supporters.

“I don’t think that will happen under the present arrangement, and we have evidence that it is not happening,” he told I-Witness News.

He further said that the NDP “of course” will give relief items to ULP supporters.

Eustace outlined the NDP’s plan for distributing disaster relief, saying that the material will be taken to its headquarters in Kingstown and be divided between only the five constituencies affected by the extreme weather.

“The candidate then comes to collect the things for his constituency along with other members of the constituency division and they carry them to the distribution in constituency.

“And that is how we operate. And our policy has been strict all the time: help people who need help, not necessarily our party supporters,” Eustace told I-Witness News.

He said that persons who feel that they have been overlooked because of politics can report it directly to him.

“I won’t tolerate that. I have said that over and over again. I won’t tolerate it. We cannot continue to operate on that basis,” Eustace told I-Witness News.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves addressed the issue at a press conference and raised questions about the ability of the NDP to be unbiased in the distribution of relief items.

He further said he would like them [the NDP] to demonstrate about his government’s refusal to waive the concession.

“I want the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to take a turn on them,” Gonsalves said, noting that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a free country where anyone can demonstrate.

Gonsalves noted Eustace’s “over my dead body” comment in parliament.

Gonsalves noted that NEMO is a state agency and questioned how Eustace, knowing that, could then request concessions from the state.

“So what are you saying? You who head a political party can be fairer than NEMO, where you have the public servants and volunteers, including the Red Cross? How could that possibly be?”

The Prime Minister said that if NEMO is not informed of what relief items are being imported, there would be “chaos”.

He further said that the Catholic charity and the fledgling Democratic Republican Party were working through NEMO and had received concessions.

Gonsalves suggested that there could be double distribution of the same items in a single community if NEMO is not informed.

“But, they believe that the NDP is a government unto itself. So, go ahead, protest.”

He said that the NDP really believes “their own echo chambers”.

Gonsalves mentioned the party’s statements that it will write to international agencies and call to the attention of mainstream media in Canada, developments surrounding the distribution of relief supplies in SVG.

“They will either laugh at them, I am talking about the NDP, or don’t bother with the story at all, saying this is a village story where the fellas are behaving foolishly or they might embarrass them by writing the truth,” Gonsalves said of the Canadian media.

“They think that the World Bank and the Canadian government and everybody else doesn’t know how we are functioning, in a very open and transparent manner?

“The Canadian government is giving money to NEMO, but the leader of the opposition doesn’t want to recognise NEMO.”

Regarding Eustace’s statement that the Government can leave the supplies in the Customs to rot, Gonsalves noted that the items were not consigned to the government.

“They are consigned to the NDP. After things are there for a while, under the regulations, Customs will put them up for auction and sell them,” he said.

6 replies on “Concession on disaster relief granted then denied”

  1. I know they can get it if the go to NEMO everyone go to them what make NDP feel that they don’t have to follow the rule of law

  2. Some Vincentians will remain foolish people all their lives to criticise what Eustace is trying to say. It is a political conflict of interest . Government like caribbean governments can make rules to protect them all the time. They all are bull shit governments . There is not a single body, or a section of parliament set up to vote against what Govt in power do or say.
    such a damn shame. I have not seen any democracy in any of these countries until they make changes to parlimentary laws.

  3. Once again the NDP is urinating all over themselves;drunk on feigned outrage. Just when you thought the NDP has got their act together, they contrive to make their supporters look like fools. How long are supporters to wait around for the NDP to get their act together…this is just pathetic.For the record, I will be voting for the NDP come next election…so I guess, I am the pathetic one?…mm. Maybe I should just stay home?…naah.

    The NDP is TOTALLY WRONG ON THIS ISSUE. Go through NEMO and all the “proper channels” and if the Government refuse to give concessions; then you have the leverage to water-soak Gonsalves. But to say you not going through NEMO, the NDP is simply playing into the hands of Gonsalves and he is making “putty” out of them.

    Now, is the NDP really concern about the plight of these unfortunate folks or are they simply concern about gaining political mileage? If you are so concern about the plight of the people, what does it matter, who distribute or organize the relieve efforts, unless you see some sort of benefit derived from you getting involved in these efforts. Look, people nah stupid, the NDP saw the Government aka the ULP, sharing out fridge and stove, mattress etc, lost their collective f**king minds and went begging tom dick and susan to send whatever they could find in their cupboard and under their bed. Being loyal supporters of the NDP, these folks, bless their heart; went into SOS mode and dash off containers to Vincyland. The only problem, they were under the illusion that the NDP run things in Vincyland. Their containers are still on the wharf ketchin sun. This is what happens when you have “sufficient evidence” that disaster relief was not being distributed “properly”. This is what I call, Paranoia run amok.

    The second, I heard Bert Francois on the radio, telling folks not to send anything through NEMO, I knew the NDP was on a slippery slope and now they are on their hands and knees with their begging bowl, asking for donations to clear the containers. All this was avoidable, if only the NDP will stop for a moment, with their perpetual outrage and THINK. The NDP wants to Govern the country, yet they show little or no respect for the Civil Servants working at NEMO; (JULIAN FRANCIS IS NOT NEMO) who they will have to work with, if they get into power tomorrow. Every time I write a post in defense of Eustace leadership, sooner or later I am forced to rethink my position. This issue has shown the glaring limitations of Eustace leadership. Here was an issue where Eustace and the NDP had the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, their readiness to Govern and they failed miserably.

    Supporting the NDP is like pulling teeth. Gonsalves is like a rotten tooth, that you know you have to take out..but the thought of going to the dentist(NDP), momentarily gives you pause…then the pain becomes unbearable and you find yourself in a chair with your mouth wide open…and then you hear the dentist say, “over my dead body”…and in the deep recess of your mind…you start bawling holy f********kkkkkkk!!

  4. It all comes to a head when Gonsalves refuses to allow a group of Canadians shipment of aid to the opposition party leader, Arnhim Eustace of the NDP, to bring in the aid items free of duty and charges. Gonsalves claims that he was offended by something that Eustace had said about the agency NEMO. Because there is clear evidence of mal distribution of aid in the past under the undue influence of some within the ULP, NEMO has allowed itself to be a political pawn on behalf of the ULP hierarchy. People who belong to the NDP party have been refused aid. People from the ULP party who did not need aid got it. This to me is among the lowest point of Gonsalves career. Not considering the accusations of rape and sexual crimes against women, that have never been to court.

    All sorts of people and groups brought in aid, the Lions, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Rotary, private people. They all got approval for duty free concessions, no duties no tax’s, no tailgate or any other such charges. But when the NDP were consigned a batch of aid, aid for the people, it was announced that the Cabinet had not approved it. I for one would never believe it was the Cabinet that did not approve it. I believe it was Gonsalves that did not approve it. The Cabinet would rubber stamp anything that he told them to.

  5. Peter Binose says:

    I had dinner with a group that contained several of ULP top people a few days ago, I was enlightned when I heard one of their legal team state “it was imperitive that it was not just the ULP and Eustace who had to be slapped down, it was nesescary to punish those Canadians who had the audacity to send aid through them”.

    I must say quite an argument broke out among them after this statement.

Comments are closed.