Rishatha Nicholls, former secretary to Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says she volunteered to repay former New Democratic Party (NDP) spokesman Elwardo “E.G.” Lynch a sum of money that had gone missing from the party’s office.
Nicholls was dismissed in March 2013, and after a year of battling with Eustace before the Labour Department, received some EC$16,000 in severance pay.
Among the reasons that Eustace gave Nicholls for her dismissal was using “for [her] own purposes” part of contributions donated to Lynch.
Lynch, a former host of the Eustace-led NDP’s radio programme, died on July 9 and was buried last Saturday.
He began having eye problems in 2011 and later suffered a series of strokes, including one in 2012 while hosting “New Times”, the NDP’s radio programme.
The issue of Lynch, Nicholls and money was mentioned at the funeral by NDP founder, former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell, who has made, publicly, several statements seemingly intended to embarrass the party’s leadership.
“Now, I visited Lynch several times. And I made it my business when the confusion arose about payment to him. I said to him … in the presence of others, … ‘EG, tell me, I want to hear from you. How much money [Rishatha] Nicholls owes you? [He] said, ‘The lady has no money for me.’ I heard that myself,” Sir James said.
But Eustace, speaking on the “New Times” on Monday, said he will circulate “a letter this week written by Lynch, where he showed that Miss Nicholls took money that belonged to him, was paying it back every month and a few days after he was fired she ran and paid him the balance”.
Eustace said the letter is dated April 17th, 2013 and is signed by Lynch.
“I was informed by Miss Rishatha Nicholls that she had removed 900 dollars from contributions that were donated to me during my illness. However, she agreed to pay me and she did, by instalments over a period of time. I received the last payment of $250 on the 9th day of April, after her dismissal,” Eustace quoted the letter as saying.
“I hope Sir James hears this letter now,” he said.
“The issue was the Leader of the Opposition told me to use Lynch’s money and there was a problem for which I took responsibility for Lynch and paid back Lynch his money,” Nicholls told I-Witness News when asked about the latest development.
“The Leader of the Opposition came to me to have me settle a matter for a young man who Bert Francois and the Young Democrats had owed. … And on the basis of that, because of the confusion in the office, somebody removed the money from the desk.
“So, because I had responsibility for it, I gave back Lynch his money. It had nothing to do with Miss Nicholls had money for Lynch and Lynch came and asked back for the money and Eustace intervened to help Lynch,” she said.
Nicholls said initially there was EC$754 and US$50, but Eustace had used EC$100 from the sum.
“So, the balance money is what I could not find; so I had to give back Lynch his money.”
Nicholls said she repaid the money in monthly instalments.
“So Eustace was never involved in that an Mr. Lynch was never involved in that. Is I who choose [to pay the money], because Mr. Lynch was sick, in order to make sure you help the man,” Nichsolls told I-Witness News.
Nicholls further said the letter that Eustace mentioned was the same one use before the Labour Department, which ruled that he must pay her severance.
She accused Eustace of making “mischief”.
However, when asked if she thought the issue would have resurfaced had Sir James not mentioned it at the funeral, Nicholls told I-Witness News:
“Well, to my mind, Sir James has his right to say whatever conversation he had with Mr. Lynch when him and Mr. Lynch converse. He was doing a tribute, so he spoke about the history between him and Mr. Lynch.”
After Nicholls dragged Eustace before the Labour Department, the process took a full year before she was paid severance.
Asked if she thought it would have helped the process had Sir James had revealed the information sooner, Nicholls told I-Witness News:
“It was a good thing because I won my case on my own, so nobody could say that Sir James influenced; because nobody knew that Lynch had told Sir James that.”
Meanwhile, Eustace said Sir James has been making a lot of comments about him and the NDP.
“I tended not to response. What is the purpose of that statement that he made about Lynch told him that she (Nicholls) didn’t owe him anything.
“Is it to say that I am lying? Well, the letter will prove that I am not lying.”
He also accused Sir James of being self-centred at the funeral.
“Everybody knows that he (Sir James) was the champion for the land reform programme. That had nothing to do with Lynch’s funeral when you are paying tribute to him. I, I, I; I have done this; I have done that. Well all of us have done things, Sir James; all of us have made out contributions; not you alone,” Eustace said in response to some of the Sir James’ government’s achievement, which the retired politician mentioned at the funeral.