Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hendrick Alexander. (IWN file photo)

The main opposition New Democratic Party says it is considering its options as the House Speaker has disallowed a question about loans owed to the former, then state-owned National Commercial Bank (NCB).

In 2010, the Ralph Gonsalves government sold 51 percent of the bank, which has been rebranded Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, says he wants answers about some EC$6 millions in loans held by former directors, including Desmond Morgan — husband of Attorney General, Judith Jones-Morgan – whose company owed some EC$2.2 million.

Eustace said that businessman Gideon Browne also owed monies to the bank.

He said he wants the government to tell Parliament if the loans are being repaid.

He submitted to the Parliament last week a question for inclusion on the Order Paper for a sitting of Parliament later this month.

Eustace told an NDP campaign rally in Campden Park on that House Speaker, Hendrick Alexander, has rejected the question.

“I simply want to find out, have these loans been paid have they been forgiven, what has happened to them? We are talking about six million dollars,” he said.

He added that Building & Loan Association — an indigenous financial institution that is being managed by the Financial Services Authority, a state agency — is selling the properties of persons who owe less than NCB directors owed to the bank.

“Why should other people owe very large sums of money and you can’t find out,” Eustace said.

“So the Speaker has sent a message to me yesterday (Friday) to tell me that he take the question off the Order Paper; I can’t ask the question in Parliament anymore. …

“And he [is] not giving any reason neither,” Eustace said.

Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, speaking at the NDP rally in Campden Park. (IWN photo)
Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, speaking at the NDP rally in Campden Park. (IWN photo)

Eustace, a former prime minister and minister of finance, maintained that he wants to know what is the status of the amounts owed.

“And ah not going to let them get off of that,” he told NDP supporters.

“They could block it in Parliament; that is something we may have to take the road on because of the seriousness of this kind of situation.

“That is why I say we have to straighten out the mental asylum, because some of this stupidness I am hearing now is real, real nonsense, and people must be brought to justice. Man going to jail for two tomatoes and somebody owing six million dollars and you can’t get an answer,” Eustace said.

He told the rally that the Speaker’s response suggests the need for “real special facilities” in the country, a reference to a mental asylum that Eustace said he has decided to fast track as a result of Gonsalves’ comments on his complaints about illegal voter transfers.

7 replies on “Speaker disallows opposition question about bank loans ”

  1. I would think that there would be confidentiality implications here unless those affected were formally accused of fraud. I would also think that the new owners of the bank would zealously make sure that all debts are paid.

    I also suggest that this is a mischievous and frivolous question by Mr. Eustace who instead should be insisting that the government sell the remaining 49 percent of its stake in the bank.

    1. Patrick Ferrari says:

      C. ben,

      I agree with all. BUT, mischievous and frivolous notwithstanding, why not say so.? Why not give a reason in a way to make him look like what he is: mischievous and frivolous? It is because, from past performances, the Speaker feels that he owns Parliament – with impunity. (I wonder why.) And that is a bigger sin than mischievous and frivolous.

      At the next sitting of Parliament, I guarantee the Speaker will behave in an un-frivolous manner; and probably mischievous, too. I am not saying that two wrongs make a right.

  2. Go ahead and ask the question in parliament and let the speaker block it. What is the news media doing? It should raise the question and ask the parliamentarians and the PM for answers. Or let the people shout the question at them whenever or wherever they are. No one can lock them up for asking a question – or can they?

  3. 99% of the time i read something that C.ben -David wright , i do not agree with him . He get it right this time around . A child who born yesterday will know confidentiality involves why the speaker refused it . We are talking about a financial institution which is not majority owned by the state of SVG anymore .
    If there is a debate about it, the next thing you might see is people withdrawing there funds from the bank . That will spell disaster for the institution .
    whenever Mr Eustace open his mouth , he show how incompetent he is as a leader .
    I can see where this country will end up if he get the chance to lead a government again.

  4. Skekpalmer, the last time the speaker was defied the police were instructed to throw the opposition out of parliament. Several of them sustained injuries and one who’s injury was very serious had back surgery recently to relieve the constant pain.

    David, one of us is wrong and I hope it is not me. My understanding is this; the NCB Bank was a wholly SVG Government owned corporation. It got into serious trouble because the government borrowed so much money from it and couldn’t repay that it had to be sold at a knockdown under value price to a private sector bank from Saint Lucia. But it was not just the company that borrowed money, directors borrowed money amounting to millions of dollars for their own use.

    When the bank was sold the buyers bought it without the bad debts which were moved into a financial vehicle to take them out of the equation of the sale.

    That vehicle is government owned and managed and is what Eustace is asking about. Was the debt of certain people moved into that vehicle and are they repaid. The debt became directly repayable to the State instead of the bank.

    My understanding there were charges against at least one debtors house and property, that of Mr Morgan, husband of Judith Jones-Morgan the government Attorney General. The house is probably jointly owned and if that is correct Judith Jones Morgan is involved in more ways than just being the wife.

    Arnhim Eustace is asking have those millions of dollars been paid back to the State, all of it, some of it, or none of it.

    Because of the special consequences of this matter it cannot be held that there are confidentiality implications.

    If Gonsalves does not want the question to be asked in parliament, because I doubt that decision could have been made by the Speaker without consultation and instructions from Gonsalves, then another route is open to Gonsalves.

    Gonsalves is minister of finance, he could simply ask Eustace to come to the office and show him evidence of payment/s made or being made and how much if any is still outstanding. Failure to take either route in the House or in the office will of course encourage the people to draw conclusions of some wrong doing perhaps even some conspiracy in this matter.

    So you see David this is not a straight forward matter of someone borrowing money from a bank, they are or were if they have paid, debtors of the state which makes the matter government business.

    My own question is, were the debts written off or written down by the Minister of Finance or Government?

  5. It will be good to know why and who told you to disallow these questions.So much for transparency eh.Watch ah government.

  6. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    This ULP Administration and their friends have a lot to hide, but as day follows night their deeds will catch up with them. They have much to which they must answer.

    We await the forensic auditing.

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