The man who is hoping to replace Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace as constituency representative for East Kingstown is raising questions about some EC$300,000 that he say Eustace has received to maintain a constituency office.
“Could you imagine that over a 17 year period, Mr. Eustace collected over $300,000 for a constituency office that he never had?” Luke Browne of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) told a campaign rally in Sion Hill on Saturday.
“What do you call that? And don’t try to hide behind the excuse that you used the money to help people. We are all helping people, but we are not taking public money and using it for the wrong reasons,” Browne said.
“I have a lot of respect for the Director of Audit, and I know her well, but I want to ask her why has she been silent on this matter for so long?”
Eustace said in 2012 that he used the EC$1,500 monthly subvention to help his constituents and uses his office at Democrat House, also located in East Kingstown, as his constituency office.
“I have an office in the constituency. [Should I] open another one to pay a secretary and a cleaner and they alone benefit? I use the money in my constituency and other money from my salary every single month,” Eustace said in 2012 in response to a caller to his weekly radio programme.
Earlier this year, Eustace opened an office in Sion Hill and painted it in yellow, his party’s colour, but it was later defaced with red paint, the colour of the ULP.
Eustace, who has been representing East Kingstown since 1998, has erected signs on the defaced office saying, “All are welcome”.
But in his address on Saturday, Browne, who failed to unseat Eustace during his first attempt in 2010, said:
“The other important question is this: why is it that all of a sudden Mr. Eustace decided to open an office in Sion Hill? Is it because he is feeling politically vulnerable? Even so, he disparagingly calls it a temporary office for election purposes. Is that all the respect he has for the people here?”
In the 2010 elections, not only did Eustace defeat Browne, but also his margin of victory increased fourfold.