Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By Jomo Sanga Thomas*

(“Plain Talk”, Feb. 14, 2020)

The biggest story of the 2020 budgetary debate went virtually unnoticed. Every citizen should be outraged, angry and demand correction, punishment even, but alas only a few persons caught the importance of the revelations. Not many appear bothered.

This big story was not Daniel Cummings’ charge that the government allowed a tourist ship with passengers possibly afflicted with the deadly coronavirus to enter port Kingstown because it wants to boost its cruise ship arrival numbers.

Nor was it Camillo Gonsalves’ “voyages of a pothole tourist”, parody of Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in his closing budgetary address; or the declaration that an NDP government will refurbish and light all of the nation’s parks and hard courts, as well as provide for a national stadium for our athletes. And surely it was not Camillo’s delivery of a billion-dollar budget or eclipsing his father as an eloquent orator.

No, it was none of those. The biggest story was that the government had routinely violated statutory law and the constitution by not adhering to the legal demands relating to overdraft limits. The legal limits set for government overdraft currently stands at EC$50 millions. Government gets this authority according to the Financial Administration Act. However, over the last decade, the government borrowed way above the EC$50 million limit. In 2014, the government borrowed as much as EC$83 million.

Of critical importance is that whenever the government exceeded its overdraft limits, it never seeks Parliament’s approval for the excess borrowing. But that was not all. The government compounded its illegal, unconstitutional actions by engaging in another illegality. It created an Accountant General Loan at the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and hid the entire transaction from the parliament and by extension the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The overdraft is a facility intended to tide the government over as the national demands require. But this is to be short term, no more than 12 months. However, when the overdraft is not paid and the balance is turned into a loan at one of the commercial banks, the government simply and routinely exceeds its budgetary and legal limits and creates even greater public debt problems for the country. Fundamentally, these acts are in clear violation of the Finance Administration Act and by extension our nation’s constitution.

When this explosive charge was levelled against the government by the opposition leader in his response to the budgetary proposal, one naturally sat in a state of surprise and wonderment. The hope was for PM Gonsalves and or our Finance Minister Camillo to forcefully refute these statements by the opposition.

But alas there was no denial.

In a stamina-testing 4-hour address, as though priming for another election battle, PM Gonsalves took citizens on a 20-year journey that compared his tenure to what came before during the opposition 17-year rule, not once did he touch the issue of illegal borrowing allegations hurled at the government by the opposition leader.

In his closing address on the 2020 budget, Finance minister Camillo Gonsalves failed to explain, rationalize, apologize for or refute the charges regarding the government’s illegal actions and fiscal irresponsibility. The closest he got to showing any form of contrition was his genuflection to the opposition regarding the government’s request to lift the Special Warrants limit from $25 to $35 million. He promised, as he did during the October 2019 debate, not to be so tardy with bringing Special Warrants to parliament for discussion and approval. 

This is not the first time the government was found to be acting outside of the law. This is not the first time the government acts as though it will not be constrained by the law. Last September, opposition parliamentarian, St Clair Leacock asked the government to list and itemised all the Special Warrants it issued in the previous 5 years. In October 2019, special warrants spanning 2013 to 2018 were brought before the parliament. We learned then that in more than one instant, government exceeded the legal limit of $25 million. In that debate, PM Gonsalves acknowledged the transgression and proclaimed that the exceeding the Special Warrant limit the government had not committed “a hanging offense”.

Now, before we start jumping all over ourselves, this is not a partisan issue. All citizens of whatever political colour should be concerned at the very least. This is by all respects a serious national issue of great importance. People, this is serious stuff. If government could so willy-nilly disregard legal requirements, are there other illegal actions that have not yet been disclosed? What other illegal acts will it be prepared to do in the dark, quiet halls of power?

We cannot encourage or condone illegality and or misbehaviour in office by any government minister or the government itself. Every 5 years, we go to the polls and elect a government. Those elected swore to uphold the laws and to conduct public affairs in keeping with the laws.

Moreover, this is a government that touts law and order as a major plank of its rule. It cites Transparency International, which rates SVG high on the list of transparent government. In his address, Gonsalves told the nation that he was the lyrical master. Well, we must demand that lyrics are not selectively dropped. The lyrics of national affairs must be wholesome, truthful and legal. We must develop a democracy that is anchored in laws and not the power or guile of men.

The law clearly requires the government to seek parliamentary approval by resolution or other legal acts. To do as it did, clearly fly in the face of the requirements of good governance best practice of transparency and accountability.

How are we to view the violation of the Special Warrants and overdraft facility and the sleight of hand way government turned the excess of the overdraft limit into an illegal government loan? This is not a laughing matter, because it relates to the violation of both statutory law and the constitution. Given a chance, this government may be inclined to do as it pleases. This the people of SVG must not allow.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

15 replies on “Explosive outtakes from Budget Debate”

  1. Master's Student says:

    No-One is above the law! This is corruption and embezzlement to the highest degree! Time to ACTIVATE AND APPLY THE RULE OF LAW! WE NEED NEW LEADERS TO WATCH OVER US! NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM!

    #justice2020
    #revelations2020
    #DEMOCRACYDIESINDARKNESS

  2. Thank you JOMO for your very pertinent observation. Indeed you have rightly ask this burning question;

    “How are we to view the violation of the Special Warrants and overdraft facility and the sleight of hand way government turned the excess of the overdraft limit into an illegal government loan”?

    And further, you equally rightly also state; “This is not a laughing matter, because it relates to the violation of both statutory law and the constitution. Given a chance, this government may be inclined to do as it pleases. This the people of SVG must not allow”.

    https://www.iwnsvg.com/2020/02/12/govt-breaks-finance-law-hides-it-with-another-illegality-friday/

    But let us face it JOMO, dictatorships by their very nature, are “a law onto themselves”, and with the Gonsalves here having appointed themselves as our sovereign dictators, and with all of the divine rights of sovereigns’ there would appear to be very little Vincentians can do at the moment, since so many individuals here are both dunce and extremely timid.

    As previously stated Vincentians have sleepwalked themselves back into plantation life and into slavery too once more, and have only themselves to blame for this unfolding tragedy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U11G7aqqsmk

    Our democracy dear fellow, was always under great peril from the moment the Gonsalves extended family went into office.

  3. So Jomo as a lawyer what do you advise us the electorate to do. Can they be impeached, can they be removed from office, can they be prosecuted in any way for committing offences both under Acts and the Constitution. What is the answer Jomo, you tell us.

  4. Any truthful human in SVG knows that Ralph Gonsalves is very bad in economics. His labour party has destroyed labour in SVG. He does exactly the wrong things when it comes to implementing policy that makes the country wealthier. His policy of continuing to borrow, spend raise taxes makes the country poorer. Raising taxes makes our goods and services more expensive and not only do people buy less and their ability to buy becomes weaker, it also decreases the likelihood of us exporting goods and services because it makes them more expensive.
    It is Ralph’s love of borrowing, spending and then taxing the people that makes us all poor but government rich.

    He believes that when he spends, it makes him look like he has done well, at making the country rich when in fact he is making us and eventually the entire country poorer.
    There are so many doltish in SVG that cannot see the connection between debt, spending and taxes, Ralph Gonsalves knows this and thus he will continue to fool these people into another election and will make us continue to soon become the poorest nation in the Caribbean.

  5. In the Midrash Rabbah, c. 4th–5th century, non-legalistic exegetical texts in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism, this saying is found that says. “In the street of the totally blind, the one-eyed man is called clear-sighted, and the infant is called a scholar”.

    Recently in certain quarters in SVG, there could be found a widely held opinion, and one that is being exploited by the Gonsalves extended family here. This opinion in its simplest form as expressed states that there are no Vincentians here that is as clever as the Gonsalves extended family.

    Needless to say, the first time I encountered that opinion I was rather flummoxed and wanted to know where such a ridiculously untested opinion had originated. I was not at all surprised to learn that it had originated from within the Gonsalves lead Unity Labour Party here.

    For good measure I recalled Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, 28 October 1466- 12 July 1536, a Dutch philosopher and Catholic scholar who had this to say, quote “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” This saying could not be truer than in SVG, where good education is so difficult to come by, and where dunce individuals predominates and where the Gonsalves rules us as royals in residence. Strutting their stuff and doing as they so please.

    So when JOMO writes here of the recent budget debate that, “The biggest story was that the government had routinely violated statutory law and the constitution by not adhering to the legal demands relating to overdraft limits” the same draws little reaction, as the Gonsalves always do as they like whenever they like. So what’s new there?

    Statements by JOMO such as this, “over the last decade, the government borrowed way above the EC$50 million limit. In 2014, the government borrowed as much as EC$83 million” passes relatives unnoticed by the majority Vincentians. Why? Because they are not educationally equipped to deal with the implications of such governmental actions.

    Moreover, when JOMO writes, “Of critical importance is that whenever the government exceeded its overdraft limits, it never seeks Parliament’s approval for the excess borrowing. But that was not all. The government compounded its illegal, unconstitutional actions by engaging in another illegality. It created an Accountant General Loan at the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and hid the entire transaction from the parliament and by extension the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines”. Ha, ha, ha!

    He might just as well had written; “The royals exceeded their Bank account limit”! Vincentians for their part do not take on board one bit, the constitutional implications of that nor the legal ramifications pertaining to the democratic mandate of the Gonsalves’s government.

    So that when JOMO further writes; “Fundamentally, these acts are in clear violation of the Finance Administration Act and by extension our nation’s constitution”. Who here cares about that? What does it all means to the mass here? It all amounts to nothing and the Gonsalves knows that too.

    JOMO writes “not once did he (Ralph Gonsalves) touch the issue of illegal borrowing allegations hurled at the government by the opposition leader”. And Ralph Gonsalves knows too well that he did not have to even be bothered. After all, he has the power to do as he so pleases, the mass are far too dunce to care.

    JOMO there also tells us that, “In his closing address on the 2020 budget, Finance minister Camillo Gonsalves failed to explain, rationalize, apologize for or refute the charges regarding the government’s illegal actions and fiscal irresponsibility”.

    Indeed there for true, the young Gonsalves was confirming that he resembles the parents in every character and appearance, and he was indeed “a chip off the old block”! He need not explain himself to the plebs sitting before him! He is the prince after all!

    In his historical account to us JOMO writes that, “This is not the first time the government was found to be acting outside of the law. This is not the first time the government acts as though it will not be constrained by the law”. Ah ha, so the Gonsalves like the rest of us, should act within the confines of the Law, but who will indeed tell them that? Who has the power to get them to comply? Not JOMO for sure!

    In proposing the question that, “If government could so willy-nilly disregard legal requirements, are there other illegal actions that have not yet been disclosed?” In answering JOMO’s question, one would say that by their past and present behaviour, there would appear to be a mammoth number of “other illegal actions” that remains. But what are Laws to dictators if not hindrances to their whims?

    There was a time in the recent past before the coming of Ralph Gonsalves to office, when Vincentian democracy had a future and we held thought of being free of slavery. Those days have since past. Nevertheless, JOMO here tells us what he thinks ought to be taking place, but is not under the Gonsalves; “Every 5 years, we go to the polls and elect a government. Those elected swore to uphold the laws and to conduct public affairs in keeping with the laws”. Sorry JOMO that is what suppose to happen.

    And yes JOMO, that ideal went out once the Gonsalves took hold of our Vincentian democracy, and replaced it with this sham form of “elected royalty” tinged with a new form of Stalinist dictatorship.

    Being the speaker of the Parliament, JOMO reminds us that “The law clearly requires the government to seek parliamentary approval by resolution or other legal acts. To do as it did, clearly fly in the face of the requirements of good governance best practice of transparency and accountability”. But really JOMO, our democracy did not suddenly died this month! These actions of the Gonsalves have been taking place for near on twenty years.

    The man JOMO now ask “How are we to view the violation of the Special Warrants and overdraft facility and the sleight of hand way government turned the excess of the overdraft limit into an illegal government loan”? How indeed JOMO, are we to get our pitchforks out and march on parliament building? If both you and the other parliamentarians are powerless to act, we the plebs are sure in a worst position.

    JOMO ends by drawing our attention to the seriousness of the illegal actions taken by the Gonsalves in saying that “This is not a laughing matter, because it relates to the violation of both statutory law and the constitution. Given a chance, this government may be inclined to do as it pleases. This the people of SVG must not allow”. But again JOMO, the actions has already taken place. The king and his prince have now left the building too and all that remains now for the plebs to do, is just to clean up the floor. Or institute an enquiry as was with the case of “The Ceausescu’s JOMO!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhK7Gk68y24

    1989 – Romania – Dictator Nicolae & Elena Ceaușescu Executed by Firing Squad on X’mas Day – 25/12/89

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkZZWcecGik

  6. Jomo, […] You know very well what you are doing just as you knew what you were doing the day you betrayed the Vincentian people. Even though you’re pretending otherwise you continue to […]. Who could believe anything out of your backstabbing mouth? Have you payed your taxes?

  7. If only you had the insight as BEVERLY dear AL, then perhaps you too would see why in this instance the man Jomo Sanga Thomas is worthy of our commendations.

    Give thanks when thanks is due, after all freedom from the new servitude of the Gonsalves, is our ultimate objective.

    1. so you are telling us Ralph as bad as you may portray him , he has never done one ounce of good in this country that deserves some thanks …..

  8. To say that one should balance one’s bad with one’s good deeds AL is neither very wise nor moral for sure. Moreover, when one is confronted with a tyrant it is hard to say how that tyranny should be balanced with their good works, if any.

    Nevertheless, in reviewing the individual’s plight as seen in SVG, as a result of our having this tyrannical ruler over ushere in SVG.

    One see a tyrannical rule by a nefarious selfish dictator, while many Vincentians, because of their own grinding poverty and personal greed, have found themselves trading national freedom for sacks of cement and the likes. Just how does one assess the competing moral predicament and eventual minefield there?

    To quote William Shakespeare, in his work Julius Caesar.
    “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

  9. To say that one should balance a man’s bad with the man’s good deeds AL is neither very wise nor moral for sure. Moreover, when one is confronted with a tyrant it is hard to say how that tyranny could be balanced with their good works, if any.

    Nevertheless, in reviewing the individual’s plight as seen in SVG, as a result of our having this tyrannical ruler here over us in SVG.

    One see a tyrannical rule by a nefarious selfish dictator, and many Vincentians, because of their own grinding poverty and personal greed, have found themselves trading national freedom for sacks of cement and the likes. Just how does one assess the competing moral predicament and eventual minefield?

    To quote William Shakespeare, in his work Julius Caesar.
    “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

  10. Jomo, I will repeat Green’s question: Is there something that can be done to this government or the folks who committed this crime. Can the opposition take the issue to a higher court for actions against this government and any future government? The NDP has several lawyers on its side, so can they come-up with some action to get this issue before a judge? This cannot be left hanging in the winds, something has to be done.

Comments are closed.