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Former president of the Caribbean Development Bank, Hyginus “Gene" Leon, left, and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves.
Former president of the Caribbean Development Bank, Hyginus “Gene” Leon, left, and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves.

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he has been informed that “a couple of persons in the bureaucracy” at the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) are saying “nobody should pay attention” to his May 2, 2024 letter in which he criticised the approach taken to remove the bank’s president, Hyginus “Gene” Leon.

Gonsalves, in his five-page letter sent to the chairman of the CDB Board of Governors, Ahmed Hussen, who is also Canada’s Minister of International Development, had also described Leon as “a distinguished son of our Caribbean civilisation from St. Lucia”.

Gonsalves was critical of the “flimsy” nature of the evidence presented in the investigator’s report that ultimately led to Leon submitting his resignation effective May 4, and suggested that the region’s premier financial institution seek to reach an amicable settlement on the matter.

“It certainly does not suit the Bank to have its folly forensically examined in excruciating detail in the robust legal system in Barbados or elsewhere. I do not have to read and spell for the Governors of the Bank: the Former President Mr. Leon, has been injured, and he has suffered loss and damage: certain things flow inexorably from all this. The Bank ought to address this with the same urgency with which it acted at the start of this awful saga: and the Bank ought to act with a large generosity of spirit,” he wrote.

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Speaking on the state-owned NBC Radio, Gonsalves said he was aware that his letter to the CDB governors, which was also copied to regional leaders and the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), had been “clearly leaked”.

He told radio listeners that he had no intention of discussing the letter now, “as the Latin scholars say, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.”

But he said he wanted to say something about the issue, adding “it has come to my attention. I don’t know how truthful it is, somebody texted me, said they were talking to a couple of persons in the bureaucracy at the CDB who said to them nobody should pay any attention to the letter that Ralph has written because he’s not a member of the Board of Governors”.

Gonsalves acknowledged that he is not a CDB governor, but that “you have two governors appointed by the particular government to represent their country. Some are prime ministers who are ministers of finance.

“There’s no stipulation as to who should go, it’s whom the government decides to send,” he said, noting that his son Camilo Gonsalves, who is also the Minister of Finance is the island’s governor on the Board of Governors of the CDB.

“Now, I can, while I’m talking to you here today, and those persons, if the report is true from a couple of persons within the bank’s bureaucracy, because they probably don’t like the content. Well, those comments would tell me they don’t like the contents of the letter.

“And I don’t know if any of them were engaged with anything in this matter. But while I’m talking here, which I will not do, but I can, as Prime Minister, say ‘Angie (Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister) will you prepare a letter for me and write the bank to tell them as of this morning Camillo is removed as a governor and I am the Governor and I will attend the next meeting”.

Gonsalves told the radio programme that he would not do so because the finance minister “can represent the position of the government, which is the position which is articulated in this letter, maybe better than me.

“And I know that at the last meeting of the Board of Governors, he represented the position very well and will undoubtedly do so again with eloquence and firmness and clarity and perhaps in language, which I myself may not be able to muster.”

Gonsalves said that “is the same kind of narrow-mindedness, if true, why we got here in the first place with this particular dissonance between the President and the bank.

“Let me state for clarity and for completeness, such persons in the bank who would have made adverse comments about the letter privately, if those reports are true, would not include the vice president of the bank who is a splendid professional, a Vincentian.

“I have known him since he’s a boy. I’ve seen him grow into being one of the top professionals in his field, not just in the Caribbean.

“More than that, he’s not interested in being the president of the bank. So people go want to say what they want to say but I think I must defend my friend, my Vincentian brother, not only because he’s my friend and a Vincentian brother, but I know his quality and I know his professionalism.”

Gonsalves said he was certain that Vincentians would appreciate him saying what he has been saying on the radio programme.

“But at the same time, I made the point. If the reports that I received that you have this or that to person in the bureaucracy — I do not what level — want to run off their mouth like this, about the letter written by the Prime Minister that don’t go down that path of folly. Just pull up your brakes, pull up your brakes, pull up your brakes.

“Of course, I’ve received from persons who matter in the region high praise for the letter. And I’m hoping that all those concerned will follow the advice that I’ve tendered in this particular letter,” Gonsalves added.

Earlier this week, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre blamed a “conspiracy” for the removal of Leon.

“I want to put on record St. Lucia’s full support for the work that Gene Leon did at the Caribbean Development Bank and to regret that a conspiracy, and I make no bones about it and this is not personal to anybody, to any function to the bank, a conspiracy is what caused Gene Leon to resign,” Pierre said in a six-minute statement to the St. Lucia Parliament during a debate on a financial issue.

“We must stop treating our people like that based on conditions or based on circumstances that are foreign to us Mr. Speaker. What that means is anybody, any three people on the board can walk into an office, the precedent has been set to let the president go home,” he said, adding “this is wrong”.

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1 Comment

  1. Ralph, all the praise you just gave Camillo in this news story has to be a farce because I’m sure just a couple of weeks ago, you were boasting of having the youngest head in the party. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

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