The main Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has said Government Minister Alva Baptiste is unfit for the acting prime minister appointment because he is currently embroiled in a “messy legal matter” associated with outstanding payments for child support and maintenance.
However, calling it “political mischief” Minister Baptiste responded late Thursday through his attorney, saying “he adequately maintains and supports his child” and that “the legal issues associated with the matter before the court are unresolved and are subjudicae and scheduled for hearing shortly”.
Baptiste, the minister of external affairs, international trade and civil aviation, was appointed acting prime minister when Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony left the country yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 21 to attend the 56th meeting of the OECS Authority in Roseau, Dominica from Nov. 22-23.
In a statement released today, the UWP said it assumed that Baptiste’s appointment was made due to the ill-health of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Port Services, Philip J. Pierre, who has been admitted to Tapion Hospital for observation following complaints of being unwell.
“The UWP and many Saint Lucians questions the soundness of this decision given that the said minster is currently embroiled in a messy legal matter associated to outstanding payments for child support and maintenance,” the UWP said.
It further stated: “The minister in question now appointed acting prime minister, appeared in the High Court on Tuesday of this week to deal with ancillary relief related to child support and maintenance payments. The United Workers Party is of the view that in view of these pending legal matters, which pose serious questions against the integrity of the minister, that it is poor judgement on the part of the prime minister to have appointed Mr. Baptiste to act in the highest political office of the land.
“We continue to monitor developments surrounding this serious legal matter involving the minister of external affairs. The UWP calls on Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and his Cabinet of Ministers to display moral courage and leadership by calling on their colleague to resolve this longstanding matter which calls into question his integrity, that of his office as a minister of government and threatens to undermine the integrity of the government and people of St Lucia,” the political party concluded.
The UWP’s statement was accompanied by a court document, entitled “Ancillary Relief Order”, from the High Court of Justice (Divorce) dated January 26, 2012 and entered in on May 14, 2012.
The court ordered Baptiste to pay Monica Wendelyn Baptiste a “lump sum of $2,000 to cover previous unpaid expenses for special soaps and other medication for the minor child” on or before February 29, 2012.
Baptiste is also ordered to pay Monica Baptiste “$600 in addition to the monthly maintenance due and payable pursuant to the order of Wilkinson J dated Sept. 23, 2010 to bring arrears of maintenance up to date”.
The court also increased the “interim maintenance of the minor child” to $1,200 which is to be paid from the end of February 2012 until further order from the court.
According to the court document, the matter was adjourned to June 5, 2012 for report; the respondent (Baptiste) was “warded costs of the two hearings for the week in the sum of $750”.
But Minister Baptiste has branded the UWP press release as “political mischief”.
“The press release maliciously and unfairly seeks to defame the honourable acting prime minister. Instructions have been issued to his attorneys to institute the appropriate action. The acting prime minister states categorically that he adequately maintains and supports his child. The legal issues associated with the matter before the court are unresolved and are subjudicae and scheduled for hearing shortly.
“The unfair and inaccurate publication of this private legal matter has caused the acting prime minister substantial damage to his reputation and injury to his feelings,” Baptiste said in a statement circulated by the government press secretary on behalf of his lawyers, Peter I Foster and Associates.
Please like our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/stlucianewsonline for instant updates when stories are published here.