Prime Minister Allen Chastantet has reminded his political opposition members that investigations are still ongoing into the incomplete St. Jude Hospital project, the ‘Minister’s Account’, and the Juffali matter.
Chastanet made the announcement during the sitting of the House last week.
He said: “So I certainly want to say that there are some investigations that are ongoing: one is in the St. Jude’s. We also have an ongoing investigation, Mr Speaker, into the ‘Minister’s Account’ in terms of what took place there. And we also have an investigation taking place into the Juffali matter. So, hopefully, those pieces of information will come out and we will see where that goes.”
Government officials said last year that the new St. Jude Hospital had already sucked up $118 million and is just 50 percent complete, following an audit of the project. Windowless and poorly ventilated recovery rooms, small A&E (accident and emergency) entrances, a maze of dark swirly corridors, bumpy ramps and low-lying ceilings were some of the sights that greeted journalists on a walk-through of the St. Jude Hospital construction site in September 2017.
St. Jude Hospital patients and services have been housed at George Odlum stadium since 2009 after a fire destroyed the main hospital structure. Staff and patients face difficult conditions at a facility that itself is falling apart.
The so-called ‘Minister’s Account saga involves former youth and sports minister and Dennery North MP, Shawn Edward, who has been criticised and questioned by government officials for his alleged mishandling of funds disbursement for sports development from the National Lotteries Authority. Edward has denied any wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a political witch hunt.
The Juffali matter involves the late Dr. Walid Juffali, a Saudi billionaire heir and businessman, who was appointed St. Lucia’s permanent representative to the International Maritime Organisation in April 2014 several months after a visit to Saint Lucia. His post became controversial during a bitter divorce battle in which the UK Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s dismissal of his legal immunity, but ruled that his immunity was not relevant to the divorce claim, which it allowed to proceed.
At the House sitting last week, Prime Minister Chastanet mentioned that Castries South MP, Dr. Ernest Hilaire was the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at the time.
“The member from Castries South also said in an interview that he had with Timothy Poleon …. He said that Dr. Juffali needed the immunity because he was not living in the UK. But what’s interesting is when the courts finally ruled, the courts finally ruled that the immunity did not apply to him because he had homes and was a resident of the UK for years. So you see there’s a conflict. So we know that Dr. Juffali was appointed in order to get his immunity,” Chastanet said.
The prime minister added: “The members on the other side are very quick to say how there is nepotism and all kinds of stuff that takes place. Dr. Hilaire appointed a CEO … The member for Castries South appointed a CEO who was the wife of his best friend. That’s who she was: wife of his best friend… Yeah, but it wasn’t for that reason she was appointed. She was appointed because she was the wife of his best friend. And she had no experience in CIP, but they made her the CEO of the CIP. ”
Chastanet: “The situation here now is we have unearthed a lot of information. And certainly we are not behaving like how the other side would. We have passed on all the information to the relevant authorities and there is an investigation, an ongoing investigation, and I am certainly not interfering in the investigation. And I am hoping to see how it concludes. But I just want to put the Member of Castries South on notice, that I really don’t take his advice. I think that he has completely discredited himself when it comes to CIP. He has certainly had the opportunity to do things the right way, and I have no interest in listening to what he has to say on this matter.”