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Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has once again vowed to go after a number of “suspicious undertakings” by the previous government.
Chastanet made the announcement on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, several minutes into his Budget Address for the financial year 2018-2019.
The prime minister said one of the promises he made during the last general elections was to introduce “real transparency and accountability” to government affairs, and this is a promise he intends to honour.
He said previous administrations may have made similar promises, but after 15 years it became quite clear that their promises were “just words, words, words, empty words”.
Chastanet said “business as usual” was killing the country.
“Mr. Speaker, shortly after the June 6 general elections, I promised Saint Lucians that governance under my stewardship would no longer be business as usual; that our country was sick and dying from business as usual. That we would put an end to business as usual—or die trying,” he said.
The prime minister added: “It is also true that you cannot get a broken vehicle moving again until you have discovered precisely why it stalled in the first place. A doctor cannot usefully prescribe for a sick patient until he has thoroughly examined that patient. Random remedies, like random government policies, are doomed to deliver unpredictable consequences—from which, often, there is no return.”
At the previous sitting of the House, Chastanet had reminded his Opposition colleagues that investigations are ongoing into the Juffali, St. Jude’s Hospital project, and the “Minister’s Account” matters.
“As I say, Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of our last sitting, I repeated my party’s election pledge to get to the bottom of a number of suspicious undertakings by our predecessors; undertakings that were neither transparent nor accounted for,” said.
Chastanet said it appeared in some cases that “deliberate attempts were made to cover tracks and make investigation pointless”. But he said his government “blocked an escape route in April 2017” by amending the Crown Proceedings Act on the recommendation of the 2009 Ramsahoye Commission.
He said: “The amendment now allows for the recovery of public funds, unencumbered by a statute of limitations. Perhaps coincidentally, Mr. Speaker, at the time of the amendment members on the other side chose to absent themselves from the House.”
But the amendment to the Crown Proceedings Act was only the beginning, Chastanet said in his Budget Address.
“There is still a lot of blinding smoke to be cleared from around a number of public concerns, including how we became embroiled in the marital affairs of a Saudi billionaire, and what induced a former prime minister to partner with American oil speculator notorious for his business practices. We must clear the suffocating smoke that conceals the truth about Messrs Walid Juffali, Jack Grynberg, Robert Lindquist, St. Jude Hospital and the infamous ‘Minister’s Account’.”
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