Parliament convened on Tuesday, June 27 as the United Workers Party (UWP) administration sought to get consideration and approval for three motions they brought to the House.
Two of those were the raising of $103 million to finance the 2017-2018 budget and $262 million for debt refinancing.
Also on the cards was an amendment to Schedule Three of the Value Added Tax Act.
While these matters were among the primary reasons for the sitting, the House debate seemed to take another turn, as there were hours of deliberations and back and forth between opposing sides following accusations of impropriety against former sports minister and Member for Dennery North, Shawn Edward.
Over the last few months there has been talk of Edward’s alleged use of National Lotteries Authority (NLA) funds through what was described as a “minister’s account”.
At a parliament sitting earlier this year, Member for Castries Southeast Guy Joseph had cited minutes of the NLA’s 148th board meeting, held on November 16, 2012, in which it stated: “All allocations of NLA funds . . . the next step would then be developing a formula that would assist in regularising the amount in the minister’s account.”
Another quote he had read to the House was: “It is suggested that the disbursement into the minister’s accounts . . . did not reflect the amount requested. This may have been a communication error.”
At the time, Edward had stood in his own defense, denying that such an account ever existed.
“The member is imputing improper motives when he suggests there’s an account in the minister’s name. When I attempted to address that matter earlier on, I made it categorically clear that there is no account, and there is no record to substantiate in any bank in Saint Lucia that there is an account in the name of the National Lotteries Authority, or any of the agencies that were under my ministerial watch, called a minister’s account,” Edward had stated.
Tuesday’s several hour-long-discussion became heated with a number of interruptions from both sides after the issue was raised. Joseph and Anse La Raye member Dominic Fedee asked questions about the alleged “minister’s account.”
While responding to Joseph’s accusations, Edward called him a “political hitman.” This was later withdrawn after a ruling by Speaker of the House Leonne Theodore-John that it was offensive language, in support of a request from Member for Gros lset Lenard Montoute.
Moreover, Edward in further defending his name, called on UWP members to prove “when was the account set up? What was the purpose of that account being set up?”
“That is very easy to verify. All you have to do is to go to the commercial banks, in the case of lotteries, two of them -the Scotiabank and the Bank of St. Lucia – and it was set up during the reign of the member for Gros Islet,” Edward told the House.
“…Look at the opening dates of the accounts. And I want you to come in this honourable House and show me one account that was set up at any bank when I was the minister for youth development and sports,” he said forcefully.
The House speaker responded to Edward comments by stating: “What he (the opposition member) did, he stuck to a path, to show a result… He articulated his position to show where it is he was going and so proved… from where he is standing and with the documents quoted… there was an impropriety on your part in the administration of National Lotteries funds.”
To this, Edward responded by stating that the opposition member’s language was offensive since he referred to him as being guilty of impropriety, asking that it should be withdraw.
“The member cannot be allowed to stand here and refer to me of being guilty of impropriety. That is more than debating a matter that is before us. That is an attack on my character and my reputation…” Edward said.
Deliberations continued on this topic for hours until a resolution was eventually passed.