Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has blamed “an administrative deficiency” — and not the inability to pay — as the main reason for St. Lucia losing its voting rights at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly due to arrears in the payment of its dues.
The prime minister made the disclosure while responding to a question from a member of the audience at a town hall meeting with St. Lucians in Toronto, Canada on Sunday, March 10.
According to reports, there is an ongoing debate on Facebook in which the prime minister and government are being accused of mixing priorities. A reference was made to the hospital bill versus dues to the United Nations.
St. Lucia reportedly owed at least US$35,727 (EC$96,462.9). Under Article 19 of the UN Charter, a member state in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote. An exception is allowed if the member state can show that conditions beyond its control contributed to this inability to pay.
Dr. Anthony explained that the issue of payment of dues to the United Nations was not one where the government of St. Lucia was unable to pay, but rather an administrative deficiency within the ministry which may have led to the embarrassment. He stated that this is not an uncommon issue but a greater effort will be made to address it.
The main opposition United Workers Party has since called for the resignation of St. Lucia’s UN Ambassador Menissa Rambally.
In response to issues raised regarding the payment of medical bills for treatment received at La Meynard hospital in Martinique for Press Secretary Jadia Jn. Pierre-Emmanuel, the prime minister explained that this is not unprecedented.
The prime minister explained that, for example, the very first bill he had to deal with as prime minister, was one for about $700, 000 (the exact figure subject to correction) for a female police officer who was involved in a vehicular accident.
Dr. Anthony noted that the then health minister made the decision to pay without the knowledge of Cabinet.
In the case of the press secretary, a decision was made to proceed with the decision to pursue treatment in Martinique after it was discovered that the issue could not be diagnosed in St. Lucia. The prime minister stated that it is unacceptable the way this matter has been handled, where a photograph of the press secretary on the hospital bed was placed on Facebook.
The prime minister noted that assistance has been provided to citizens in the past and would love to be in a better position to provide greater assistance to St. Lucians in the future.
Among other issues raised at the meeting included:
Introduction of visas
Ongoing wage negotiations
Initiatives to reduce unemployment
Processing of birth certificates and passports
The need to tap into the innovation of the Diaspora
Addressing the absence of foreign direct investment
The need to revamp the agricultural sector