ALMOST two years after his death, Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali and the issues surrounding his appointment as St. Lucia’s Permanent Representative on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is still a subject of interest in the country, still loudly spoken of in parliament and in law courts.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet last week in the House of Assembly promised to investigate the Labour MP Ernest Hilaire who has filed a Jufalli-connected defamation case against the prime minister.
Hilaire, at a press conference Wednesday, said he had no choice but to file the lawsuit against Chastanet whom, after being told not to continue with certain allegations of vilification of the Castries South MP, continued to do so long after the 2016 elections, when Chastanet was alleged to have first made slanderous statements about Hilaire.
The prime minister’s attack on Hilaire continued at the last House sitting when, in response to questions raised by Hilaire, Chastanet said Hilaire should stay away from the Juffali matter as he was the chief architect behind the Juffali controversy.
Hilaire says he believes the prime minister attacked him in parliament for three reasons: to embarrass him in an effort to shut him up because of the tough questions he had been asking (and he pledged he will continue to ask) about the Citizenship by Investment Programme under the Chastanet administration; to cover up the promised investigations he said he would conduct in matters pertaining to some of his ministers (something he has yet to do); and to distract from the criticism that was leveled at the budget he delivered last week, as the opposition exposed all the budget’s flaws and deficiencies.
On the matter of the Juffali investigation promised by the prime minister, Hilaire had this to say: “Let me say to the prime minister that he has just started to announce investigations. In fact, he should be prepared to have one thousand million investigations on me, because I will be asking him1,000 million hard questions.”
The Castries South representative said he will not let-up in asking the hard questions and holding the government to account for their actions.
“I am ready for all his (the prime minister’s) investigations, because his attempt is to be vindictive and to break me,” Hilaire said.
On the matter of the defamation case he filed against the prime minister, Hilaire said he is waiting for his day in court.
However, the prime minister said that Hilaire was brazen to take him to court on a defamation case in which Hilaire’s lawyers have requested postponements three times.
Hilaire Wednesday denied requesting the postponement of the case saying that not only was this false but can easily be proven to be untrue.
“The matter was never adjourned at my request. I have been to court the prime minister has never been there. I want to encourage him (prime minister) to keep talking about the Juffali matter,” Hilaire said.