A political tussle with probable dire legal consequences is brewing between two opposing rivals over allegations of purported ‘shady dealings’ with a former foreign investor.
Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet has leveled accusations against Leader of Government Business and Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire, insinuating that Hilaire had signed into a joint bank account with former (now deceased) IMO Representative Ambassador Wahlid Juffali.
On Tuesday, a heated debate ensued at the sitting of parliament, during ongoing discussions on the Special Prosecutors bill whereby Chastanet also claimed that he has documents to substantiate his allegations and , if necessary, he would make it available as a ‘document’ to legislators in the Lower House of Assembly.
Consequently, Hilaire has vowed to take Chastanet before the House Privileges Committee.
“I have not had a joint account with anybody in my life,” said Hilaire, as he interjected to oppose the statement during Tuesday’s house sitting. “not my ex-wife, not my children, nobody …and I will refer that to the Privileges Committee. He will have to present evidence in this House.”
When House Speaker Claudius Francis asked whether the Micoud South MP could validate the accusations or withdraw the statement, Chastanet replied: “I stand by my statement …because the statement is substantiated in an audit by the Audit Department.”
The political brawl continued unabated, with Chastanet hinting at more ‘damning information’ with likely legal implications.
“Can the honourable member provide evidence of what he is saying …because after the beating (at the polls) he got, he is trying to be nasty. If you are accusing, can you provide evidence making it a document of the House that there was a joint account, and that monies were transferred to personal accounts alleging (that) I might be involved,” Hilaire retorted, in his defense.
“Mr. Speaker …I will be happy to send you the documents by tomorrow (Wednesday), that’s not a problem. I’m happy to send you the documents…of the account numbers, the signatures on the account numbers and everything else,” said Chastanet.
Chastanet has issued what has been termed ‘derogatory statements’ that has so far incensed the ire of the Castries South MP.
However, Hilaire has vehemently denied these accusations and hence the reason why, he (Hilaire) has taken action to bring the Micoud South MP before the House Privileges Committee for allegedly misleading the House.
At a press conference, on Wednesday, Chastanet told reporters that he had provided the Speaker of the House with documentation. “I have already provided the Speaker a letter from the Auditor General …,” said Chastanet.
In latter developments on this matter, on Thursday, Francis said he was alarmed over the opposition leader’s claims of presenting the Speaker of the House with documents that substantiate the alleged accusations.
“I was surprised at the public disclosure of documents having been sent to me, for among other reasons, the fact that the Speaker clearly cannot respond definitively, one way or the other to the press about any such document sent by him (Chastanet),’ Francis said.
Francis added, “To go further to say that they support the allegations is even more remarkable as that would be a determination by the Speaker, after having reviewed the documents.”
Meanwhile, Hilaire continues to strongly refute the accusations.
Citing the serious legal implications pertaining to this latter issue, Francis stated: “That having been made public, I can confirm having received document from the member for Micoud South. I cannot make a public pronouncement on whether or not the documents received by me in any form or fashion support what the member said in the House of Assembly.”
Francis said he will appraise the opposition leader of his findings. “That is a determination that I have to make, and I will be writing to the member by this afternoon (Thursday) advising what my findings are and the way forward, thereafter, ” he declared.
This is not the first time these two opposing politicians had been involved in issues with legal ramifications. The last one was over a vehicle imported by Hilaire into Saint Lucia during his term as Saint Lucia’s High Commissioner in London in what has been termed the Rovergate Saga.