Economic Development Minister, Guy Joseph, Monday launched a scathing attack on opposition leader, Philip J. Pierre.
“I say the opposition leader is just a fool. That’s what he is,” Joseph declared at a pre cabinet news conference.
It’s the latest salvo in the PAJOAH letter controversy.
Pierre last week urged Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, to relieve Joseph of his responsibility for Economic Development over a letter in the public domain from Joseph’s ministry “confirming the direct award of over $162M worth of contracts without Parliament approval.”
The opposition leader recalled that he had called on the Prime Minister to recognize the seriousness of the letter since Guy Joseph was alleged to have signed it.
“I informed the Prime Minister that if the signature was authentic then this was a rather serious matter and Guy Joseph should be disciplined for gross misbehaviour in public office,” Pierre told a news conference last week, during which he called for Joseph’s removal.
In response, Joseph observed that Pierre was part of the labour party administration that signed the Rochamel deal and was responsible for the Grynberg matter that is costing Saint Lucia millions of dollars.
The Minister made clear that he was not suggesting that two wrongs make a matter right or if he did something wrong, they had done the same.
“If you want to speak with any moral authority on any matter you must stand as an example of having stood for some principle at some point in time in your life and if you could not have done that, then why do you want to tell other people what to do?” He declared.
Joseph made reference to the ‘comfort’ letter written under the former labour administration to developer, Robert Ainsworth.
The developer had proposed to purchase Le Paradis Hotel and acquire some 1000 acres of land by lease or purchase in the “south” of the island to establish a pharmaceutical industry.
“Even with a cabinet agreement – you take what has happened with the sulphur springs. Do you know that with all the discussions we are having and with all the funds being put in by the World Bank for geothermal exploration, that UNEP has a contract that was entered into by the previous government and we are still unable to get out of this contractual arrangement to take geothermal exploration to the next level?” Joseph stated.
He asserted that it was foolish to indicate that a letter constitutes a contractual agreement.
The Minister said Pierre was part of the labour administration when the decisions were being made and remained mute.
“I have called for the (Robert Lindquist) report – maybe that’s the grounds on which he needs to get me to resign – bring out the Robert Lindquist report; show all the accusations that were made about corruption because you paid three million dollars to investigate me. Bring out the report. Maybe that report might have things that then he can ask me to resign, ” Joseph told Monday’s news conference.
“You mean in this day and age a man who stood as Minister of Tourism, Trade, Industry, Commerce, Minister of Infrastructure, Ports – declared Deputy Prime Minister, does not know the procurement guidelines for contracts in Saint Lucia? Does not now that ministers cannot issue contracts?” The Minister said of the leader of the opposition.
According to Joseph, it is foolish to suggest that a letter constitutes a contractual agreement.
“Nobody, not even the Prime Minister, can commit the government to a guarantee until it goes to parliament, so how can a minister do that?” He asked.
Joseph said he could not account for the letter being circulated on social media, could not say that he wrote it and does not know whether it is a forgery.
” I don’t know how it got there. I cannot tell you that this is the letter that I wrote,” the minister stated.