By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts -- Deputy premier of Nevis Mark Brantley has alleged that the St Kitts-Nevis Anguilla National Bank refused to honour 1,800 civil servants salary cheques last week unless the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) signed over land to the bank in a land for debt swap.
Deputy Premier Mark Brantley
The NIA had to grapple with the crisis of being unable to pay its workers last Wednesday as the National Bank refused to honour salary checks. Officials from the bank have not yet spoken on the issue. It is expected that NIA officials and the bank will resume meeting on the issue on Tuesday after an initial meeting on Friday.
As part of its debt restructuring exercise of the federal government, land held by the Bank as collateral has been earmarked for sale to repay the government’s debt to the bank. But the federal opposition, of which Brantley is the leader, has been against the move, arguing that its land is the patrimony of the people and that locals will be unable to afford purchasing these lands, which eventually would be bought by foreign interests.
Speaking on WINN FM’s Voices programme on Thursday, Brantley alleged that persons on the bank’s board with political motives are behind this situation. However, a spokesperson for the ruling St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, Austin Edinborough, on WINN FM’s Inside the News on Saturday laid the blame at the feet of the NIA.
While both Brantley and Nevis Premier Vance Amory alleged that the bank was being used as a political weapon against the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM)-led administration, Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas said that Nevis government is responsible for paying salaries and the federal government would assist where it could.
Meanwhile, Team Unity, the opposition coalition in St Kitts and Nevis, issued a statement accusing the Douglas government of “doing everything possible to undermine and embarrass the duly elected Nevis Island Administration.”
According to Team Unity:
Critical budgetary support provided by the federal government to the previous Nevis administration prior to the last election in Nevis in January 2013, was denied the new CCM administration without explanation.
In June 2013, the Douglas administration, for the first time ever, refused to provide a routine loan guarantee for Treasury Bills issued in Nevis.
Some $2 billion has been raised so far through the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program and is under the control of Douglas. Whilst hundreds of millions have been spent in St Kitts to date, the people of Nevis have to beg and borrow to get a mere pittance from the proceeds of the sale of St Kitts and Nevis passports.
The Douglas administration has steadfastly refused to fulfill its duty to the people of Nevis by facilitating an independent investigation into the fire that destroyed the Nevis Treasury, Inland Revenue and VAT departments more than four months ago.
“Those are but a few clear examples of the deliberate, callous and calculated actions taken by the illegitimate Douglas administration to sabotage the CCM administration, regardless of the pain and suffering inflicted upon the people of Nevis,” Team Unity said in its statement.
On Friday, Douglas said he would, as prime minister, continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the people of St Kitts and the people of Nevis.
WINN FM contributed to this report.