By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, Saint Lucia — Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip J Pierre, previously called on prime minister and minister of finance, Allen Chastanet, to repudiate a seemingly official letter addressed to “whom it may concern” from the ministry of economic affairs signed by Guy Joseph, minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation dated November 12, 2018; and if the letter referred to as the PAJOAH letter scandal is indeed authentic that he takes disciplinary action against Joseph.
Pierre repeated that call to action, stating “if the signature was authentic and/or not authentic, then this was a serious matter and the prime minister must involve all relevant agencies including a recognised handwriting expert to ascertain the forgery of the letter,” adding “the PAJOAH letter scandal must be addressed and the SLP will not rest until it is investigated.”
The letter states that the government “has agreed to enter into a contractual relationship with PAJOAH’s Limited” and purports to commit the government of Saint Lucia to repay a loan of US$62 million or EC$167.4 million at 3.5 percent over 15 years for two projects.
The projects in question include a street lighting project that had already been financed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the St Jude hospital project.
Only recently, the US State department’s 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) on Saint Lucia expressed concern regarding the country’s “exposure to local corruption.”
Joseph at the pre-cabinet news conference Monday, May 20, said, “…to ask me to resign or to ask the prime minister to take action on the basis of a letter that is circulating in the media that I cannot even account for… I can only account for the letters in my ministry.”
“It is an internationally accepted fact that such letters are never permitted except with the approval of the prime minister who has publicly denied knowledge of the letter,” Joseph said.
Pierre at a recent news conference referenced Joseph usual arrogance and useless bluster of trying to deflect stated, “I want to explain that the PAJOAH letter scandal is just an extension of the behaviour of [Guy] Joseph.”
During the 2019/20 budget debate in parliament, Joseph gave an insight into his honest thought process and specifically portrayed a culture, antithetical to the rule of law and receptive to corrupt governance.
“It is a challenge, to be honest in this country. I can tell you. I suffer it every day,” Joseph said, in a display of hubris in the parliament of Saint Lucia.
It is noteworthy what Joseph said in 2017. “I’m not worried. If there’s an investigation, I welcome the investigation,” referring his reported involvement with alleged corruption associated with the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) Redevelopment Project in 2008/9.
In 2017, Joseph, who knowingly made false representations to Taiwan in the matter of Constituency Development Programme (CDP) contracts, said, “I had to compile a list based on the contracts that were in the ministry, pretend as if the projects had not been done and submit it to the Taiwanese for approval.”
These utterances calls into question the integrity that gives rise to questions surrounding a pattern of creating a false record(s).
“I am not surprised Joseph’s response was empty and simply disrespectful,” Pierre said. His reaction was an act of gross arrogance and showed scant regard for the laws and procedures which are in place to avoid corruption and misbehaviour in public office,” albeit “Joseph’s dismissal in relation to the PAJOAH letter scandal is an insult to all Saint Lucians who desire a country governed with integrity, transparency and accountability.”
“With the understand that as a prime minister,” said Ernest Hilaire, member of parliament for Castries South, commenting on the PAJOAH letter scandal, “He [prime minister] just cannot continue to mislead and lie,” reiterated that, “Some years ago the Court of Appeal in the Tuxedo Villas appeal found he was not a witness of the truth.”
On a local radio programme, “What makes me Mad” Tuesday, May 27, 2019, the prime minister when asked if Joseph had not signed the PAJOAH letter, could that not be seen as a major breach of national security, in response stated:
“Won’t be the first, sadly. I mean we had Ernest Hilaire, this is gonna be taken up in the house that was trying to introduce a document that had somebody’s signature on it and the document that he has is a false document. I am saying that publicly. Alright. So, the document that he presented to the house had the signature page of the original document, but it did not have the body of it. Same issue,” prime minister said.
Accurately expressed by a social media commentator, “Indeed, this is a serious matter, it cannot be brushed aside,” however, “Am sorry to say on the basis that no Saint Lucian politician has ever been prosecuted, this will disappear.”
Former minister for the public service Dr Ubaldus Raymond, comments, on a local television programme “TALK” wittingly and/or unwittingly accentuated collective knowledge, publicly confessed, “local corruption and skeletons” stated:
“If we have to go down that road, not one of the parliamentarians can stand, not one who can stand. There are those who will do their stuff and are doing their stuff and will never be caught. In fact, some of them have done criminal stuff.”
The statement by Raymond has been classified by at least one former colleague as “unfortunate,” hitherto, the usual suspects “investigate the investigation” while taxpayers await the government to protect the interest of the people of Saint Lucia with the utmost integrity.