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No irregularities, say candidates

No irregularities, say candidates

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Two Unity Labour Party (ULP) candidates are refuting claims that there are irregularities in the manner in which relief supplies are being handed out by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Parliamentary hopeful for East Kingstown Constituency Luke Browne, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT Midweek, on Friday, November 12, described as “unfortunate extremes” allegations by the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) that ULP candidates and parliamentarians are distributing relief supplies, and these supplies are primarily given to persons with party affiliations.

“No relief items have been distributed by me. I have not distributed any material at all in any personal capacity,” said Browne.

The young politician said that he is working closely with the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) to finalize the arrangements for materials for persons in East Kingstown affected by Hurricane Tomas.

“We have already set up recording agents for each area. We have already identified truckers…. We have secured some principal point persons and we are going to get into the recruitment of workers so that the process would be able to go forward in an effective way,” said Browne.

The claim of irregularities in the distribution of materials to persons affected by the hurricane was advanced by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, who claimed that he had seen photos of relief supplies being stored in the yard of Browne, who resides at Cane Garden.

Browne in his defence said that the items were being stored in his yard because it is next to where a storage facility is going to be placed.

He said this was done on short notice.

“The HLDC is looking to set up some containers in the different areas,” Browne explained.

“There is a vacant plot of land here which will be the operating centre for the work to be done in the constituency,” he disclosed.

“The material in the yard here has been documented and when the containers come, they will be moved to the containers.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Housing Saboto Caesar, when contacted, indicated that at no point did ULP candidates collect information on persons who were affected by Hurricane Tomas, which struck the island on October 30 this year.

He said this information is gathered by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), which has been mandated to do so.

“HLDC gets the list from NEMO…. NEMO is the agency which goes and records all the information and on a daily basis, they update the HLDC so that HLDC can send in their technical people to do a further assessment as to the quantities,” said Caesar.

Caesar contended that following this assessment, contractors and other persons are being sent to the areas to prepare for reconstruction.

He disclosed that materials have been sent out to various areas, and noted that work would be done on the more severely damaged houses per village, initially.

“We are at a stage where we are coming to the end of the assessment and we have to now broaden the scale, but we are still moving from worst affected to least affected,” said Caesar.

He refuted claims that supporters of the ULP are given priority, and that ULP ministers and caretakers are actually doing the distribution.

“You cannot stop a representative or prospective candidate (of ULP or NDP) from visiting an affected person…. I could bring ten persons who came to HLDC and said that they are NDP supporters who have already received assistance,” Caesar added.

Caesar echoed Browne’s statement in saying that the allegations are politically motivated.

At a press conference held yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that no politician in his government gets involved in the distribution of items.

He said that his only interest is that the policy and mechanisms put in place for this process provide the desired results.

“This government stands on too high principles to be engaged in anything like discriminating against people in relation to food and building supplies on the basis of their politics. It has not happened and it will not happen,” said Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister said that anybody who does any act of discrimination, if it happens, it is not done in his name and it is not done in the name of his government.