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Speaker to give reason why question was disallowed

Speaker to give reason why question was disallowed

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When next the House of Assembly meets, Speaker of the House Hendrick Alexander will say why he disallowed a question submitted by the Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace for oral answer.

“I do not wish at this moment to comment on Mr Eustace’s statement,” Alexander told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday. He said in his opinion, the House of Assembly is the best forum in which to respond, if he sees fit.{{more}}

On Monday, during his regular appearance on the New Times programme on Nice Radio, Eustace said he did not know why he was not being allowed to ask the question.

The question, which was provided to SEARCHLGHT by the office of the Leader of the Opposition states: “Some members of the Board of the former National Commercial Bank (NCB) owed substantial monies in millions of dollars to the NCB, including former Chairman Desmond Morgan and Board member Gideon Browne. Could the Honourable Prime Minister indicate the amount owing at the time of the sale of NCB, and the status of those loans as the end of August 2015?”

According to Eustace, as far as he is aware, the loans have been transferred to “a special service vehicle which is to manage those loans and try get back the money.”

He said to his understanding there were as many as five individuals involved and he would like to know how much of the money has been repaid, if any. The Opposition Leader, however, vowed to get the information, even though his question has been disallowed in Parliament. “We will get to the bottom of it,” he stated.

The Leader of the Opposition is also enquiring if the loans to the members of the Board of the former NCB are now with the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG).

“Or have they been hidden off … to a special little group… a special services vehicle; I don’t know.

“That is our money! It was borrowed from the National Commercial Bank,” Eustace emphasized, adding that the bank is not a “Party” bank.

“If, in fact, those loans are millions of dollars and have not been repaid and not serviced properly, I want to know!

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr Ralph Gonsalves to whom the disallowed question was directed however told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that when the government sold 51 per cent of the shares in the NCB to the East Caribbean Financial Holding Co Ltd in 2010, no director of the NCB got any preferential treatment from the Bank.

“Absolutely none! The implication that somehow, that we take the money from the $100 million that we borrowed from the CDB; the $100 million was to liquidate public sector debt, not private people debt!” Gonsalves asserted, adding that in any event, the question was an improper question for the House.

“Under the rules of the House you cannot disclose people’s private business,” he said.

“The second and more fundamental issue is that it is not permitted by the Banking Act. You can’t ask a bank that, because the law says you can’t do that.”

Gonsalves said the Board and Management of the Bank dealt with the loans of Morgan and Browne in a professional manner and as far as he is aware, both men are still customers of the bank.

“There was no preferential treatment given or any concession to any director or former director of the Bank,” he reiterated.

The next siting of the House of Assembly is on September 21.

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