Thomas: Sacked minister may have compromised his government
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas says the dismissal of Environment Minister Joseph Gilbert was in the public interest.
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, Friday January 20, 2012 - Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said he is “deeply concerned” that an unauthorized promise made by sacked Environment Minister Joseph Gilbert may have seriously compromised his government and could lead to “significant damaging consequences.”
Gilbert’s appointment was revoked Thursday by the Governor-General at the request of Thomas a day after an emergency Cabinet meeting was called to discuss an alleged deal the minister made with a foreign company for a gambling license.
Thomas, in a national address delivered hours after the decision was announced, said this was done in the public interest and “to preserve the integrity of the Government of Grenada and to maintain the highest standards of Cabinet decision - making.”
He said he had irrefutable documented evidence that Gilbert, while serving as Minister of Works, wrote on August 23, 2011 to the foreign company, Harbour Holdings Limited, regarding a gaming project.
“In that letter, the Minister represented to the company that the government of Grenada proposed to amend existing legislation pertaining to gaming,” Thomas disclosed.
“The Minister gave the company the assurance that it would be issued a license to operate a gaming facility on lot 8 at the Cruise Port in St. Georges and encouraged the company to proceed to finalize its financing arrangements for the purchase of Lot 8 in light of the pending license approval.”
He said Cabinet had taken no such decision and the ex-minister did not seek Cabinet’s approval, nor did he inform the Cabinet of what he had done in its name.
“Such behaviour is not only highly irresponsible but disrespectful and abusive of the process of Cabinet,” the prime minister declared.
“It is indefensible and cannot be condoned by this government and should not be condoned by any other government. It must be clearly understood by all that this matter is not about the survival and stability of the duly elected Government of Grenada but about preserving our core values and building of a sustainable country.”
Though Thomas is strongly opposed to casino gambling, cabinet has never taken a position on the matter.
In a clear message to members of his government, the Grenadian leader said they must be clear about the importance of this standard of personal responsibility.
“One requirement of that obligation is to combat wrong-doing regardless of who is responsible,” Thomas told residents.
He insisted that he has acted with fairness and even-handedness in dealing with violations of the public trust by ministers, assuring “just as I have treated with my own government colleagues, so too, I am resolved to fight wrong-doing by those in the previous administration as the evidence would justify.”
The House of Representatives this week approved a Motion putting into operation the Integrity in Public Life Legislation.
The prime minister stated that parliamentarians, in particular, must set an example by living up to the provisions.
Gilbert, the Member of Parliament for St. Patrick’s West, has denied wrongdoing.
“I did no wrong; I breached nothing; I committed the government to nothing. I did my utmost as a Minister, first in the Ministry of Works, and then in the Ministry of Environment. A priority for me is meeting the needs of the Grenadian people, and they have told me that one of their most urgent needs is jobs,” he was quoted in a local newspaper as stating.
This is the second loss of a minister within years suffered by the administration.
In 2010, Michael Church resigned after he was demoted to junior minister because he attended an overseas meeting with a former trade advisor to Grenada without Cabinet approval.
The NDC government swept into office in July 2008 after defeating the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party 11-4 in general elections.