St Lucia government probes UWP’s use of Taiwan funds
CASTRIES, St Lucia, Friday June 22, 2012 – Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony has told the media that his St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration is actively pursuing investigations into the tenure of the former Stephenson King regime, with the focus on the use of funds acquired from Taiwan.
Anthony said that the olive branch of bipartisanship, offered to the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) following his party’s November 2011 election victory, does not ignore any past misdeeds or illegality on the part of the former government.
“The St. Lucia Labour Party never said it was bearing any olive branch for illegality, unlawful behaviour or misdeeds. We have always said that where unlawful behaviour occurs we will take action,” the prime minister said. “Extending an olive branch does not mean that you close your eyes to misdeeds.”
Anthony hinted that the probe will extend to the ‘Black Bay Scandal’, in which some 500 acres of land in the south of the island was made available to a hotel developer in an investment that later failed, prompting the current government to buy back the land at a cost of EC$58million.
“There are some fundamental issues that face us. What occurred, for example, in respect of the Black Bay lands. This is a very serious matter.”
In the six months since returning to office there has been much talk of building cross-party relationships, but the traditional divisions between government and opposition are resurfacing, particularly over St Lucia’s controversial relationship with Taiwan, the Asian island democracy that China regards as a breakaway province.
While in opposition, Dr. Anthony frequently criticised the method employed by Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou to disburse funds to the UWP government and called for the money to go into the Consolidated Fund, instead of being funnelled directly into various municipalities to fund community projects.
The Taiwanese diplomat argued that once the funds were sent directly to the government, there was no guarantee that they would be used for their intended purpose.
But the SLP had often accused UWP ministers of having direct access to “Taiwanese largesse” and using it for their own purposes, including funding their re-election campaign.
Under the last SLP government (1997 to 2006), Castries maintained diplomatic relations with Beijing, but that was broken off in favour of Taipei when the UWP came to power in 2006.
While in opposition, Anthony continually accused Chou of interfering in St. Lucia’s internal affairs. In April he asked Taipei for Chou’s recall over what he referred to as “unacceptable” remarks and conduct.
After announcing a review of St Lucia’s relations with Taiwan and meeting with Taipei’s foreign minister, the prime minister went further.
“What occurred with the Taiwanese largesse in the politics of this country is also a serious matter because it breaches the laws of the country,” he said, adding that he expects to receive a report of an audit of Taiwanese aid to St Lucian towns and village councils.