Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Monday, 11 June 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Immediately after the Antigua Labour Party’s failed attempt at the no-confidence motion in Parliament, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer went on the defensive.
I expected Spencer to come out on the offensive but he was quick to remark, “I did not cut a deal.”
One would have thought that Spencer would have blasted the ALP and Leader of the Opposition Lester Bird for making a mockery of the process.
But Spencer was more concerned with the perception of a deal being brokered.
But what kind of a deal was the Prime Minister alluding to?
Why was it important that the electorate understand that he (Spencer) did not cut a deal with anyone?
Well, deal or no deal, surely both the government and the opposition were happy to get through this political episode without the electorate being reminded of their alleged financial improprieties.
Both sides claimed they were ready to dish out the “dirt” on each other.
When Bird “called in sick” and went home, it seemed like a very plausible excuse, since there is no secret of his health challenges.
Since Attorney General Justin Simon suggested otherwise, the Spencer “no deal cutting” comment may, like Bird’s defence, have a different side.
With Willmoth Daniel absent with no explanation, Bird and the ALP seemed to be in the driving seat for a no-confidence motion.
The number of persons the ALP needed to convince to “switch” alliance dropped by one.
Interestingly, MP Asot Michael, who Simon said asked to have the motion withdrawn, makes the “no-deal” comment something to ponder.
Of all the “dirt” that the UPP has on the ALP, the IHI saga is most current; a matter which involves, among others, Bird and Michael.
So what about this IHI issue?
Already, the late Bruce Rappaport repaid government US $12 million following information gathered by financial investigator Robert “Bob” Lindquist.
The Lindquist report traces the payment by government, from December 1996, of the monthly sum of US $403,334 out of the consumption tax revenue paid by West Indies Oil Company to the various persons in receipt of these monies, with details of the companies through which the monies were sent, to what bank accounts, in which countries and how these monies were finally disbursed.
When Rappaport made the payment to government, Simon held a press conference and explained aspects of the IHI matter.
The AG said that the report clearly indicates that persons had plotted to allegedly steal large sums of money from Antigua & Barbuda.
"These monthly sums were paid out of government funds pursuant to an irrevocable letter of instructions right up until February 2006, when I obtained an injunction from the High Court in Antigua & Barbuda stopping the continuance of the payments, and freezing the bank account here in Antigua of an associated Florida company called Debt Settlement Administrators LLC.
" It was a gigantic conspiracy engineered and affected by persons in high places to rob this country of millions of dollars right up to the year 2021, a burden that would be carried by your children and your children's children. Consider this.
"These monthly payments were, by an agreement dated 11th September 1997, to be made over a period of 25 years beginning December 31, 1996 (retrospectively nine months before the agreement was signed) and would have amounted to an aggregate payment of US $121,000,200. Out of that monthly sum of US $403,334 coming out of the Government Treasury, only US $199,740.25 would be legitimately paid to IHI Japan amounting to an aggregate sum of US $59,922,075 over the 25 years.
“In simple arithmetical terms, US $61,078,125 in excess of the total sum due to IHI Japan would have been misappropriated out of the Treasury and gone “ah gwasa” over that 25-year period.”
Also involved were parcels of lands that were fraudulently appropriated by certain members of the former administration for their own personal gain and enrichment and to the detriment and financial pain to the people of this country.
So, that according to Simon, is the IHI matter in a nutshell.
Obviously, the Guns to Colombia and the Israeli/Antigua guns to South Africa scandal would certainly become part of the debate.
The MBS scandal and the Sir Archibald Nedd report on the Airport Funding scandal would also be fair game for the government.
Lands at the airport sold to Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford would be a talking point for Spencer and his team.
Bird’s inability to pay workers during a time of plenty and the rape of the statutory corporations would be weapons of the UPP.
The ALP would also come out swinging.
The opposition would have been ready to show the many pictures of the Chinese Power Plant which some in the ALP believe to be a huge rip off.
The government received a concessionary loan of US $52 million from the Exim Bank of China to build a brand new power plant. Pictures suggest otherwise.
The loan, the opposition would have argued, is illegal since the government never got parliamentary approval as required by law.
The Fencing Scandal where some EC $46 million (EC $23 already paid) was set aside for a number of contractors would be another hot topic.
Millions of dollars given to local contractors for road and side-walk constructions would also have been discussed.
The ALP would have painted Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer as a dictator and would surely discuss Spencer’s relationship with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Harold Lovell’s handling of the economy would have been another hot button issue in that debate.
The millions of dollars spent on the road at Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground as well as monies spent for World Cup 2007 would have been in the ALP’s arsenal.
The money spent for the Romantic Rhythms Festival is an issue the opposition would most definitely have asked the government to explain.
The Voluntary Separation Package to shrink government, but that instead heralded increased government employment, would have been another issue the ALP would need explanations for.
Willmoth Daniel's letters, one stating that he was offered a bribe by one of his colleagues and the PM's subsequent dismissive attitude towards that allegation are ammunition the opposition would have used.
In addition, Daniel's call for an inquiry into the power plant would be a matter exploited by the ALP.
In fact, while there are many other issues that both the government and the opposition would have debated, one thing is clear.
These two organizations have plenty to explain to the people of Antigua & Barbuda.
So whether implied, suggested or otherwise, the allegedly deal could only be to hide the failures of these two incompetent administrations from the public discourse.
One thing is certain: if there was any deal it was not cut with the electorate but rather with those who intend to continue to “rape” the people’s purse.