Speaker of the House of Representatives, George McGuire is
getting involved in the US$150, 000.00 Saudi Arabia money transfer to a senior government minister as alleged by Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
During the Sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday morning, the Speaker disclosed that he will issue a “take note” letter to Republic Bank (Grenada) Limited, the financial institution that allegedly facilitated the controversial transaction.
The move is the latest twist to the debate in the country that was sparked off by a claim from Dr. Mitchell that he has solid evidence about the financial transaction from Saudi Arabia involving a senior member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
McGuire reminded the House that disclosure of certain privileged and confidential information in an unauthorised manner could lead to a breach in the privileges of the House.
“With this in mind I shall therefore write a take note letter to the bank named by Dr. Mitchell to ensure that confidentiality has not been breached”, he said.
The Opposition Leader first hinted at the Saudi funds on May 15, at the last sitting of the House of Representatives to debate a No-confidence motion brought against Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
The House Speaker recalled that Dr. Mitchell also alluded then to the citizenship programme and wanted to know who got a cheque to do political work from the same money.
The Political Leader of the New National Party (NNP) said then that EC$100,000.00 was withdrawn from the account that accepted the Saudi funds at the Republic Bank.
Speaker McGuire told parliamentarians that he regards these allegations as extremely grave as the people of Grenada have a deep attachment to democratic principles and that Parliament is a legitimate and supreme organ by which these principles are expressed and applied.
He said it is his overriding principle as Speaker of the House of Representatives to safeguard the rights and privileges of all members of the House and that no one in the house should submerge themselves in unethical conduct and corrupt practices.
According to Mc Guire, the country’s parliamentarians must all strive to ensure that Grenada’s political culture is based on truth, ethics and equity.
He said the importance and specific nature of the issue of corruption raised by Dr. Mitchell cannot be denied but it is undeniable that if one impugns the reputation of a member of the House that person must present credible evidence.
He stated that guided by the Standing Orders of the House, no member should impugn ulterior motives to any member of the House and that the conduct of any member should not be raised by making allegations except upon a substantive motion moved for that purpose with notice.
McGuire said that if a member of the house publicly attacks the integrity of a senior minister that individual clearly brings into question his fitness to serve as a minister.
“Any member who brings unfounded accusation about another member in Parliament may be found guilty of contempt, breach of the Privileges of the House. Giving false or incomplete testimony before Parliament constitutes a breach of the privileges of parliament. Defaming a member of Parliament by making unsubstantiated allegations constitutes a breach of the privileges of the parliament”, he reminded parliamentarians.
The Speaker pointed out that it appears from Dr. Mitchell’s remarks that some form of corruption or financial crime was committed by a top government minister in the Congress administration.
However, Mc Guire was quick in reminding the House that Grenada is well protected from these financial crimes by legislation passed in Parliament over the years such as the Terrorism Bill 2011, Anti-Terrorism Bill 2012, the Financial and Intelligence Unit Act 2011 and the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2011.
He told members of the House that the disclosure of a financial crime is a serious duty and if Dr. Mitchell is of the view that a crime was committed by a top government minister on receipt of US$150,000 from Saudi Arabia then he should take note that a person commits an offence if he does not disclose to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) or to a police officer as soon as is reasonably practical his belief or suspicion and information on which it is based.
In light of the controversy, the Speaker suggested to the Parliament that all donations received by political parties be declared to the Integrity In Public Life Commission to avoid unfounded accusations.
Mc Guire said: “In order to enhance the standard of our Parliament and to promote respectable practices I wish to propose that all donations received by honourable members be declared as assets before the Integrity In Public Life Commission to avoid all the furor that may result from all the unfounded allegations of corruption which discredits our Parliament and erodes the esteem and effectiveness of all members of the House and allows us to avoid a contempt of the privileges of this House”.
Presently, there are no laws in Grenada governing donations to political parties for campaign purposes.