Call in the cops
That was the response of Opposition Leader Owen Arthur to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s charge on Sunday that the Judicial Manager’s Report into the CLICO affair was stolen before he could see it.
“Government’s response to the CLICO issue to a new depth of absurdity,” Arthur said. “If Freundel Stuart is sure and aware that the report has been stolen, then I though he would have followed up that statement by saying that the matter has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and that he, himself, is cooperating with the police.
“If what he is saying is accurate then it is too serious a matter to be left there. But one senses now that this is another dodge. At one point CLICO could not be dealt with because he had not read the report; now he can’t deal with it because the report had been stolen.”
He was referring to comments made by the Prime Minister in his address to the Democratic Labour Party’s annual conference at George Street over the weekend.
Arthur added: “And while all of this is happening there are almost 30,000 people who are depending upon a resolution of this matter. People’s livelihoods have been put on pause pending a resolution of this matter and the Government had given an undertaking that the matter would have been dealt with in June.
“We in the Opposition have said that the matter is serious enough that a separate date should have been set aside on the parliamentary agenda for us to sit down and join with the Government and find a resolution to this.
“And I want to stress one essential point, there must be a relationship of trust between the Government and those who are governed, and when persons in a position of authority give their word on behalf of a government, people who are governed must be able to take those words and act upon them.
Prime Ministers, Ministers of Finance and the governor of the Central Bank have said that investors in clico, policyholders, will get back their money. That must mean something.
“There are people who have heard that and they have acted upon it and have gone and borrowed against it on the expectation that they are going to get back their money. As far as we are concerned, that has to be honoured — and honoured in a way that does not put the country’s situation in peril, but is fair to the policy holders.
“That is the solution that we feel has to be worked towards and all of this talk now that the reports was not read and that the reports was stolen is justa fanciful dodge. They are taking this matter to a level of absurdity that is just ridiculous.”
The former prime minister said that the notion that CLICO does bot belong to the Government does not mean that there are no public interest issues involved.
“What has happened here is that there has been a regulatory failure, and people have been made victims of a regulatory failure,” he added. “The biggest aspect of this failure is that CLICO was given instructions not to sell any more of these annuities but still they proceeded to do so — so therefore there is an obligation to fix this matter.
“Our position in the Opposition is this. There is nothing that affects a larger majority of Barbadian individuals and institutions more seriously than this. It will affect the future of the country in an economic sense and it has to be resolved … and people have had enough of there tiresome attempts to dodge the issue…
“All this talk now about the report being stolen is designed to send people off on a tangent when this thing has to be resolved, and the time to resolve it is now. Bring the matter to parliament and let us deal with it, and in the interval, if he is so sure that the report was stolen then take the matter to the director of public prosecutions.”
On the issue of the economy, Arthur told Barbados TODAY his view was that the country was in a dangerous drift “… precisely because the most important things that have to be done to restore order … are not being done”.
“Barbados has a serious fiscal problem — a problem with public finances — but nothing is being done. In fact, things that should be done are not being done for political reasons because Government wants to avoid unpopularity.
“I would go so far as to say they are making the situation worse by allowing people like Dennis Lowe (Minister of the Envronment) to take on large numbers of people that you can’t afford to pay.
“Secondly, Barbados needs to be put back on a growth path and we have to stop using the excuse that it is happening in Greece and elsewhere, because there are small economies that are growing. We have always to remember that the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs did not destroy the small creatures.
“With agility and serious management you can always find yourself back on a growth path, which is where we need to be. The Barbados brand is still a great brand, but the correct things are not being done to allow us to use that brand to carry Barbados forward. We need to focus a the few key essential things that will make the difference, and do them well.”