Nothing to hide, says Grenada prime minister

he money transfer was made public May 15 by opposition leader Keith Mitchell during a debate in parliament, and repeated at a political rally of his New National Party.

Mitchell, a former prime minister, claims that he has “solid information of a very top, top government minister who has collected US$150,000 in his own bank account.”

The cash, according to Mitchell, “came from Saudi Arabia to the Republic Bank. These are facts.”

Days after Mitchell’s initial charge, Thomas told a Grenada television station that, “he is not aware of a transaction from Saudi Arabia,” and that he had not received “any money from Saudi Arabia.”

However, he added that it would be “normal” for political parties to receive donations.

The issue was raised with the prime minister in a recent television interview with Ray Roberts, director of the Government Information Service.

“Your party would not have been the first party to receive any contribution,” Roberts commented.

“No, that is normal,” Thomas responded. “The difference may be that a contribution came through a banking institution. I see nothing wrong with that, once it comes from a legitimate source. That’s part of the democratic process.”

Mitchell alleges that EC$100,000 of the US$150,000 was paid to “a close political friend” of the NDC. The payment is said to have been for “legal fees”.

The former prime minister is demanding an investigation by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Royal Grenada Police Force. However, Thomas is not perturbed by a possible probe of the matter.

“I have nothing to worry about,” said Thomas. “If they ask for information, it could be made available at any time.”

The Grenadian leader insisted that “all the transactions I have done are above board; any transaction is done legitimately, through a banking institution. There is nothing to hide. There is no red flag. If anybody has any evidence that any law has been broken, they could go to the FIU and ask them to conduct an investigation.”

Thomas maintained the suggestion that it was political party “contribution,” saying that “from time to time, any political organization would get contributions.”

If there is a person who “wants to make a contribution to a political organization, and make it through an individual within the organization – a trustworthy individual – I see nothing wrong with that,” said Thomas.

As a party, the NDC has so far made no official comment on the Saudi Arabian money transfer.

But when contacted, several members of the executive of the NDC said they had no knowledge of the US$150,000 transaction, which the NDC leader has indicated was a contribution to the party.

Meanwhile, Thomas claimed that he has no difficulty with anyone trying to replace him as party leader, but says it should be done “legitimately.”

In some Grenadian circles, allegations have been made of efforts by Peter David, the general secretary of the NDC and former tourism minister, to replace Thomas.

Similar allegations have been made by others against Nazim Burke, deputy leader of the NDC and minister of finance, planning, economic development, energy and cooperatives.

Both David and Burke have denied the allegations.

Since 2010, three ministers have resigned from government and one has been dismissed.

The ministers, as well as some current and former NDC members, have questioned the leadership style of Thomas and his inability to forge a more united party and government.

Former Environment Minister Michael Church accused the prime minister of being an “autocratic” leader.

Thomas has dismissed the accusation. He says there is “absolutely nothing” to support claims of dictatorial rule.

“The whole thing is about power,” the prime minister said. “There are people who want power and they want to be in authority and make decision. I have nothing against this. But let us do it legitimately and above board.”

Thomas said Grenadians, including NDC members, have confidence in his leadership, which he is prepared to defend in any forum.

“The more they put my leadership under scrutiny, the more they’re discovering the real Tillman Thomas,” the prime minister said.

According to Thomas, leadership is about character, respect, courage, patriotism, taking decisions to benefit people, and standing up for what one believes in.

“When the history is written, my leadership would be an outstanding leadership,” Thomas said.

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