PMs rap treatment of ex-CDB boss

CASTRIES – St Lucia’s Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre has criticised the removal of Dr Hyginus “Gene” Leon as president of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), who tendered his resignation earlier this month after being sent on administrative leave in January.

“I want to put on record St Lucia’s full support for the work that Gene Leon did at the Caribbean Development Bank and to regret . . . what caused Gene Leon to resign,” Pierre said in a six-minute statement to the St Lucia Parliament during a debate on a financial issue.

“We must stop treating our people like that based on conditions or based on circumstances that are foreign to us, Mr Speaker . . . .

“This is wrong. I said it was wrong from the beginning and I am happy that the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines [Dr Ralph Gonsalves] has put on paper that it is wrong. My position from the start, but I was outvoted and it reached where it reached, Mr Speaker,” Pierre told legislators.

“But I hope we do not lose Gene Leon, we don’t lose that talent, we don’t lose that expertise . . . . I hope that error of the son of Choiseul [south west of the capital] doesn’t happen again to any other person who happens to find himself at the head of an institution where the big fish has more say than the small fish.”

Gonsalves had said “unsuccessful attempts” had been made to impugn the character of  Leon, whom he described as “a distinguished son of our Caribbean civilisation from St Lucia”.

Last month, lawyers representing Leon gave the CDB until May 4 “to negotiate an amicable separation”, indicating also that their correspondence should be viewed “as our client’s pre-action protocol letter” regarding the entire situation.

In the three-page letter, dated April 21, the St Lucia-based law firm Fosters said it would be moving to the courts in Barbados “or any other jurisdiction more appropriate, to enforce our client’s legal and constitutional rights”.

Gonsalves asked what were the next steps in “addressing this debacle”, saying “it certainly does not suit the bank to have its folly forensically examined in excruciating detail in the robust legal system in Barbados or elsewhere.

“I do not have to read and spell for the governors of the bank. The former president, Mr Leon, has been injured, and as he has suffered loss and damage, certain things flow inexorably from all this. The bank ought to address this with the same urgency with which it acted at the start of this awful saga; and the bank ought to act with a large generosity of spurt,” Gonsalves said.

He said for him Gene Leon’s integrity “remains intact, though unsuccessful attempts were made to have it impugned”.

“He comes out of this sordid matter without blemish or wrongdoing attached to him. This distinguished son of our Caribbean civilisation ought not to be lynched, metaphorically, any further.”

In January it was disclosed that Leon had been sent on administrative leave until April as “an ongoing administrative process” continued at the region’s premier financial institution.

In his statement to Parliament, Pierre said: “When you are a small island the goal post is shifted for you all the time . . . so that we can remain in a state of complete submissions, Mr Speaker, to more powerful powers.

“Gene Leon was removed from his job by three people on a whistleblower accusation. The governors were not informed that that was going to happen, This is the president of a bank . . . . Three people walked into his office and tell him give up his laptop and give up his telephone because there is a whistle-blower complaint about him.”

Pierre said that St Lucia was not one of the three countries, but he did not name them either.

He added the investigation into the president was done by a foreign firm and the lawyers used were foreign attorneys. (CMC)

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