Open letter to the taxpayers of the European Union: Corruption of EDF resources in Saint Lucia

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18 October 2019

Ambassador Daniella Tramacere

Head of Delegation

Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM

Dear Ambassador Tramacere:

I am a former Saint Lucian diplomat, whose most recent engagement on European Development Fund (EDF), financed activities were in my capacity as a member of staff of the CARIFORUM Directorate of the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana. After more than a decade in the indirect employ of the European Union, I am fully conversant with the PRAG (Practical Guide), in particular, and with the financial regulations of the European Union’s European Development Fund (EDF) in general. As a result, I am also fully conversant with the requirements of European Union taxpayers when they generously allocate their scarce financial resources to assist the development programmes of Third World States.

As you may be aware, the European Union taxpayers generously allocated about €20 million some years ago for the construction of a new national hospital in Saint Lucia, a tiny island in the Eastern Caribbean. My country is a typical constituent of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) cohort of countries in the Caribbean, confronted by the typical problem’s endemic to poor SIDS worldwide.

The above-referenced hospital has since been completed, but after three years of its completion, it is yet to be put into operation by the present ruling regime in my country. The hospital has been named the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital, in honour of the memory of Dr Owen King, an outstanding pioneer in the provision of medical services to the people of Saint Lucia.

Tragically however, three years after the completion of this significant gift of the European Union’s taxpayers to the people of Saint Lucia, and while our country’s health sector faces very grave challenges, the government of Saint Lucia has obstinately refused to make available to the people, this gift of the European taxpayers to the taxpayers of Saint Lucia. Instead, the government is busily making arrangements to place the OKEU hospital, the people’s hospital, an EDF financed institution, a product of the hard work of the workers of the European Union, into the hands of a private businessman; and to add further insult to ridiculous injury, the company involved is a foreign business, the so-called Cayman Health Corporation.

The people of Saint Lucia are aware of the recent site visit of a European Commission delegation to the OKEU hospital. We are aware that the delegation was absolutely unimpressed and deeply disturbed with what it saw. There are many Saint Lucians who were left with the impression that while the head of the visiting delegation had no choice but to show diplomacy and a brave face as he confronted this grave disappointment, he was quietly crying inside. After all, your head of the delegation was aware that this investment in the people of Saint Lucia is by far the largest single investment ever by the European Development Fund in Saint Lucia.

Excellency, may I highlight here Article 2 of European Union Financial Regulation 1905/2006, “Establishing a Financial Instrument for Development Cooperation”, which clearly stipulates that “the primary and overarching objective of European Union cooperation shall be the eradication of poverty in partner countries and regions”. Under Regulation 1905/2006, aid is designed to support actions in a number of critical areas of cooperation, including, among others: (a) eradication of poverty and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); (b) focusing on essential needs of the local population, especially primary education and health; (c) promotion of democratic governance and Human Rights.

Excellency, nowhere in Financial Regulation 1905/2006, or in any other Financial Regulation of the European Union’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programmes, have I ever seen a provision for the handing over of European Union-funded development projects into the hands of private businessmen. And the actions of the government of Saint Lucia in this matter not only contradict the intention of the European Union taxpayer to provide a new national hospital to the needy people of Saint Lucia, but they also contradict all the European Union development cooperation principles mentioned above.

The government’s actions in this matter contradict EU principle (a) above, the eradication of poverty; the hijacking of the OKEU hospital for a business to make a profit will not contribute to the eradication of poverty, it will increase poverty in Saint Lucia. This EU gift, therefore, will contribute, inadvertently, to greater poverty in my country. This is why it is such an urgent matter.

The government’s actions also violate the EU principle (b) above, the provision of primary healthcare to human beings. These are all violations of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) underpinning the OKEU project, and the development cooperation principles of the European Union.

The government’s actions in this matter also contradict EU principle (c) above, the principle of the promotion of democratic governance and Human Rights. It is particularly high-handed and deeply undemocratic for the government of Saint Lucia to casually take away the people’s hospital and hand it over to a businessman. And this action is not only undemocratic and high-handed, but it is also a slap to the collective faces of the people of Saint Lucia, as well as to the faces of the people of the European Union, and it cannot be, must not be, tolerated.

It is stoking extreme tensions and very profound anger in the people of Saint Lucia, nearly 200 thousand people. The situation is now a potentially very explosive one, and I wish to request, most fervently, that, Your Excellency bring this matter to the urgent attention of the taxpayers of the European Union, whose finances paid for the design and construction of this vital element of our health sector infrastructure, the OKEU hospital.

I also avail myself of this opportunity to inform you that this dastardly action by the present ruling regime takes place in a particular context.

It is a context marked by an extraordinarily blatant and deeply unprincipled departure by the ruling regime from all the most basic and enshrined management principles that have traditionally guided the implementation of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) in Saint Lucia.

The present regime has brutally kicked aside, unceremoniously, the basic standards, precepts, and conventions of international competitive procurement in the proper conceptualization, preparation, design, negotiation, approval, implementation and appraisal of development projects. The overwhelming public perception in Saint Lucia supported by solid evidence, anecdotal and factual, is that these departures from the norm are deliberate actions by certain top-level officials to divert hundreds of millions of dollars of the National Treasury and international donor resources, to their hastily and opportunistically concocted and registered construction companies, in the benefit of what Saint Lucians now refer to as the Family, Friends & Foreigners (FFF), fraternity.

It is the popular understanding among the people of Saint Lucia that the privatisation of the OKEU hospital has one purpose and one purpose only: the injection of the corrupt, crooked, incestuous, rapacious and greedy tentacles of the FFF fraternity, into the management and provision of healthcare services in Saint Lucia, compliments the very generous European taxpayer. Feel free to acquaint yourself, Excellency, with the absolutely mind-boggling details of the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) redevelopment project, for a truly classic case of the FFF fraternity at work in Saint Lucia.

One of the more fundamental tenets of European Union development cooperation is the principle of respect for human rights. The actions of the government of Saint Lucia in this tragedy constitute a most flagrant and blatant violation of the human rights of my people, the people of Saint Lucia. Their attitude also represents serious disrespect for the human rights of the people of the European Union. The taxpayers of the European Union, based on their legitimate human rights as taxpayers, allocated €20 million for the construction of a hospital in Saint Lucia.

The intention of the government of Saint Lucia to hand over this hospital to a businessman is therefore also a violation of the human rights of the European Union taxpayer to decide how their gifted hospital should be utilized. And the European Union must make known its utter rejection of this reprehensible behavior which violates the will of the European Union taxpayer. I am quite certain that the EU taxpayers will definitely not countenance that their investment in the people of Saint Lucia, should be handed over to a businessman for his private profit.

The European Union is on recent record for its support for Juan Guaido’s self-proclaimed ascendancy to the seat of president of Venezuela, on the basis of what the European Union has described as “political corruption” by the government of president Nicolás Maduro.

Well, I am inviting the same European Union, on behalf of the patriotic taxpayers of Saint Lucia and the hard-working taxpayers of the European Union, to likewise indicate to the incompetent government of Saint Lucia, that their attempts to divert a €20 million European Union financed hospital destined for the benefit of poor Saint Lucians, too greedy private sector interests, is not only “political corruption”, it is also grave financial corruption as defined by the European Union Practical Guide and European Union law.

As I write, Saint Lucia’s health sector is in crisis. National health sector planning for the next several decades had envisaged the opening of the St Jude hospital (SJH) in the south of Saint Lucia, around December 2017.

The SJH is the principal hospital in the south of Saint Lucia, serving well over 80 percent of the southern population. After the SJH burned to the ground in 2009, ten years ago, patients have been accommodated at a Stadium near the Hewanorra International Airport. Needless to say, the old Stadium facilities are hardly the place for Saint Lucia’s principal southern hospital, for a decade now.

The new SJH should have been completed two years ago, but the present regime, incredibly, arbitrarily stopped construction of the 90 percent completed hospital on their assumption of office in 2016, concentrating instead on the establishment of a horse racing facility in the south of the island. In the meantime, the government takes great pride in the near completion of the horse racing facility, while neglected human beings continue to die needlessly in the near-derelict, inadequate and sub-standard Stadium hospital facilities, two miles away from the elegant horse racing facility.

Similarly, the opening of the OKEU hospital was on target for the Summer of 2016, around July 2016. The present government, whose principal top-level officials are obsessed with raking in every dollar that can possibly be had from private and public sector business – an ugly conflict of interest phenomenon we call official corruption – is engaging a private sector company to take ownership of the people’s hospital (OKEU) constructed by the European taxpayers.

The man on the street in Saint Lucia believes that behind the scenes, the principal shareholders at OKEU will be some of those top-level officials and that the Cayman Health Corporation outfit is only a front to conceal the corruption. One of those top-level officials is on record, in an incredible public retort to the people of Saint Lucia, saying: “If I can give my wife 20 schools, I would happily give my wife 20 schools.”

Saint Lucia is therefore short of two entirely new hospitals that should have been operational three years ago. The result is that thousands of Saint Lucians flocked to the wharves recently, when an American Hospital Ship docked in the Castries harbour, offering free healthcare in several areas. This flocking of human beings, like birds flocking during a storm, in desperate numbers on the waterfront, tells a shocking story of the pathetic situation of our health sector.

In the meantime, Saint Lucians continue to die needlessly in the few operational facilities available, while top-level officials and the FFF fraternity, shuttle off to Martinique, New York, and Miami for specialized healthcare procedures, financed by the proceeds of their unholy and unprecedented corruption.

In my condition as a citizen of Saint Lucia, who has a right to benefit directly and indirectly from this generous European gift to the people of Saint Lucia, I look forward to your urgent attention in this matter; because the reality on the ground in Saint Lucia where this matter is concerned is quite urgent and is a potential tragedy in the making.

The peace-loving, democratic citizens and other residents of Saint Lucia have been marching the streets of Saint Lucia, demonstrating their rejection of the callousness, corruption, ineptitude, and incompetence of the government of Saint Lucia in this matter, as we together confront the grave deterioration of healthcare in our country. Every patriotic Saint Lucian citizen and resident feels deeply slighted and insulted in this matter.

Thank you for your urgent referral of this grave concern to the taxpayers of the European Union, who deserve to know of these developments, and who deserve better for their investment in their brothers and sisters in Saint Lucia. I am also interested in your referral of this matter to the European parliament, where an opinion on the same should be solicited and relayed to the people of Saint Lucia.

Sincerely,

Peter Lansiquot

Development Consultant

Former SPO

CARICOM (CARIFORUM)

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