Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Former PM speaks out on Australia’s decision

By Linda Straker

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said he “finds it strange and cannot understand” why the Australian Government would reverse its decision to provide Grenada with the promised funding for the new Parliament building, which was one of the major deals his Government inked while in office.

“I, as Prime Minister, made the approach to the then Australian Government during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which was held in Trinidad. We as Grenada approached them on the basis of it being a more developed Commonwealth nation,” he said.

Thomas, who also served as Foreign Minister in the final months of the National Democratic Congress administration which was voted out of office on February 19, 2013, said that to the best of his knowledge, the promise to fund the Parliament building was purely a goodwill gesture.

Thomas also denied that Grenada received the promised funds as a gift for voting in favour of Australia becoming a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on October 18, 2012, in a General Assembly vote which attracted the support of 140 out of 193 countries.

“To the best of my knowledge, there were no conditions attached when Australia promised the funding. It’s the first time I am hearing of any vote for the United Nations Security Council, I don’t know. What I know is that there were no conditions, this was a gift from one Commonwealth member, which is more developed, to another that is developing,” he said.

According to reports out of Australia, the Tony Abbott Government, which was elected on September 7, 2013 following a General Election – campaigned on a tag-line of “Stop the Waste”, will now be focusing on strengthening and building its relationship with the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region and will be ending all major projects in the Caribbean.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nickolas Steele said that despite the setback, Government will continue with the construction because US$5 million was also provided from the United Arab Emirates towards the new Parliament building.

He stated that he is already in discussion with other donors, but refused to provide the names of the donors with whom Government is holding discussion.

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