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Jul 6, 2015

Church Senator Breaks Silence on Endorsing Petrocaribe Amendment Act

Noel Leslie

The Roman Catholic Church has broken ranks with the Council of Churches. Reverend Noel Leslie, who represents the Council in the Senate, was one of seven parliamentarians to vote in favor of the General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation bills, as well as the Amendments to the Petrocaribe Loans Act last Wednesday.  The yes vote on the controversial piece of legislation contradicts the initial position taken at the end of March when Father Leslie voted against the Petrocaribe Loans Act 2015.  The sudden change of heart, leads to speculation that the council has taken the carrot of an ecumenical chapel being erected at the K.H.M.H. with Petrocaribe funds.   While Leslie’s endorsement represents the position of the majority of churches, his personal view and that of the Roman Catholic diocese is in opposition of the law.  In fact, the senator has always held the opinion that the Petrocaribe Loans Act was unnecessary since the existing Finance and Audit Reform Act clearly outlines procedures on how to manage public funds in excess of ten million dollars.  On Saturday, Father Leslie, with the blessings of Bishop Dorick Wright and the Roman Catholic Church, issued a statement on behalf of the forty percent of the population which they represent. The church called for a repeal of the act and its amendments.  News Five spoke with him this morning and he explained the reason for the decision.

 

Rev. Father Noel Leslie, Senator for the Churches

“You will recall in the previous sitting of the senate I had voted no against the Petrocaribe Law and I voted no because of the wording in the law itself.  Of course my vote no did not meet with much joy by quite a number of people.  Okay, so after that vote, later on the Council of Churches’ executive met to discuss the matter and there was a general agreement that the vote of no was spoiled pretty much by them.  And then we were told that the prime minister, we had arranged rather a meeting with the prime minister and so a few days after we had a meeting with the prime minister and he brought some amendments that were made to the law because, I guess, he realized that there was much concern about the law itself.  So we looked through the amendments, now take into mind it’s already a law, and the prime minister made some efforts to make some amendments to the law.  And I must say that he did make some interesting and important amendments to it, for example, there was a mention that he will come to the senate and present what was the plan of government down the road, as far as the use of the funds and development purposes and so forth, so that we have an idea what was in store down the road.  Also, that a reporting to the senate on how funds were used so there is a sense of [readiness] to be more transparent and more accountable.  And so we looked at all of that and there was like a general consensus that at least something, some efforts were being made to make the law itself more palatable to us and also to the general public.”

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