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Golding chides Simpson Miller

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Golding (left)and Simpson Miller (right).

PRIME MINISTER Bruce Golding has reacted sharply to charges by Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller that his administration was attempting to politicise the National Housing Trust (NHT).

"The allegation by the leader of the opposition that the National Housing Trust is being politicised is baseless and provocative," Golding said in a statement to the media.

Simpson Miller complained at the Opposition's symbolic sitting of Parliament earlier this week that the Government's decision not to renew the contract of Earl Samuels smacked of political victimisation.

But Golding hit back, saying that Simpson Miller owes Samuels an apology for attempting to draw the public servant into a political row between Government and Opposition.

"The charge by the leader of the opposition that the non-renewal of Mr Earl Samuels' contract is an act of political victimisation contains an insinuation for which she owes Mr Samuels a public apology," declared Golding.

not in contract

The prime minister said there was no requirement in Samuels' contract for it to be automatically renewed after it expired in December 2009.

"The decision was made to advertise the post, and the period for receipt of applications is still open," Golding said.

He added that the NHT board would in due course consider the applications and make a selection.

The prime minister also confirmed that the term of appointment of the board of directors, which also expired on December 31, had been extended to January 15.

He said a submission for the appointment of a new board was before the Cabinet and an announcement would be made next week.

Golding disclosed that almost all the former members had been recommended for re-appointment.

And in response to Simpson Miller's criticism that the Government was dipping into the NHT fund after castigating her three years ago for doing the same thing, Golding said the Government would be repaying the $477 million to finance the drought-mitigation efforts.

He said the funds were being used to rehabilitate wells and acquire water trucks to provide emergency supplies to badly affected communities, schools and hospitals.

"Given the severe fiscal constraints currently being experienced, he (the minister of water and housing) was advised to negotiate an interest-bearing loan from the NHT, which would be fully covered by a government guarantee and would be repaid over five years," Golding said.

The prime minister revealed that the advice of the solicitor general had been sought on the matter.