PNP VIPs summon Thwaites - MP denies allegations in radio interview
June 28 2002
RONALD THWAITES, People's National Party MP for Central Kingston and a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, was yesterday summoned to a meeting with high-ranking PNP officials to clarify allegations of professional misconduct.
Among the charges Thwaites, 57, a high-profile attorney-at-law and talk show host, denied in an interview on the Nationwide programme on Power 106 yesterday evening were that:
$5 million collected by his law firm for the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, had been used;
He was paid substantial sums during the time he was associated with the Low Income Family Foundation, which went bust;
And that he used property belonging to the church to secure a personal loan.
"We have had discussions with Mr. Thwaites today, but we are trying to get further and better particulars of the incidents," Maxine Henry-Wilson, PNP General Secretary, told The Gleaner last night.
She said she had not heard him speak on radio, where he sought to set the record straight, but said "We had people monitoring the programme." Both Mrs. Henry-Wilson and Robert Pickersgill, chairman of the PNP, are to meet with P.J. Patterson, party president and Prime Minister, to discuss the issues.
Until the issues are resolved and the scandal subsides, Mr. Thwaites's political future hangs in the balance.
"No decision has been reached as yet; the discussions will continue," Mrs. Henry-Wilson said.
Allegations against an unnamed person were made yesterday by Observer columnist, Mark Wignall. Although he was not named in the column, the Rev. Mr. Thwaites went public in defending himself "because the circumstances and events are some of those with which I'm connected".
Speaking with Cliff Hughes on Nationwide, the Central Kingston MP said he never represented LIFF, but offered advice. He denied receiving any money from LIFF and said he was not given a retainer by the organisation.
He admitted using Roman Catholic Church land to secure a loan, but stressed that he had got permission from the church leadership. It was the same piece of land he was instrumental in having transferred to the church eight to 10 years ago, he said. "Later on when I faced a (financial) difficulty, I asked permission of the leader of the church, (Archbishop Samuel Carter, S.J., now retired) to utilise the property as security for a business loan," Mr. Thwaites disclosed.
He told Nationwide that the loan was being paid off and was current, although it was in arrears at one stage. He said the transaction was "unusual, but not improper".
In the case of the "missing" $5 million, the Rev. Thwaites explained that he was retained as a lawyer by the Government Post Office, the organisation which preceded the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, to collect outstanding sums owed to the agency. His son, Daniel Thwaites, later became chairman of the corporation but the Rev. Thwaites said he had done no business with the Corporation.
He said that all sums collected were handed over, but that a $5 million payment was deposited to his company's bank account without his knowledge. The money, he said, was returned within four weeks, but in two instalments. He said he had offered to pay interest on the money, but his offer was declined.
In April, the law firm, Daly, Thwaites and Co., of which he is the principal, was implicated in the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC)/Operation PRIDE scandal, which led to the resignation of Dr. Karl Blythe as Water and Housing Minister. The four-member commission which was appointed to probe the two Government-run agencies called for a full investigation of the role of the firm.
Asked by Hughes yesterday if he was considering leaving representational politics, Mr. Thwaites said: "Any person who faces an issue of trust must consider all options. Anyone in any position where there are allegations and where there is controversy must consider all their positions - that has to be one of them."