After candidate minister Nicholas failed to pass: USp wants review of screening process

USp-leader Frans Richardson and (now former) party-president Cecil Nicholas.


Source Today Newspaper 

GREAT BAY – Cecil Nicholas, former president of the Usp, gave up his taxi-license when he was named a candidate for the position of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication. Now he is without a taxi-license and he won’t become minister either because he failed the screening. Party-leader Frans Richardson said yesterday that efforts will be made to restore the license, but the bigger issue at a press conference at the USp-headquarters on L.B. Scott Road was the concept of the screening process.

Richardson emphasized that Nicolas did not fail the screening because of a criminal issue or because of a fiscal issue. Instead, the conclusion that Nicolas is not fit to be a minister has to do with the history of a member of his household.

Since 2014 our party has nominated four candidates for a minister’s post,” Richardson said. “Two of them failed the screening based on the law. We looked at the documentation and realized that it is time to take a serious look at that law. How far do we want to go before someone is cleared?”

Richardson revealed that Nicolas had tax issues but that they have been resolved. “The question he got was, are you fixing your tax issues now that you want to become a minister? It is unfortunate how this was used. Then they screened his household and went way back in their history. We are saying – that should not be.”
Nevertheless, Richardson says, the party has accepted the result of the screening, even though he has a beef with it. “There is no way to challenge the findings of the VDSM,” he said.

That is true. In earlier cases – like the screening of former airport director Regina Labega – challenges turned out to be fruitless because the national security service is under no obligation to reveal its sources. They are, and remain, confidential.

Nicholas said in a brief comment that he was “disappointed” in the outcome of the screening process and that there should be an option to challenge findings by the VDSM.

Richardson wants to revisit the screening law in Parliament. He suggested a time limit on how far back a screening investigation is allowed to go and – with Nicholas’ lost taxi permit in mind – to establish that candidate ministers have to give up their interests in businesses and other organizations within three months after their appointment instead of at the beginning of the screening process.

The USp hosted a general meeting yesterday morning to discuss the way forward. Our decision was to look within the party for another candidate,” Richardson said.

The board held interviews with five candidates and a final decision was to be made last night.

On another note, Richardson emphatically denied rumors on social media that he is about to bring the government down and form a new coalition with the United People’s party. “I am not in any discussion to form another government,” he said. “I have no issue with the current coalition or with the minister of finance. My relationship with the minister could not be better than it is right now and the coalition is working just fine. We want to continue doing what the people have elected us to do. So let us put this issue to rest once and for all.”

Richardson announced at the press conference that Agnes Brooks has been appointed as Nicholas’ successor as the party’s president. Michael Granger is now the secretary of the USp.