The Right Honorable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas
Prime Minister, St. Kitts & Nevis Statement on Freedom FM 106.5 in Response to Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Failure to Meet April 2014 PayrollApril 25, 2014
At the Prime Minister’s Monthly Press Conference on Wednesday, a member of the media sought a comment on the inability of the Nevis Island Administration to meet certain responsibilities.
I explained, in response, that Premier Amory had formally personally contacted me about this matter only on Wednesday morning when the questioned was being asked, and that I had assured him that I would do everything in my power to assist the people of Nevis, and indeed the Nevis Island Administration itself, as I have in the past. And so, I am once again making this point abundantly clear – not only to the people of Nevis, but indeed to the Federation at large. Under our Constitution, the Nevis Island Administration is responsible for the payroll of public servants in Nevis that is the payment of salaries, pensions and wages of public servants and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The Federal Government is not responsible for the payment of salaries wages and pension of the salaries in Nevis. Both as Prime Minister and as a National of the Federation, however, I know that we are one people. And it is this oneness that caused me to commit to Premier Amory on Wednesday to do all in my power to assist, as I have in the past, and will, in the future, again.
This is the way I have always functioned as Prime Minister of the Federation. I am, for example, aware that there are those in Nevis who have long advocated secession. And I will always respect the right of Nevisians to determine their future. That notwithstanding, however, in order to promote the best possible relations between both islands, and in an attempt to convey my sincerity in that regard, one of my earliest undertakings upon becoming Prime Minister some nineteen years ago was to establish a Federal Office in Charlestown.
Indeed, again in an attempt to strengthen the bonds between both islands, upon being elected to office with a clear majority in the last election, my Government immediately reached out to the people of Nevis, reach out to the Nevis Island Administration and invited the Honorable Patrice Nisbett to serve as a member of the Federal Cabinet.
We are, as I have said, one people. The joint Cabinet meetings that I initiated in order to strengthen bonds, attest to this. My countless meetings with Nevisians of all stripes and colour right here at Government Headquarters in St. Kitts makes this clear. And the warmth that Nevisians and I always share when I am in Nevis, or they are in St. Kitts, proves that the channel that divides us is simply a matter of geography.
I sincerely wished that Premier Amory had alerted me earlier to the real difficulty that his Administration was experiencing regarding payment of salaries to public servants. He had done this on earlier occasions, when crises just as severe were being faced, and I have always responded with openness, understanding, and swift action.
When I was in Nevis last week Wednesday, Colin Dore could indicated then that he was the acting financial secretary, he indicated that he was experiencing some difficulties for the month of April. I ask him if he had communicated this with the financial secretary and he said he had done so. I know presently and I said this to Amory on Wednesday that the Financial Secretary of St. Kitts had prepared a document which will be brought to the Cabinet on Monday for consideration and I will do my best as I always done as the chairman of the Federal Cabinet to move my other colleagues in support of any assistance that we can provide to the people of Nevis.
Regrettably, however, and for reasons I do not understand, I was informed of this crisis by Premier Amory only on Wednesday – the very day when salaries had been collected, when people have gone to their bank account and had recognize that they could not retrieve their salaries.
Just one week ago, for example, some 500 PEP workers in Nevis were expressing, in great detail and enthusiasm, the tremendous impact that the PEP is having in their lives. Does this not dramatically underscore the importance of keeping lines of communication open?
In closing, I am reminded of the recent fire that destroyed one or two public buildings in Nevis, I went there myself I spoke to the public servants myself I encourage them to continue to do their work with dedication and with a high regard of responsibility despite the dislocation that they were experiencing as a result of the fire. These were the same public servants who greeted me in the street s who came to see me last week Wednesday and Thursday when I was in Nevis same people these public servants have to be paid on time. They work hard and they deserve to be paid on time and the Nevis Island Administration has the responsibility to ensure that they are paid on time. I am obliged to point out that Premier Amory, in his statement last evening, misspoke on an important point – possibly because of the discomfort of the moment.
The Premier made reference to what he perceived to be inadequate sharing of resources between St. Kitts and Nevis: ‘the same ole political bore game of the past’ The Federal Government has been in a Sugar Adaptation Strategy Program with the EU since the closure of the sugar industry in 2005 and the adaptation strategy was negotiated since 2006. As a result, funds identified for specific projects have been used specifically for those purposes. And when specified, the people and public servants of both islands have been the beneficiaries.
The last allocation under the EU’s Sugar Adaptation Strategy Program, however, was specifically – and I stress, specifically – it is to be used for Federal budget support. Because the money has not yet been allocated and that is why I said that Premier Amory because of the discomfort of the moment he spoke, he spoke about 9 million Euros which will be received once all the preconditions are met will be received by December 31st 2014 we are just in the month of April. No 9 million Euros has been collected by this federal government and so it is the old bogey that money comes into this federal government is to be shared and it is not shared this is not the situation the Federal government has not received no 9 million Euro’s to be used for budget support it has not received it and so again I say regrettably that Premier Amory misspoke.
I believe that Premier Amory simply misspoke because of the discomfort at the moment. I do not think that he intended to mislead. I nonetheless thought it essential that I correct any misconception that has been given.
And so, I end where I began: Premier Amory alerted me only on Wednesday to his Government’s inability to meet certain responsibilities. Yes he said that he was away and only came back the day before but those are the facts I was inform by him only on Wednesday morning. I committed to do all in my power to assist at that time, and to that I have remained true – as much for the NIA, as for the people of Nevis and in particular the public servants of Nevis and the pensioners those who are working hard to serve the interest of the people of Nevis those pensioners who have worked hard have give dedicated service for years until they reach retirement I will continue to ensure that I remain true to my own pledge and commitment to assist because they need support and assistance.
And this is in keeping with all that I have stood for throughout my years as Prime Minister. And this is not about to change now despite the usual blame game that is usually given to me and to us.