CARICOM defends silence in St. Kitts and Nevis

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 12TH 2014 (CUOPM) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is defending its “silence” on the ongoing political situation in St. Kitts and Nevis where opposition legislators are seeking to force the Parliament to debate a motion of no confidence, that is still to be heard in the Court.

CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves defended the 15-member grouping’s position insisting that “there are no human rights issues at stake in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“What is the basis on which we can interfere or intervene, if there is a break down in law and order… we can interfere, that is not the case. What you have is the internal democratic institutions working out their problem,” Dr. Gonsalves told reporters including the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

Members of the opposition grouping in St. Kitts and Nevis, Team Unity, led by Dr. Timothy Harris, held a news conference here on Monday as the regional leaders opened their two-day inter-sessional summit, calling on them to adhere to good governance in the Caribbean.

The opposition politicians, supported by St. Vincent and the Grenadines Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, have been calling for the National Assembly in their country to debate a motion of no confidence that had been filed against the government of Prime Minister Dr. Denzil L. Douglas more than a year ago.

“They know that what is happening in St. Kitts is obnoxious and is bad and is unacceptable and they ought to do the right thing,” Harris said while Eustace repeated an earlier accusation that CARICOM leaders were being hypocritical in making statements on the political situations in Venezuela and Ukraine while remaining silent on the situation in Basseterre.

But Prime Minister Gonsalves, speaking at the end of the two-day summit here late Tuesday night, said what is occurring in the twin island federation “is intense political competition between two competing political parties or two competing political forces one in the opposition, one in the government.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the internal democratic institutions were working out “their problem,” noting that “the Governor General is seized of the matter, the Speaker is seized of the matter, the law courts are seized of the matter.”

“That is the same point the Secretary General of the Commonwealth made when he visited St. Kitts and Nevis. When he was asked why the Commonwealth isn’t interfering, intervening making a comment, the democratic institutions are working,” Gonsalves said.

He reminded reporters that he had stated publicly on previous occasions his own position on the matters unfolding in Basseterre.
“Clearly one would feel a sense of unease for a motion of no confidence to be filed and not been heard in the Parliament,” he said, noting however the difference in the Standing Orders and Constitutions of the twin island Federation to that of his own country and even Barbados.

“In St. Vincent and Grenadines you would not have that situation happening for the simple reason in our Constitution if the parliament is meeting and a motion of no confidence is filed it must be heard within seven days, if the parliament is not meeting it must be heard within 14 days, if the Speaker doesn’t put it down, a public servant…is enjoined by the constitution to put it down within 21 days of the filing,” he said, emphasing the adherence to deadlines.

“In St. Kitts and Nevis it is neither in the Constitution nor the Standing Orders so one would expect that the motion of no confidence would be heard in a reasonable time. But what happen when the motion was not heard by the Speaker in what the opposition considered to be reasonable time rather than take political action they went to the court.

“Once you go into the court you don’t control your time table. The court controls the timetable and that is what has happened in this particular matter in all its various meanderings and permutations,” Gonsalves said, adding “the democratic institutions in St. Kitts and Nevis they are addressing the problem.”

Prime Minister Douglas also said that St. Kitts and Nevis unicameral legislative body allows for the government to function since it provides for both elected and appointed legislators to have equal vote in various matters “and that is why they can go and still pass laws.

“The government has a majority of elected representatives and senators. The motion of no confidence is a matter to be put on the Order Paper by the Speaker,” he added.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Douglas told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that his administration would continue to await the court ruling on the motion.

Harris insists that the High Court ruled there were no impediments preventing the Speaker from having the motion.

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