MONC no longer relevant: Land for Debt Swap initiative exposes Opposition’s folly

Basseterre, St. Kitts (November 13, 2013) — Minister of Health, the Hon Marcella Liburd, has scuttled the Opposition’s stand on Land for Debt Swap Agreement, which was a basis for the Motion of no Confidence, by stating that when the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Ltd Vesting of Certain Lands 2012 Bill was brought to Parliament, they had the opportunity to defeat the Bill but they did not do it.

“As the parliament was then comprised, there were eleven parliamentary representatives and three senators,” recalled Hon Liburd in an interview with Freedom FM on Friday November 8. “So we had fourteen people sitting in the parliament. We had five on the opposition side and nine on the government side.

“If the Hon Timothy Harris and the Hon Sam Condor who had spoken vehemently against it, voted with the five on the opposition side that would be seven people voting against the bill. So you would have seven voting for the bill and seven voting against the bill. Under our laws, under the Standing Orders, if the votes are tied, the Bill fails.”

Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Mark Brantley, the architect of the Motion of No Confidence which he first filed on December 5, with a new draft on December 6, and another new draft on December 11 last year, is on record saying that he did not stay in Parliament to vote against the Bill because he did not have a place to stay in St. Kitts for the night and therefore had to leave for Nevis.

But despite the Opposition, which he leads in the Parliament not voting to defeat the Bill, in the Motion of no Confidence, Mr. Brantley accused the Prime Minister the Rt. Hon Dr. Denzil Douglas, of among other things, “…. has failed to consult the Country to the Land for Debt Agreement with the St. Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla National Bank Ltd with the resultant sellout of our patrimony.”

Recent happenings in Nevis, where the Nevis Island Administration has reportedly signed off on a Land for Debt Swap Agreement with the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank under a cloud of secrecy, have left many wondering if the Motion of no Confidence has any relevancy now considering that Hon Brantley is Nevis’s Deputy Premier.

It even goes further because since the filing of the Motion of no Confidence, the two opposition parties in the National Assembly, the St. Kitts-based People’s Action Movement (PAM), and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) of Nevis have banded together under the months old St. Kitts based opposition party, the People’s Labour Party (PLP) to form an umbrella opposition faction named the Unity Construct.

The leader of the People’s Labour Party, the Hon Dr. Timothy Harris and his lone member, the Hon. Sam Condor, left the ruling St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party in a huff, citing the Lands for Debt Agreement as a major reason why they joined the opposition ranks in the National Assembly. The Unity Construct is pressing for the Motion of no Confidence to be heard.

It was over the weekend of November 2/3that a matter that had been shrouded in secrecy came to light that the Nevis Island Administration had signed the Land for Debt Swap Agreement. When confronted to confirm the matter, the CCM went into denial. This has left persons asking if the Motion of no Confidence still has any relevance, with some even suggesting that it was dead.

In a government press release issued on Friday November 8, Premier the Hon Vance Amory was quoted as denying that his CCM-led Nevis Island Administration had signed an agreement to finalise a Land for Debt Swap, a transfer of lands from the NIA to the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Ltd.

This was at a stormy town hall meeting held on Thursday November 7 at the Red Cross Building in Charlestown, following a question asked by Ms. Deli Caines, press secretary to the Opposition Nevis Reformation Party. Cabinet Secretary Mr. Stedmond Tross angrily retorted “let it be known I have not signed any land transfer…” when challenged by Ms. Caines.

However, impeccable sources in Charlestown reveal that a resolution by the Nevis Island Administration was signed on October 16 by Cabinet Secretary Mr. Stedmond Tross, Permanent Secretary, Finance Mr. Laurie Lawrence, and Treasurer, Mr. Colin Dore.

The resolution is based on an agreement between the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank and the CCM-led Nevis Island Administration. The lands to be transferred include two separate pieces at Pinney’s Estate, St. Thomas’ Parish, one of 86.50 acres and the other 23.08 acres. The third piece of land is 238.82 acres in the St. George’s Parish, known as Stockpen Estate.

Exactly one week later, on October 23 a resolution by the Board of the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation was signed by its Chairman, the Hon. Alexis Jeffers, who is also Minister of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration and a member of the Cabinet, and Mr. Leon Lescott, Secretary and board member, for the same three pieces of land.

Premier the Hon Vance Amory, his Deputy Hon Mark Brantley, and a special advisor (who is a past chairman of the CCM Party) Mr Ted Hobson have said that it was the NRP-led Nevis Island Administration that had signed the Land for Debt Swap Agreement on April 18, 2012 and that they did not want to renege on.

The Government Press release on November 8 reported the Premier as saying, “We have not signed any land swap or any land over or any title for any land. We have not. There’s a resolution here which just speaks to what was signed already. We have not signed over any land. That’s the fact of the matter.

“We have a document which speaks to a resolution which indicates that the Administration agrees with a document which the Nevis Island Administration had signed on the 18th of April 2012,” explained Hon Amory following Ms Caines insistence on getting an answer.

He explained that the NRP-Administration which had entered into an agreement with the National Bank “is now seeking to transfer the responsibility for that agreement to CCM, but we won’t accept that agreement, because we did not sign that agreement. We are now negotiating with National Bank the way forward on the agreement which they have.”

However, Mr Ted Hobson, who is a lawyer by profession, said on WINN FM’s Inside the News on Saturday November 9, that they had to go on with the agreement because they did not want to pay the price for breach of contract with the National Bank, but still maintained that they had not signed anything.

But while Mr Hobson says that they are avoiding to renege on the National Bank agreement, they on taking office this year reneged on an agreement that had been signed April 27 last year between the NRP-led Nevis Island Administration and the Japanese Government for the building of the EC$30 million Charlestown Community Fisheries Complex, making the people of Nevis lose EC$30 million in grant money from the Japanese people.

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