Citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, members of the general public at home and abroad, the Hon Members of the Opposition in the Parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis wish to bring to your attention a number of very troubling developments of recent origin in our beautiful Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. These developments, if left unchecked and unchallenged by the Opposition in Parliament comprising representatives of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) which I have the honour to lead, will result in the rapid and complete degradation of the democratic standards and the good governance practices of our government and our Parliament.
The first matter I touch on is one that epitomises the arrogance and height of disrespect which this Government is showing for our Parliamentary traditions. When Parliament opens tomorrow, Thursday May 14, our Governor General Sir Edmund Lawrence will not be present. Instead, the recently appointed Acting Governor General, Tapley Seaton QC, will open Parliament with the reading of the Throne Speech.
The citizens of St. Kitts & Nevis should be asking themselves therefore why is His Excellency Sir Edmund Lawrence, our present Governor General, absent from the first sitting of Parliament and why is His Excellency not delivering the Throne Speech?
We submit to our citizens at home and abroad, to the people of CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the world, that the reason is that the Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, and his Attorney General Senator Vincent Byron, have manipulated the circumstances which have led to His Excellency Sir Edmund Lawrence being absent from the Ceremonial Opening of the Parliament and being allowed to deliver the traditional Throne Speech tomorrow, Thursday, May 14th 2014.
This act of political scheming and disrespect for the office of the Governor General is the low level to which Dr Harris and his Government have taken our Parliament and our beloved country. This is the level to which the new Prime Minister and his administration have descended in their anxiety to carry out their own petty political agenda.
When The Labour Party took office in July 1995, the sitting Governor General HE the late Sir Clement Arrindell was treated with the full respect and traditions due to his high office. It was Sir Clement who participated in the traditional ceremonial opening of the Parliament and delivered the Throne Speech. Sir Clement remained in Office until he opted to retire quietly, several months after, at the end of the calendar year, on consultation with the Palace.
It is despicable what Dr. Harris and Attorney General Byron have done to interfere with the tradition of the sitting Governor General being present to deliver the throne speech at the first sitting of a new term of Parliament. This intimidation and victimization of our Governor General must stop and we call on the members of Government show respect for the office of the Governor General.
Another troubling matter that I must bring to the public’s attention is that immediately after the General Election of February 16, this government closed the operations of the Electoral Office denying the public the essential right to register to vote in a constituency in which they are entitled to register to vote. The SKNLP declares this as highly undemocratic and signals its intention to pursue this matter to its fullest extent on behalf of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, the majority of whom we represent. To date, there has been no acceptable explanation to the public as to what are the circumstances that have led to the closure of the electoral office. Our understanding is that since the closure of the office, persons who are untrained in the operation of the system have corrupted the system thereby requiring Advantics, a company out of the Dominican Republic, to despatch experts to St. Kitts and Nevis for the purpose of restoring the system and removing critical errors that have developed over the last three (3) months.
The people of this country deserve to be told the truth about why they are being denied the right of access to the electoral office. It is quite plausible that the names of many non-nationals are being placed on the register of voters to bolster the Federal Government’s and the NIA’s chances of winning future elections. Indeed, on the island of Nevis in particular in recent times, there have been a number of court matters relating to the removal of a large number of non-nationals from the voters’ list. The truth is, no-one should be asked to blindly trust a government’s running of the electoral office. For that purpose, political parties and their agents are required to have ongoing access to the electoral office and to have a constant flow of information on the registration and transfer of registration activities at the electoral. For the past three months, the public and opposition political parties have been denied their rights. This for us is a matter of public outrage and we call upon the government to end its undemocratic practices and its concealment of information that belongs to the public domain.
The third matter that is of grave concern to the SKNLP and the people of this country is the rampant sacking of public servants by this government without due authority. Dozens of ordinary citizens over the last three months have been the subjects of the victimization of this present PAM administration. These victims range from top level Civil servants such as permanent secretaries and ambassadors down to persons who are working for near minimum wage. The case of Ms. Avonis Jones, a young woman taking care of six children, who was dismissed unceremoniously after serving 17 years in the Public Service, is particularly irksome and reflects the lack of care of this government for ordinary people. Civil Servants are being sacked left, right and centre based solely upon the government’s belief as to which political party they have supported. This is wrong. This is absolutely wrong. This is horrendous and it must be brought to an end. Had the fortunes of the SKNLP be different after February 16, not one civil servant would have feared for their job.
That is why on Labour Day, May 4th, thousands of working people demonstrated their solidarity with their working peers marching through the streets of Basseterre with placards denouncing the wicked and corrupt actions of this PAM government headed by Dr. Timothy Harris.
It is not only the fact that people are being robbed of an opportunity to feed their families, including young children; it is also the manner in which human beings are being treated, almost literally dragged from their offices with police men on hand to intimidate them and to beat them into compliance with the wicked and inconsiderate policy of our government to send them home without even a letter of explanation in hand. This practice cannot stand. It really cannot stand. It is these kinds of egregious and dehumanising acts committed against the ordinary people of this country by their colonial era employers that created the reason for the founding of our great Party, the SKNLP. Therefore, we will stand with the workers of this country even now as they experience the abuse of a corrupt and uncaring government that is seeking to create employment vacancies for their supporters by firing others. The workers of this country must know that the SKNLP will always be there for you.
As a serious step towards demonstrating the disgust of the people of this country with the indecency, disrespect, and dishonour committed to date by this government, the Parliamentary Opposition has decided to abstain from participation in Parliament at its opening onThursday, May 14th.
Nigel Carty, BSc, MSc, JP