By E Robelto Hector, Leader of the Nevis Reformation Party
As a national of the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, I was recently appalled at the treatment given to me as a returning national amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is abundantly clear that a consistent approach was not applied given my current status as the elected leader of the Nevis Reformation Party.
Allow me to detail my experience in the past month and quell the rumour-mongering that is too often prevalent during the silly season of politics. It is no secret that I travelled overseas in March for personal reasons with a departure date of March 17 and an anticipated return date of March 31, a time period of no more than two weeks. As many of you are aware, the borders of the Federation were closed on March 25 and like many other global citizens, I was stranded with no clear indication of when the borders would be reopened.
Let me be clear – as a scientist, politician, lawyer, and national of the Federation, I am acutely aware of the need to protect public health and safety and implement practical measures to avert the crisis. In fact, I was pleased that the cases reported in the Federation were primarily related to individuals entering the Federation from hotspots in North America. It was also common-place across the globe that borders needed to be closed to limit the spread of the virus. By the end of April, I had already re-booked my flight twice at personal cost.
At the beginning of May, I began to have conversations with the officials in the Federation to identify the steps that returning nationals could take to re-enter the Federation. At this time, the number of cases appeared to be contained and students were allowed entry into the Federation on repatriation flights. Given that there are no commercial flights into the Federation, the only option available to me was a private charter flight from travel ports that were operational and accessible from a United States port, primarily Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I spoke directly to Mr. Abdias Samuel, Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force who indicated that returning nationals were allowed re-entry into the Federation at personal costs and were subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. I have no objection to the quarantine and am presently abiding by that protocol. I also inquired of Mr. Samuel if my quarantine could be completed at a government facility located in Nevis since that is my usual place of residence in the Federation. Mr. Samuel indicated that this was possible and recommended that I contact Mr. Brian Dyer, Director of the Nevis Disaster Management Department. Before my contact with Mr. Dyer, I had already completed the requisite paperwork to agree to quarantine and had begun to reserve flights and identify charter routes from Puerto Rico having been granted permission from the COVID-19 Task Force to return home.
On Friday May 15, I contacted Mr. Dyer and was verbally told that it was possible to be quarantined at a government facility in Nevis upon my return to the Federation. That facility is located in Potworks in the Parish of St. James, and it was here that the students were quarantined when they returned. At that time, Mr. Dyer indicated that it was important to contact NASPA to secure the permissions for the airport as it was imperative that health officials meet the aircraft and ensure that quarantine protocols were met. Again, at no time did I refuse to be quarantined to meet the public health requirement. I did, however, request to be quarantined at my personal residence since I live alone, and I was also the only passenger arriving on the flight into the Nevis International Airport on my planned date of arrival. No insights were provided on the decision for a government facility versus a private facility and it is important to note that mandatory quarantine has a price tag – you are required to pay for accommodation, meals, and the test administered by a lab chosen by the government.
I contacted NASPA as directed by both Mr. Samuel and Mr. Dyer on Friday, May 15. Mr. Brandy acknowledged receipt of the request and the permission already granted by the National Task Force. In his email, he stated that “Please note that NASPA will be very happy to facilitate your return to Nevis once the regulatory document has been signed as indicated in the letter of permission”.
Later, on that same day, Mr, Brandy indicated that I had not provided a copy of the paperwork although I had already submitted paperwork to the Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force and permission was already granted. I complied with this request and re-submitted the requisite paperwork, primarily the form indicating my compliance with quarantine and my intended arrival date. At 3:21 p.m., Mr. Brandy indicated that my return would need to be approved by the NASPA Board of Directors and was subject to “final authorization.” (LOL)
On Saturday, May 16, I was sent another email from Mr. Brandy indicating that the Board of Directors of NASPA “had voted” that the airport would remain closed to all incoming flights until further notice. It is evident that this decision was different to what was already offered to others, particularly students who arrived in the Federation. My denied entry to Nevis is and was petty politics! I had already been granted entry into the Federation but the CCM-led cabal and its delegates sought to keep me off the ground knowing full well that the election would be called for June 5. THIS IS THE WORKINGS OF THE PREMIER. “He is just a boy” yes our Premier is just a boy.
Our Premier must explain to you the good people why his power is being used to victimize, oppress and to create an unfair political advantage even now during this pandemic. He must be held to account. They all must be held to account. The people of Nevis have always held the politicians of Nevis to account. This mantra I urge you to maintain.