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Lest others attempt to follow Dr Douglas’ lead

Dr Denzil Douglas has done it again.

Just when we thought the St Kitts and Nevis prime minister had exhausted all means at his disposal for denying the opposition’s wish for fresh general elections, as well as ensuring that there can only be one result when he actually announces the date for the much-anticipated poll, Dr Douglas has outfoxed us all — or so he may think – not least of all, his political opponents.

During a hastily-convened emergency parliamentary session late last week, which clearly took members of the opposition Team Unity by surprise, including Douglas’ former deputy Sam Condor, the prime minister moved swiftly to dissolve the National Assembly after getting the necessary approval for Governor General Sir Edmund Lawrence to sign an official proclamation, which would give effect to new electoral boundaries.

“The proclamation speaks to the boundaries as have been revised after several years and months of sitting of the Constituency Boundaries Commission,” said Dr Douglas, as he forcibly pushed the matter through the National Assembly on Friday.

Ironically, the same parliament has been dragging its feet for the past two years on an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence against the government, which also lost another senior cabinet minister, Timothy Harris, over the course of its last tumultuous five-year term.

However, serious doubt now hangs over the success of an injunction filed by the Harris-led Team Unity – made up of elected members of the Basseterre-based People’s Action Movement, the Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement and the recently formed People’s Labour Party. The governing St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) therefore seems on course to get its much-desired, fifth straight term in office — a feat that would put Dr Douglas in the country’s record books for good, and assure him of Napoleonic bragging rights for a long, long time to come.

That the 62-year-old prime minister, who celebrated his birthday on January 14, has been able to successfully pull off such a stunt would be quite amusing, laughable even, had it not occurred at a very high price for the process of democracy in the twin island Federation.

We hold no brief for any of the parties affected by this very shameful, Third World-looking political charade.

However, on this occasion we are forced to agree with the position issued by the St Kitts Nevis Chamber of Commerce, the St Kitts Christian Council, the Evangelical Association and the St Kitts Small Business Forum. In a joint statement today, they described last Friday, January 16, 2015, as “a sad day for democracy” when the SKNLP government displayed “a blatant disregard” for the rights of all members of the National Assembly.

We believe it is also a sad day for our region as a whole.

However, even more lamentable than Dr Douglas’ actions to date has been the deafening silence of other regional governments and indeed the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, which has treated Friday’s worrying development as just another general news item posted on its official website for regional consumption.

While we understand “the need for respect of diplomatic propriety and for adherence to the principles of non interference in the domestic affairs of member states”, as has been emphasized in the case of Guyana and its pending elections, we believe there are just some overarching issues on which CARICOM must at all times maintain common ground.

Therefore, just as the Irwin LaRocque-led CARICOM Secretariat has urged with Boko Haram, it must lift its voice and insist on greater urgency when it comes to matters, which appear to trifle with its mandate for upholding and defending our democracy.

Indeed as members of the family of Commonwealth, our nations have always stood in the vanguard and have aligned themselves with others known for maintaining the best democratic principles.

Now therefore is not a time for us to appear to be faltering on the altar of expediency, especially when one of our own appears to have so blatantly stepped out of line.

Today’s statement from the stakeholders in Basseterre best summarized what is currently at stake.

It warned that “elections should not be treated as like a game to be won in any way and at all costs”.

Furthermore, St Kitts and Nevis does not belong “to any one man or party” and that “the country’s constitution and its norms and conventions must be respected if it is to progress and avoid dictatorship”.

We concur for fear that others in this region would readily follow Douglas’ harmful precedent – disregarding constitution and people, moral and ethical behaviour, not to mention common decency – for the singular purpose of remaining in power at all costs.

Maybe there needs to be consideration of term limits for our leaders after all, so that there can be no confusion, least of all by them, over when they have reached their “expiry” date, by which time they must gracefully ride off into the political sunset.

7 Responses to Lest others attempt to follow Dr Douglas’ lead

  1. Paul Linton January 20, 2015 at 6:53 am

    My heart truly bleeds when i read this story and realise just how much this is a travesty of monumental proportions. The question then has to follow,where are the leaders of all other Caricom countries in this? Do they have an honest opinion as to how we as a region go forward after an event such as this?!!!!! I await some type of public response.

  2. Tony Webster January 20, 2015 at 7:02 am

    “Those whom the Gods wouldst destroy…they first make mad”.

    In the instant case, it is the good people of St.Kitts and Nevis who now find themsleves on a slippery slope…leading only to infamy.
    History will record a certain name…with shame, not fame.
    Utter irresponsibility; The Law, contorted; distorted; and even tortured, to fit the need, and greed. The very conventions which are foundational to the Constitution itself…all sacrificed without shame.
    And hold not your breath for some sharp sanction, or strong rebuke, from the “HOGS”… they are too busy, getting ready for their own next appointment…at the trough.
    Monumentally sad.

  3. David January 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    CARICOM & our Heads of Government do not have what it takes to be effective voice on issues affecting the region.
    What the Council of Ministers said on the prorogation of the Guyana parliament is laughable at the least and highly irresponsible.
    It is not surprising though because that same Council allowed the St Kitts issue of the No Confidence Motion to drag on with out saying one word. CARICOM & Council of Ministers are toothless and practically waste of time institutions.
    Dr Denzil Douglas knows he can do whatever he wants in St Kitts without any rebuttal from the leaders of the region.

  4. Charmaine January 20, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    This story does not take into account many things which I read occurred in St. Kitts and Nevis prior which is allowing the current issue to take place. St. Kitts and Nevis saw its boundaries changed in a swift decision in parliament by the PAM party in 1984 and again in 1988 just prior to elections. Unlike Dr. Douglas’ administration, the opposition of the time, the now incumbent St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party was never allowed input. The old boundaries which were set in 1984 were purposely put in place to suit the PAM party at the time in an act of true gerrymandering, which saw humongous, large populated constituencies being created and other tiny ones also being created to waste maximum Labour-expected votes and to maximize Pam-expected votes. The labour party was actually able to win the elections in 1995, despite the odds being against them with the boundaries from since 1988. Since then, due to migrations of people, many constituencies have become much more heavily populated than others, in many instances doubling them. In light of that, since 2005, the government has been attempting to change the boundaries to even out the populations in the constituencies. The PAM party was against this, as due to the heavy gerrymandering which took place way back when, if the boundaries of any of their current seats were to shift to the left or to the right, it would spell sure loss of those seats. Thus, they tried every way possible to prevent the boundaries from changing, using the court system to lengthen the process. And lengthen they did – for an entire decade. The issue was brought up time and again, but they always used the courts to tie it up. So the fact that at a time when Dr. Douglas needs a little boost that he chooses to bypass everyone and do what PAM did twice in the past is no surprise to most in SK. In fact, due to the sad history on the matter, most don’t think that PAM has any authority to bring the Labour party’s moral integrity under question due to the fact that they did the same thing – twice – when they were in office. Doesn’t make it right, but it doesn’t phase the people.
    Also, the motion of no confidence wasn’t being addressed in parliament because of another PAM created loophole. When St. Kitts and Nevis gained its independence in 1983, the government at the time were facing a motion of no confidence being placed upon them by the opposition of the time, the now incumbent Labour party. Knowing this, when the nation’s constitution was hastily put together before independence, it contained a clause speaking about a motion of no confidence, but it DID NOT STATE ANYWHERE A TIME PERIOD IN WHICH IT MUST BE HEARD. This was used by PAM until 1984, when the then motion of no confidence was never tabled in parliament until they, had an emergency sitting and changed the boundaries overnight without opposition consultation and then declared snap elections on the eve of the nation’s high of recently declaring independence in 1983. And with that, they won that election. The fact that Dr. Douglas is now using PAM’s very own selfishly created rules against them is viewed by many as just desserts. Doesn’t make it right, and it desperately needs changing and addressing to prevent such abuses in the future, but the nation does not feel held hostage by the PM – the bulk feel as though the smooth operations of the nation are being held hostage by Harris and Condor, who chose to jump ship (Harris especially) for means of greed which they are masking with means of ”caring for the greater good” which few are buying.
    This article is only telling a small portion of the story to be used by the opposition in SK as proof of regional opinion on the issue, when I’m certain it was written by a person from St. Kitts or a PAM affiliate in Barbados.
    But that’s my opinion on the issue. I don’t support the abuses of the constitution, but the fact that PAM did it all in the past, and that they created the problems makes me not feel sorry for them at all that at this point in time when they are attempting to hijack the country that Dr. Douglas is simply being clever and use what was intended to originally harm him, to actually fuel him.
    Bravo to Douglas.

  5. sonya January 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

    It amazes me that because wrongs may have been done back in the day, then it is okay for the present regime to do the same. So we find ourself in a quagmire. No regard for the rule of law, the constitution etc, any party that takes up Government as of now can just flaunt the law and their supporters will just say “well the our side did it, soooooo” Wrong is wrong and if it was not fix before now is the time to do it!!!!this crap has to stop and the movement is there to have actual change. So lets all call a spade a spade. Douglas needs to be removed and now is the time to do it. Any government that is put in place will be on notice that their people will not stand for this shit!!

  6. Charmaine January 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Sonya I understand what you’re saying but you missed the point of what I was trying to say. There are only two options in St. Kitts. The Denzil Douglas administration and the PAM party. The PAM party in the past has done everything is doing now in the past and worse so they are NOT the solution to the problem. They are not a fix all. That is why the people of St. Kitts keep sticking to the Labour party. Despite everything said above, they are still the better choice of the two.

  7. Joey February 5, 2015 at 12:10 am

    The so called travesty as seen by you hypocritical bunch throughout the region is a stark reminder of when you digging holes to always dig two. The malformed constitution at Independence is the provider of all the loop holes that were not properly look at in 1983.
    Suddenly a different dealer takes over the game and we don’t want him to deal from the deck that was provided. Condemn as you may, but stop for a minute and examine the same constitution and see for yourself where the misdeeds lie. Just about 3yrs ago everybody in parliament was singing the same tune of the need for realignment, now they even oppose their own views, back tracking and trying to make Douglas look like Hitler reincarnate.


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