ST. KITTS: Timothy Harris’ government on brink of collapse

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Brantley

 Address to the Nation by

                                                         the Honourable Mark A.G. Brantley, Premier of Nevis

Brothers and Sisters I greet you at a most holy time of year and a time when we all should be focused on the unmerited grace shown towards us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who made the ultimate sacrifice giving his life so that we can have a chance at redemption.

Regrettably, even as we thank God for His abundant mercies, there are matters here in our Federation which threaten to tear the fabric of our young Nation apart.

The history of our Team Unity government is well known. PAM, CCM and PLP came together under an umbrella of Team Unity offering a better way for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. We were able then in the harsh winter of political opposition to put aside our differences, to compromise and to fashion a framework for engagement amongst each other and for our people which remains the greatest political idea in the post-Independence history of our country.

Team Unity was designed to emphasize the Team and the oneness of purpose. It was designed to bring the people of St. Kitts and Nevis together and to end the decades old tribalism and parochialism in our country. But to achieve any of these lofty objectives, there was, is and will always be the need for leadership that is humble, visionary and inclusive. I remind us all that there is no “I” in Team and no “me” in Unity.

We were embraced by our people in 2015 and again in 2020 and catapulted from the harsh winter of Opposition into the welcome spring of government.

Alas, I regret to say that along the way we have lost our way. After years of efforts internally to resolve issues, the lack of commitment to find resolution has now created a public spectacle of which none of us can be proud.

Brothers and Sisters, a timeline of recent events might be useful.

The PAM had its annual Convention on Sunday, March 13, 2022 at which I spoke. The PLP had its annual Convention on Saturday, 26 March, 2022. Both Conventions made it clear that all was not well. Indeed it was obvious to all that since the Conventions of those two political parties in 2021 there were signs of acute difficulties within the Team Unity construct.

And yet Brothers and Sisters, the Prime Minister and Leader of Team Unity made no attempt to get the PLP, PAM and CCM together to resolve issues. Concerns about keeping our promises to each other and to our people, concerns about undermining colleagues, concerns about allowing PLP operatives to openly and brazenly attack sitting members of the Cabinet, concerns about the absence of transparency within the Cabinet, concerns about the concentration of all the levers of power exclusively in the hands of the Prime Minister, all were raised and yet no effort was made to resolve.

Against this backdrop, the Honourable Shawn Richards as Leader of PAM and I as Leader of CCM, who together have 7 of the 9 seats in the Unity coalition, jointly wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday, 28 March, 2022 seeking an urgent meeting. We both realized that if Team Unity was to be saved then, PAM and CCM had to initiate that dialogue to save it.

Notwithstanding the urgency and gravity of the situation, the Prime Minister did not make himself available for a meeting until 9 days later. We finally met in Basseterre on Wednesday, 6th April, 2022.

At that meeting the parties agreed that we would speak freely and that we would not disclose the content of our discussions until some resolution was achieved. Both the Leader of PAM and I set out in extensive detail the serious concerns that we had with the manner in which the Prime Minister was managing Team Unity as leader. We went on to indicate to him our recommendations for ameliorating the position and allowing us to move forward with greater comfort and assurance that the concerns would not only be addressed but would not be allowed to reoccur.

Out of respect for the Prime Minister and  the office that he holds, both the Honourable Richards and I agreed that he would need time to reflect and a second meeting was convened for Holy Thursday, 14th April, 2022.

Naturally we expected that having set out the issues of concern and the recommendations for resolution of those issues, the Honourable Prime Minister would have come to the meeting on Holy Thursday with his response to the clear recommendations made having had 8 days to reflect and consider.

This however proved not to be the case and instead the Prime Minister failed and or refused to address decisively any of the issues raised, choosing instead to suggest that we develop a framework for further discussions, a code of conduct for Cabinet, and inviting the World Bank to study the issue of a pro rata share of CBI proceeds for Nevis.

Given the obvious preparations on the ground by the PLP for a possible election, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the Honourable Prime Minister is not concerned about saving Team Unity but is merely playing for time hoping to maintain the status quo for as long as possible while the serious concerns about the current path of Team Unity are ignored.

If I can take but one example to prove my point. It boggles the mind why the Honourable Prime Minister, a trained accountant and highly astute financial manager, would continue peddling a notion that we need the World Bank to come in to do a study to tell us how to calculate the monies received from CBI, subtract the expenses of the program, and divide the balance on a pro rata population basis between Basseterre and Charlestown as was agreed as a central plank of the Team Unity construct. I am certain when I say that any student at the Nevis Sixth Form College or CFBC could undertake that mathematical exercise and bring immediate resolution to a matter which has now festered for 7 long years.

My brothers and sisters let me be clear. One hand cannot clap and PAM and CCM cannot by themselves save Team Unity as currently configured if the PLP and its leadership has no interest in resolving the issues that confront us.

To this end and consistent with our ongoing efforts to save our Team Unity government, the Honourable Shawn Richard and I have delivered written communication to the Honourable Prime Minister setting out our position for a path forward. We have taken the unprecedented step of putting a deadline of Wednesday, April 20th, 2022 for a response from the Prime Minister, barring which we can only conclude that he and his team have no interest or desire to save this Team Unity government. We shall therefore know by Wednesday whether we can achieve resolution or face dissolution.

I have heard the address of the Honourable Prime Minister wherein he intimated that the office of the Prime Minister should not be diminished. I agree but will add that the principles of Team Unity which allowed him the privilege of being our Prime Minister should also not be diminished. We cannot and must not use the ladder of Team Unity to get to the top and then kick it down as being a mere construct for personal advancement and self-aggrandizement.

Brothers and Sisters, I and my beloved CCM remain fully committed to Team Unity and the ideals which we espoused and which captured the imagination of our people. We believe that Unity must not only be a word to be oft repeated in speeches but an ideal that should be demonstrated in action. We are committed to living in peace and promoting socio-political harmony among our two islands and among our people. But let there be no doubt that if others within the Team Unity construct are unwilling or unable to compromise in the interest of our Nation’s stability, then the CCM and the people of Nevis shall not waver. We shall not bow. We shall never ever surrender. We live by our motto that People Matter Most and we shall never resile from standing up for the people who have entrusted us to represent them.

As I end, I invite your prayers in this most Holy of times. Easter is about sacrifice but it is also about rebirth and renewal. Easter is a story of sadness but also a story of triumph. Most of all Easter is a story of Almighty God keeping His promise to us all. May we seek to be Christ like and keep our promises to each other and to our people.

I wish you all a blessed Easter and pray that our churches may be full and overflowing today, tomorrow and in the difficult days and weeks ahead.

Thank you and God bless and keep you.

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