St Kitts’ voting-time; “The People’s Pulse” by T. C. Phipps-Benjamin

Historians deem the events of 1993 in the independent capital city of Basseterre, St. Kitts inevitable. It was the year when political parties on St. Kitts would come to a head following an election that put the constitution of the federation under the proverbial microscope.

As far as supporters of the Labour Party were concerned, they were on the brink of regaining political power and no three term PAM government was going to deny them a chance to once again command the reigns of power in the then fifteen year independent federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

So it was on! It was time to send PAM back into the political wilderness.

A 4-4 split in the 8 seats contested on St.Kitts meant somehow an alliance would have to be formed with Nevis or, as far as Labour was concerned, return to the polls.

Both political parties on Nevis held out!

{FILE IMAGE} Dr. Simeon Daniel’s decision to align with PAM in 1980 did not augur well on the minds of many a Nevisian.

CCM’s Vance Amory ran a campaign that advocated greater autonomy for the Nevis Island Administration and the people of Nevis. There would be no alliance and neither was there any shift in the hands of power.

The stalemate incensed many a Labour Party supporter and those who strongly condemned Dr. Simmonds and the PAM administration for its decision to swear in Dr. Simmonds for a fourth term. The decision, ordained by the Governor General at the time, Sir Clement Arrindel, brought the PAM government and their supporters to their knees and they buckled even further from the onslaught of bottles and stones that followed, forcing their hands to eventually do the inevitable; go back to the polls.

Spurned by a fired up and powerful leader, the “people” won their bid to return to the polls. And so they did in July of 1995 when at last those with heavily vested interests in the PAM party could no longer fight the well-oiled engine of the Labour Party. A seemingly “new day” blossomed in the federation.

Since attaining power in 1995, none can doubt that this Labour Administration asserted itself as a “New Labour Party“. Still grounded in the ideals of Labour stalwarts such as Premier Bradshaw, France, Southwell and Sir Lee L. Moore, the goal of “New Labour” seemed to be not to lose sight of their vision for the indigent and struggling members of society. Their thrust was to serve the “people“, the grass roots, ordinary people. “New Labour” was the torchbearer of democracy who the people envisioned as the best party to keep that light burning.

Along the way, it is difficult not to acknowledge that this Labour administration has made several missteps. In recent years, this “New Labour” administration has been subject to intense scrutiny from supporters and opponents alike and rightly so as this batch of “New Labour” vowed to bring transparency, honesty and good governance, to Church Street, characteristics many believed had long disappeared under the PAM administration.

The economic challenges that this Labour party administration has struggled tirelessly to overcome have plagued ALL citizens home and abroad. Drastic increases in food and other basic necessities that hard pressed businesses pass on to their consumers hurt ALL citizens. The so-called “simpler more efficient 17 percent VAT” has severely punished the income stagnant pockets of the common man. Constant power outages, still a thorn in the sides of ALL citizens, have caused repeated loss of appliances for many citizens.

The people have heard of countless promises that have been broken or matter-of-factly shoved under the carpet.

But alas, it is the swapping of prime Kittitian lands to supposedly pay down the federation’s national debt with not an iota of feedback from the public who will have to face the consequences of what a new Sandy Point or a new Cayon or a new Lodge Village will look like, that is the Mother of all “snuffs”.

Lands to repay our long ballooning national debt have been auctioned off to the highest bidders under the guise of debt restructuring and the citizens are told “Poof It Gone” in one breath (it being the debt) while in another breath citizens are told the lands belong to the people because the lands were paid for by National Bank; the people’s bank!

The sticking point with this most displeasing issue is the far from transparent manner in which the land swap occurred. Dr. Timothy Harris, who claimed to have only learned of the specifics of the bill the morning parliament was held, unequivocally registered his opposition to the bill. Why did his verbal protest during the Vesting of Lands debate not translate to a vote against the bill?

Meanwhile, one cannot help but wonder about the opposition’s decision to walk away from parliament on the day of the vote. Would the electorate have been better served if each and every last one of the parliamentarians who opposed the bill collectively registered their “nay”? How is it that parliamentarians who opposed the passage of the Vesting of Lands Bill did not collude in the interest of the people on a matter as sensitive as the people’s lands? Wasn’t it easier to stop the swift passage of the bill in parliament rather than having to now seek to repeal it?

St. Kitts and Nevis has been at a cross roads for a number of years and extreme economic strain has been a fundamental factor that has impacted every last one of our citizens in one way or another. Government has espoused its policies across every aspect of society as being in keeping with its care and concern for ithe citizenry; however, much of that very same citizenry does not feel the care and concern proclaimed by the government.

In modern day St. Kitts and Nevis, most people care about the best way to make every waking moment of their lives better.

The young people care about who can best provide them with the tools to make their future brighter. In the true essence of country above self, that’s what any and every politician should aspire to: not to lose sight of their purpose or the vision of the founding fathers whose blood, sweat and tears laid the foundation for a better future for all.

When the people felt they had enough in 1993, there was no force that could hold them back. The pulse of the people spoke loudly. In hindsight, the right honorable Dr. Kennedy Simmonds may have done some things differently, but it goes without saying that his tenure was a free lesson for those politicians who, regardless of their political stripes, aspire to head to Government headquarters.

The political landscape of our nation changed considerably in 1993. The pulse of the people engineered that change. Interestingly, without a repeal of the Vesting of Lands Bill and with 1200 acres of land in the hands of the highest bidder, it is the geographic landscape of St. Kitts that will likely be changed dramatically.

The green rolling hills that stretch for miles across the vibrant former town of Cayon are the perfect point to look out at the horizon and soak up the awe striking view of portions of the east coast of St. Kitts.

The prime lands in the Lodge area and particularly in the former town of historical Sandy Point have been the lifeblood of the inhabitants for years. These lands represent the pulse of the people.

History has shown that to defy the wishes of the people is to face the wrath of the people.

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