Former prime minister The Right Hon Dr Denzil Douglas on Wednesday night offered his St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party to the people of the twin-island federation as a legitimate, competent and compassionate government following the announcement earlier by Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris that the National Assembly had been dissolved on Tuesday.
“I find it absolutely disgraceful, despicable and downright disrespectful that Dr Harris would make his broadcast at 7 pm on Wednesday evening more than 24 hours after he claimed that the dissolution became effective. This kind of sneaky and reckless behavior raises the question in the psyche of the nation, “what else is Harris hiding?” said Douglas in an address to the Nation.
He said the announcement has been long overdue as the five-year deadline since the last general elections has passed since February 15, 2020.
“Despite the many attempts by this regime to find loopholes to go around the Constitution, the loops cannot and will not hold. Today, the Constitution of St. Christopher and Nevis has spoken loudly, with authority and with finality. The Constitution will speak again by August 11, 2020 when the final curtain comes down on this deceptive and miscreant regime,” Douglas said.
He continued: “I am very thankful that the Constitution is the Supreme Authority of our land and provides the necessary checks and balances that have frustrated Dr Harris from further abuse of the National Assembly and perpetuate their time in office under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a government that has spoken so boastfully about its prospects for winning, the fact that it has allowed itself to lose the element of surprise and to let the clock run out on its term in office, speaks volumes. The writing is on the wall, and Harris and his government are mortally afraid of going back to the people because they know, just like how we know that they will lose.”
“Today, the Constitution has spoken! The Rule of law has prevailed here in St. Kitts and Nevis. Come that bright Election Day morning the will of the people shall prevail in this our blessed land,” said the former prime minister.
“Rampant corruption, nepotism and victimization have left many languishing on the margins of the national prosperity agenda. The Timothy Harris-led administration has had one focus and one focus only, which is to abuse the power afforded to them by the state to enrich themselves and their families; strip away at our systems of transparency and accountability and to secure for themselves an unfair political advantage by suppressing opposition voices. Scandal after international scandal has diminished the esteemed Office of the Prime Minister and tainted the image of our country regionally and internationally,” said Douglas.
He also said that the Harris administration has had all the time in the world and all money that was needed to implement progressive policies and projects that would stimulate growth in the St Kitts and Nevis economy, enhance the well-being of the people and improve the quality of life of every man, woman and child.
“Instead, they have squandered all opportunities at every turn. All across our Federation, there is a palpable sense that we are a nation in decline and we are moving in the wrong direction. Now, when the our nation is facing one of the worst public health crises the world has seen in over a century, this neglectful, this incompetent and this uncaring government continues to fail our people. The public health response has been erratic and haphazard with no commitment to mass testing that would effectively contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus,” he said.
He stated that the pandemic has been used as a cover to justify what is really the political decision to impose a six month State-of-Emergency in order to limit the freedom of movement of the people and grant the security forces broad powers of discretion and arrest far beyond what is necessary to successfully cope with its public health impacts.
“To restrict those freedoms at the most important time for such in a democracy is a despotic act. Yes, by passing that resolution, Harris, just like despots in other parts of the world, has decided that we will have an election during a State of Emergency.”
The mismanagement of the public health crisis, he said has been compounded by the government’s failure to implement a comprehensive and holistic plan to deal with the economic fallout of the crisis and the forecast for Caribbean economies is bleak.
“The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has predicted that the effects of COVID-19 will cause the biggest recession that the region has suffered since 1914 and 1930. Specifically, the International Monetary Fund has projected that the ripple effects of the Global Health Crisis will cause GDP growth in St. Kitts and Nevis to contract by 8.1%.
“Given that the pandemic began to shut down global travel as early as December 2019 and the belated closure in St. Kitts and Nevis on March 25, 2020, after the first two positive COVID-19 cases, the Travel and Tourism industry has been especially hard hit. The economic crisis it has spurred and has disrupted the lives of our people indiscriminately and has had a devastating impact on every business, large and small, and every worker regardless of which sector he is in. As a result, thousands have lost their jobs, lost income or are receiving no income at all. Countless others have been thrown into the breadline as a result of an inadequate government stimulus plan that has yet to put one dollar into the hands of the people who need it the most. Our elderly and pensioners, the working poor and those who struggle to make a daily living in the informal economy have been left to drown with no social net to save them,” Dr Douglas said.
He pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the many fault lines that could severely and permanently compromise or cripple the sustainable development of our country if swift action is not taken immediately.
“Loss of jobs and slower economic activity could push more people deeper into poverty. Our healthcare system, which was already under unimaginable strain, may not be able to support the general health and wellness of the population if a second wave of COVID-19 cases were to arise. While all schools have closed and lessons have moved online, inequities and inequalities in education will be exacerbated due to unequal digital access and access to laptops and computers by teachers and students, a result facilitated by the government’s unwise suspension of the One-to-One Laptop programme,” he said.
According to the former prime minister, just as it has exposed the fault lines in the sustainable development, COVID-19 has also exposed the considerable weaknesses and ineptitude of the Harris-led coalition administration by the exclusion some people.
“This is a very, very serious crisis and there is need for serious, focused and courageous leadership if our country is to adeptly navigate its worst effects and successfully bridge to better days. It is for this reason and more that the upcoming general election is critical now, more than ever,” said Dr Douglas who expressed the view that Decision 2020 represents one of the most important decisions on leadership that the nation has ever faced since 1993.
COVID-19 he said is imperative as it brings into serious perspective the vital need for a date for the election to be announced as soon as possible following the dissolution of Parliament.
“Setting a date for the election as early as possible is absolutely vital in order for the relevant authorities to effectively plan for an election day scenario that makes it possible for all registered citizens to exercise their franchise and for the voting process to be conducted in keeping with the social distancing and sanitization protocols required by this crisis. Best practices around the world testify that that in order to ensure that elections are conducted in a manner that is free, fair and inclusive of all voters – whether they are quarantined or not; whether they are sick or not – a national Plan of Action must be put in place as far as possible in advance. To delay the setting of a date for the election is to put lives at risk and to erect barriers to the exercise of the democratic rights of the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Dr Douglas.
He said the pathway to eradicating the COVID-19 and reducing and mitigating the negative fallout of its economic impacts will be very, very challenging and it therefore mandatory that the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 be managed by a Government that has full powers in order to execute a long-term strategy for economic recovery.
“St. Kitts and Nevis cannot afford to deal with the impending economic recession without a legitimate, competent and compassionate Government in place, one that can commit one hundred per cent to putting our economy back on track and getting our people back to work in the shortest time-frame possible. St. Kitts and Nevis cannot afford to have the attention of the Government to be split, or worse, wholly focused on securing its political interest in the upcoming general elections,” Dr Douglas said.
“Our people must come first over politics! Therefore the sooner the general elections are dispensed with, the better for our people. In places where the right leader has put in place the right policies, the people suffer less. The time has come to put an end to the suffering of our people,” said Dr Douglas.
He added that the NextGen SKN Labour Party has been preparing itself over the last five years for such a time as this. “We have the track record in astute crisis management and we have already devised a plan to find a strategic pathway to take our country safely and successfully through this crisis. We have already established a National Economic Recovery Advisory Council that will advise our Party as to the various approaches that can be taken to ensure that our economy is restored to global competitiveness and that our people and businesses not only survive, but also thrive in the new post-COVID-19 environment.
“We in the NextGen SKN Labour Party are confident that what is best for St. Kitts and Nevis lies on the other side of this crisis and we are determined to find and hold-on to the COVID-silver lining. Similarly, the people of St. Kitts and Nevis can rest assured that hope, opportunity and relief are on the way with the NextGen SKN Labour Party. We will use the help and good will of the international community to revolutionize our public health and primary health care systems. We will attract new partnerships and investment in order to diversify our economy to take advantage of the opportunities created by this global crisis.
We will achieve a better normal for our workers that is flexible, fair and future ready. We will build multidimensional resilience in our people by empowering them to create inter-generational wealth. We will provide competent, creative, innovative, inclusive and accountable leadership that will restore St. Kitts and Nevis to its pride-of-place as a regional leader and success story. We shall make St. Kitts number one again,” said Dr Douglas.
He reminded the electorate that as the general election approaches, the fate of the country literally lays at their index finger-tip.
“Do not give up your power and use your power wisely. Our people are excited about the future and are anxious to exercise their voting rights. They are dead set on choosing the right leadership and the right team, with the best hands on experience to manage this public health crisis and lead them with proven success through the tough economic times that lie ahead. Vote the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party whose symbol is the hand if you want to make St. Kitts and Nevis first again.