“Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis Compared with Sri Lankan crisis” by Joel Liburd

C A V E A T

Opinions expressed in this article are solely at remit of the author, and in no way reflect nor endorsed by management nor staff of The Bajan Reporter

Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St. Kitts & Nevis is without doubt the Rajapaksa of the Eastern Caribbean. We do well to recall how the former president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, abdicated office and fled for his life a few weeks ago because of economic mismanagement, financial corruption, a flair for capital projects, and converting government into a private business of family and friends. Timothy Harris fits this profile to a tea. He has been at the helm of political power in the Federation for seven years and his tenure is littered with episodes of mismanagement, rampant corruption, unprecedented levels of nepotism, and accusations of electoral fraud in the General Election two years ago in June 2020. The real Rajapaksa was a megalomaniac; his Caribbean counterpart is not far behind. The real Rajapaksa squandered hundreds of millions in gargantuan capital projects; the guy from the Eastern Caribbean is following suit.

A little background and context are in order. Sensing imminent and certain defeat at the polls in the General Election of June 2020, Harris pulled out of his political toolkit a number of tactical tools, which are not only heinous and despicable, but are also anathema to democracy and the rule of law. First, Prime Minister Harris declared a State of Emergency (SoE) as a way of addressing a health issue brought on by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The SoE was akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a tack nail. Second, he dissolved Parliament in a sneaky, surreptitious manner, not informing members of the Opposition or the country at large. And third, within days of this dastardly act, he set a date for the General Election firmly believing that he would have sufficient time to undermine the electoral process and rig the election. What Harris did was not simply rigging an election, he was frigging it. It was massive, purposeful, and well planned.

Harris’ reach into every nook and cranny in St. Kitts and Nevis is far, deep, and wide. And his control of the levers of political and financial power is legendary. To secure his victory in the last Election, he moved swiftly to capture and then control the electoral machinery from the central electoral office to the polling stations in each constituency. Moreover, he directed his brother to hand out EC$25,000 to members of certain constituencies that he perceived he might lose. The use of tax-payers money to buy an election was a brazen disregard of the law and another tactic in his fraudulent electoral tool bag. There is more! The central electoral office did not post any list of registered voters or even designated places where voters in their respective constituencies can go and cast their vote. Harris created a state of electoral uncertainty and introduced artificial darkness in the country in an effort to return to power. And finally, while he did not openly block international observer groups from coming into the country, he employed an artful device while seeking Covid-19 cover: 14-days of mandatory quarantine.

Timothy Harris is a genius, second only to Rajapaksa. He is a genius in electoral fraud, a genius in turning a beautiful country into a nepotistic state, a genius in the art of deception, a genius in mendacity, second only to Trump, and a genius in hollow bombast. But Harris is not a lone actor in the perpetration of electoral fraud in the Commonwealth Caribbean. There have been others. But what singles out Harris and sets him apart from the rest of his fellow travelers is the manner of his unrelenting pursuit of political power. He has insufflated into the body politic of a small island a cancerous virus that is eating away the heart of democracy. This self-styled, soi-disant political leader was, for the past seven years, forcefully bending the arc of justice and fair play to the breaking point. In sum, he was well on his way to destroying the Federation and turning it into his personal fiefdom.

And Timothy Harris is in good company. In 1968, Guyana’s ruling PNC party under Forbes Burnham unleashed massive electoral fraud. And he continued it until his death on 6th August 1985. His successor continued the electoral legacy, and the new guy on the block, fierce ideological kin and military brigadier general, has followed suite. And the PPP under Bharat Jagdeo has also tasted the forbidden fruit and rigged elections. In Guyana rigging of elections and committing electoral fraud are stitched into the DNA of political leaders. Harris’ attempts to rig the 2020 general election sent a chilling message to the people of the Commonwealth Caribbean that the legacy of Burnham has taken up new residence outside of Guyana.

Other electoral shenanigans included Grenada’s ULP use of the police and military to suppress votes in 1976. The UNC in Trinidad and Tobago was accused of “voter padding” in 2000. This led to a return to the polls. In 2015, Trinidad and Tobago’s Elections Commission extended voting by one hour: the Opposition PNM won. Grenada’s ruling NNP was accused of “voter padding” in 2018. And also in 2018, Antigua’s ruling ABPL was accused of paying voters US$1,000 to hold their ID Voter Cards for 24 hours. And that saga of rigging played out in Guyana after the 2nd March 2020 Elections.

This brings us to St. Kitts and Nevis. After seven years in power by a unity government consisting of a triumvirate of three political parties, with Harris’ Peoples Labour Party (PLP) securing only two parliamentary seats in the 2020 Elections, the inevitable death knell finally struck. It was not a bolt out of the blue; its genesis was rooted in the hasty arrangement of convenience concocted by the three-party political leaders who did not share a common set of values and aspirations for the people of the Federation and for good and effective governance.

Harris’ values and megalomania are anathema to democracy and to the people of St. Kitts & Nevis. He values political power and how he can wield it against his opponents. He values family and during his seven-year tenure as Prime Minister, he placed them in commanding positions in every office of government. Harris has an insatiable appetite for power combined with a monumental greed for wealth. He also sees himself as a champion of huge capital projects, which is his gateway to wealth accumulation. It is alleged that he siphoned over US$100M from the Citizen by Investment Program and placed it into his offshore accounts. Three mega projects, the Prison Construction Project, a stand-alone Solar Farm, and the Basseterre High School construction project, reek with corruption and kickbacks with the Eastern Caribbean Rajapaksa being the only beneficiary.

The people of the Federation of SK&N should reject him and his co-conspirator, the leader of the Peoples Action Movement (PAM) at the polls come 5th August 2022. They have a heaven-sent opportunity this time to finally rid their beautiful and peaceful country from this Rajapaksa and his minions.

  • Joel Liburd
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