Wed | Dec 6, 2023

St Kitts prime minister given deadline to resolve dispute within government

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2022 | 3:43 PMCMC
Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris (file photo).

Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris has been given until Wednesday to resolve the issues facing the coalition Team Unity government, or dissolve parliament and pave the way for fresh general elections. The ultimatum was delivered by Nevis Premier and leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), Mark Brantley, amid a widening rift within the administration.

Brantley issued the call during a television broadcast on Saturday night, saying that Harris had done nothing to resolve the issues in the public domain regarding the government.

The coalition government comprises Harris' People's Labour Party (PLP), the People's Action Movement (PAM) and Brantley's CCM.

In his broadcast, Brantley said that he and PAM leader and the deputy prime minister, Shawn Richards, had sent a joint letter to Harris giving him the Wednesday deadline and insisting that the coalition would not be used for the personal ambition of any one individual.

“To this end and consistent with our own ongoing efforts to save our Team Unity government, the Honourable Shawn Richards and I have delivered written communication to the Honourable Prime Minister setting our position for a path forward," said Brantley in the television broadcast.

“We have taken the unprecedented step of putting a deadline of Wednesday, April 20, 2022 for a response from the Prime Minister, barring which we can only conclude that he and his team has no interest or desire to save this Team Unity government.

“We shall therefore know by Wednesday whether we can achieve resolution or whether we face dissolution,” Brantley told the nation.

Last Thursday, following their latest round of discussions to save the coalition, Prime Minister Harris in a televised broadcast said he remained “fully committed” to bring to an end the rift within his coalition administration insisting that the country “must have a cabinet that is fully committed to addressing the pressing issues that confront our people”.

Harris said that issues confronting the government related to governance and transparency, a reassignment of ministerial duties, the external involvement of global financial institutions, and an increase in the operating budget of Nevis, were among the matters on the agenda.

“The meeting was cordial as was the one held last week,” he said, noting that at Thursday's meeting he had proposed a framework “to address the issues raised.

“This framework included the introduction of a code of conduct for the better functioning of the cabinet. I further proposed that all subject to greater accountability to the cabinet through regular reporting so that members may be better apprised of the workings of the entire government,” Harris said, addressing briefly talk of a cabinet reshuffle and issues related to the powers wielded by the prime minister's office within the Team Unity framework.

“I committed to undertake a review of the makeup of the cabinet in due course, with a view to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the government as a whole. I made it clear that I could not allow the constitutional prerogative of the office of the prime minister to be diminished.”

But Brantley added “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 kick it down as being a mere construct for personal advancement.

In his televised address Harris told the nation that the government has sought external input from the World Bank regarding the issue of the equitable distribution of the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) revenue.

Under the CBI programme, foreign investors are granted citizenship in return for making a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the twin-island federation.

“Progress has been made with the World Bank giving its consent to undertake a study to advise equitable revenue-sharing arrangements between the federal government and the Nevis Island Administration,” Harris said, announcing also the approval of a national operating budget increase for Nevis.

A student could have dealt with it better

But Brantley in his broadcast ridiculed the prime minister's efforts at getting the Washington-based financial institution to get involved in the issue, saying that any secondary school student could have dealt with the issue.

“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 and do a study and to tell us how to calculate the monies received from CBI…"

“I am certain when I say that any student from the Nevis Sixth Form College …could undertake that mathematical exercise and bring immediate resolution to a matter which has festered for seven long years,” Brantley said.

“I and my beloved CCM remain fully committed to Team Unity and the ideals which we espoused and which captured the immigration of our people. We believe that unity must not only be a word we often repeat in speeches, but an idea that should be demonstrated with action."

He continued: “We are committed to living in peace and promoting socio-political harmony among our two islands and among our people. Well let there be no doubt that if others within 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 waiver, we shall not bow, we shall never ever surrender."

“We live by our motto that people matter most and we shall never revile from standing up for the people who have entrusted to us their trust and confidence to represent them,” Brantley said, adding that the Easter celebrations is not only one of suffering “but also about rebirth and renewal."

“Easter is a story about 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 promise to each other and to our people,” he added.