St. Kitts taught Caribbean a lesson
Voters in the twin-island state of St. Kitts and Nevis taught Dominicans, and the rest of the Caribbean, a few valuable lessons last week when they effectively kicked out Prime Minister Denzil Douglas and his St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party (STNLP).
This is the lesson that Kittitians taught us loud and clear: when a government has been in power for twenty years inevitably it becomes corrupt and the people must be resolute in their demands for change. There's no ifs and buts about that. Unfortunately in Caribbean democracies, the power of the people is manifested only at the ballot box every five years but then Kittitians demonstrated that even this narrow window in which we have to practice true democracy can be used effectively.
Undoubtedly, the Douglas administration had lost its way like many other governments that has remained in power for more than two terms. "All across the Caribbean there is sickening evidence of patently corrupt, inept, or dysfunctional Governmental administrations on the one hand, and powerless and distraught citizenries on the other hand," wrote David Comissiong in an article in Guyana's Stabroek News entitled Only People can save us! published on February 16th 2015. "A case in point is the nation of St Kitts and Nevis, where a callous and dysfunctional Government administration has abused Parliament, and by extension the people of the nation."
Douglas insulted the people of St. Kitts and shamed his Caribbean brethren when he brazenly refused to debate a "No Confidence Motion" that the Parliamentary opposition had tabled against the Government. He kept that fundamental right away from his people for two years as he continued to frustrate the parliamentary process to keep himself in power.
Alarmingly, no member of the club of Heads of Government was bold enough to tell Douglas that he must free his people and that he was displaying dictatorial tendencies.
But last week's outrage was apparently too much for Caribbean leaders. Before announcing that Team Unity had won the St Kitts general election Wingrove George, the Supervisor of Elections kept the results of the election from the people for two full days. His excuse?
"Like I said this morning there were certain processes to go through, we had challenges, we had reviews, and it would have been very unprofessional of me, as Supervisor of Elections to go and make announcements while the whole process will be revisited because if anything was to take a different turn I would have had to be updating and retracting statements", George said in a radio broadcast.
But George's decision angered many people including Perry Christie, the chairman of CARICOM; Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Grenada; Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
She said: "I am also concerned that the region's reputation for democracy and for free and fair elections will be under threat as long as this issue in St Kitts and Nevis remains unresolved".
Before that particular outrage, Prime Minister Douglas again tried to clandestinely and illegally influence the outcome of the election that he knew he could not win. Just one month before the general elections – the Electoral [Constituency] Boundaries Commission – changed the elections boundaries without consulting the opposition political parties. It took an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London just days before to cause the February 16 elections to be conducted on the existing boundaries. Here's what the Privy Council decided.
"This appeal related to the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries by the Prime Minister of St Christopher and Nevis.
"By a proclamation on 16 January 2015, the Governor General of St Christopher and Nevis sought to adopt new electoral constituency boundaries shortly before elections due to take place on 16 February 2015.
"An interim injunction was granted by the High Court on the same day to prevent such a proclamation being made and was set aside on 27 January 2015 on the grounds that the proclamation had been made before the issue of the injunction and was therefore useless. The Court of Appeal upheld the discharge of the interim injunction.
"It held that the proclamation had been approved by the National Assembly and was made immediately before the election to ensure that a representative's constituency did not change during the course of his parliamentary term. The proclamation was made at 6.20pm whereas the injunction was granted at 7.38pm and served on the Attorney General at approximately 8.20pm. It was therefore correct to discharge the injunction on 27 January.
"The appeal considered whether the Court of Appeal was correct to uphold the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries by the Prime Minister of St Christopher and Nevis.
"Following a hearing on 11 February 2015 the Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that the appeal should be allowed; that the orders made by Madame Justice Carter on 27th January 2015 and by the Court of Appeal on 5th February 2015 be set aside and that the interim injunction granted by Madame Justice Carter on 16th January 2015 be restored."
With that decision the Privy Council effectively stopped the Denzil Douglas train. He lost the election 7 seats to 4. It is now the responsibilities of voters in other Caribbean countries to follow St. Kitts's example. Corrupt governments must be kicked out.