People’s Action Movement Candidate – Lindsay Grant
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
October 16, 2009
My Fellow Citizens Good Evening.
Tonight I wish to use this special broadcast to share with you my Party’s thoughts on some critical issues that are presently facing this proud and beautiful twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis.
But first, allow me to reflect on the recent address by the Prime Minister.
Last night, on Wednesday 14th October, 2009, most of you would have listened Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, as he delivered what was touted as a National Broadcast to the Nation.
At a time when the nation had just lost the life of yet another of its young citizens, there was much hope that finally, Prime Minister Douglas had awoken to the realities of the present crisis of 23 murders so far in 2009, and an alarming 160 in the past 14 years.
There were those who also prayed that some announcement was imminent about how this country would ease the hardships being faced by our nation’s poor, over 12,000 of them, who according to the government, cannot afford more than one meal a day.
As the speech progressed, we all wondered if the Prime Minister would finally announce a new policy that would make it cheaper and easier for the working class people of this country, to acquire a piece of their national rock, and be able to purchase land at rates that are better than the 69 cents per square foot, that the Prime Minister sells to his non Kittitian and Nevisian friends.
And finally, there must have been those citizens who were looking forward to the announcement of the date for the next General Elections.
Unfortunately, the nation waited and waited, and was again disappointed.
Many are still asking themselves, what exactly, was the Prime Minister trying to say. What was he trying to communicate?
What really was the purpose of the address?
My Fellow Citizens, our nation today is standing at the crossroads. And we do agree with the Prime Minister that we are travelling on two separate and different tracks.
However, on one track is the Douglas Administration, which in its 14 years has turned its back on its own supporters and especially the poor people; no matter their party preferences.
On the other track, are the people of St. Kitts & Nevis who are crying out for change and a better life for their children.
However, I wish to assure you that there is hope.
Freedom Day is fast approaching and a new Administration of the Peoples Action Movement will soon have the opportunity, to return this country to its once glorious days of economic prosperity and freedoms that were well known from 1980 to 1995.
In ten days time, on Sunday October 25th, it will be 5 years, since the last General Elections.
Everyone in this country expected that by now we would have been to the polls to determine which party should lead the federation into the future.
October 25th is therefore a significant milestone in the political history of St. Kitts & Nevis . It would be the first time EVER that the term of a government had expired and elections were not called.
Our Party, the Peoples Action Movement, has decided to mark this milestone with a special convention on Sunday 25th October, at our Headquarters on Lockhart Street , from 2:00-6:00pm.
I invite everyone to attend this important event.
After listening to the Prime Minister on Wednesday night, I thought it was important for me to explain to you, exactly how Dr. Douglas has been trying to steal the next General Elections and frustrate the will of the people who have been saying to LABOUR, IT IS TIME TO GO.
My address tonight therefore is simple and direct. It speaks to the heart of our strong democratic principles and traditions. My message speaks about one thing”¦.FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS.
In the preamble of our constitution, we asserted that we, as Kittitians and Nevisians, are entitled to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.
It was also our declaration that we believe in the concept of true democracy, with free and fair elections.
Our constitution states, that the Court is the Organ of Government, that Protects and Enforces the Rights of the Individual citizens, against the government.
In other words, if any citizen has a grievance with the government, or if the government is about to infringe their rights, the constitution provides in Section 18, the mechanism for court action, to enforce the rights of the citizens, against actions by government.
This is exactly why, the Peoples Action Movement on July 1st, 2009, instituted a constitutional action relating to the planned last minute changes to the electoral boundaries in St. Kitts.
On July 2nd the judge granted an injunction restraining the government from using the report of the Electoral Commission.
It also prevented the Chairman of the Commission from submitting his report to the Governor General.
The case was scheduled for trial on 8th July, 2009.
On the day of the hearing, Dr. Douglas rushed to parliament, giving little and in some instances, no notice to members of the National Assembly and laid on the table, the same report of the Commission, on which the injunction was already placed.
This was a clear case of disregard for a Court Order, which soon led to the Attorney General and government, being found guilty of Contempt of Court, on August 4th, 2009.
Despite the injunction, the Prime Minister on July 9th proceeded in parliament, to have passed, a Proclamation that sought to effect certain changes, to a selected number of constituencies only in St. Kitts.
These changes were to take place in ALL constituencies, except that of the Prime Minister in Number Six.
You may recall that after the elections in 2004, the Prime Minister and his Deputy, promised the nation, that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the boundaries gonna change, all the boundaries gonna change,” and he said that Ã¢â‚¬Å“Labour was going to give PAM electoral reform and buss dey tail.”
This was the first sign of Labour’s intent to cheat and steal the next elections.
The political polling of the government had indicated to Dr. Douglas, that the Labour Party would most likely lose a majority of the seats on St. Kitts, resulting in a clear victory for the Peoples Action Movement.
There are those who still remember the defiant words of the Prime Minister, during that August 9th sitting of the Assembly.
He told the nation that the no Court can stop him, indicating that the Courts have their job to do, and the Labour Party has its job to do in parliament.
Dr. Douglas also boasted in the House, that the National Assembly, is the highest court in the land and that parliament is supreme.
This is one of the most irresponsible and reckless statements that a Prime Minister could make to his fellow citizens.
For the record, in Section 2 of the Constitution, it clearly states that the constitution is the supreme law of St. Christopher & Nevis ; and any law inconsistent with the constitution, the constitution shall prevail; and the other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Thankfully no member on the Opposition Benches of parliament agreed with the Prime Minister, and they all showed their objections by walking out the House, stating that they prefer to obey and respect the ruling of the Court.
Fellow Citizens, this was what caused the present political crisis now being faced by this country.
It has been the Prime Minister’s disrespect for the Court that has led to this stalemate.
Prime Minister Douglas, and he alone, has to take full responsibility for where we are today.
He is the only man in this country, in the parliament and in his party, who could call the elections and there is no obstacle right now preventing him from announcing an election date using the existing boundaries from the last poll.
Let there be no doubt who has been creating the delay in the substantive court matter relating to the boundary changes.
Permit me to be very clear on the following matter.
When the judge decided to hear the boundaries case on the 8th of July, the matter could have been quickly dealt with, were it not for Labour’s actions in the National Assembly on 8th & 9th July and again on 14th July when Douglas and his Labour team had the judge removed from hearing the matter.
This caused a delay of two weeks before a new judge could be appointed.
When the new judge arrived, it took another week to deal with the contempt of court proceedings, which matter would not have arisen, had it not been for the fact that the Prime Minister, laid the report in the Assembly, in the face of the injunction.
The new judge who was assigned was scheduled to be on island for only one week to dispose of the matter.
However, the non cooperation of the government in relation to the admissibility of evidence caused the proceedings to be drawn out for the entire week that was allocated.
During his address on Wednesday night, Dr. Douglas misled the people when he stated that the matter of the injunction and thus the boundary changes was scheduled for hearing in St. Vincent on October 8th. This was not so.
Unfortunately, this was yet another example of the Prime Minister’s comments not being consistent with the truth.
The case that was to be heard in St. Vincent was the government’s appeal against the conviction of the Attorney General for contempt of court.
That case has nothing to do with the holding of the elections and in no way prevent the Prime Minister from ringing the bell.
What Dr. Douglas says on this matter cannot be easily trusted. You would recall that on 13th July, the High Court Judge had reason to state, and I quote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“some disturbing things have taken place, the Prime Minister has said, that the Court adjourned to accommodate the debate of the House, this is not correct.”
The judge said that there was no Order Paper circulated. This Court did not grant an adjournment to accommodate the House to consider the draft proclamation, said the judge.
The judge also indicated, in very strong terms, that Ã¢â‚¬Å“he, (the Prime Minister) is a stranger to the truth or has been misled”.
What was even more disturbing was the Prime Minister’s effort to change the boundaries, call the elections and dissolve the parliament”¦all in ONE day.
This was a deliberate act on the part of the Prime Minister to gerrymander the boundaries to give an unfair advantage to the Labour Party in the coming elections.
Instead of respecting the Court Order, Dr. Douglas, with indecent haste, rushed to parliament with his proclamation.
In the past, my Party has won and also lost election battles but we do not accept that the playing field of politics and elections should be biased to benefit the Labour Party.
After four months of waiting, the people of the federation are rightly looking for a resolution of this matter.
On the 14th of July when the judge was submitting to the government’s demand for him to be removed from the case, he encouraged the government and my party to seek an amicable resolution of the matter.
In response to the judge’s suggestion, two meetings were held between both teams representing the government and the other the PAM.
During the first meeting on 14th July, the PAM set out four issues of concern, namely,
1. The need for International Observers to monitor the elections,
2· The misuse and abuse of National Radio & Television, ZIZ;
3. The amendment to the Electoral Law obviously targeting myself and my Deputy Shawn Richards and ;
4· Finally, the rush to change the boundaries, so close to an election.
The lawyers for the government committed to take the concerns of PAM back to the Prime Minister for instructions on how to respond.
At the second meeting, held two days after, on 15th July, the government’s team responded by saying:
1. There is no problem with international monitors but the details would have to be worked out and the mechanisms established.
2. In relation to ZIZ, the response was that ZIZ is a company not controlled by the government and that PAM should address their concerns to the ZIZ Board.
3. To enter into any further discussions beyond the two issues aforementioned, that is ZIZ and observers, PAM would have to withdraw all of it matters before the court.
4. They also stated that the question of the validation of the proclamation would not be on the table for discussion and that the Prime Minister reserves the right to call the elections at the date and time when he chooses.
Quite naturally, given these responses by the government, it has been clear since July that the government is not serious about reconciliation and resolution.
The Prime Minister’s call last night for us to work together therefore has to be viewed in light of those two meetings in July and his responses via his lawyers.
At these meetings, PAM was ready to work towards finding a resolution but our efforts were rebuffed by Dr. Douglas.
However, in the spirit of cooperation, love for our country and the desire to move forward, I wish to state that I am willing to meet with the Prime Minister as a matter of urgency, with a view to bringing these matters to a close. I await the Prime Minister’s direct communication.
We have waited four months for these matters to be resolved. Happily I can announce that earlier today, we were notified that His Lordship Justice Errol Thomas will render his decision, on Monday 19th October, 2009, at 9:00am.
We hope that this would bring some measure of resolve, at least in the first instance.
Fellow Citizens, our country needs stability if we are to grow and meet the challenges of the future.
I think we all agree that St. Kitts and Nevis are not only beautiful twin sisters but that they also possess resourceful and proud people, who desire nothing but the best for our beloved land.
I sometimes wonder about what we could accomplish if there was no fierce political division that sometimes turns family against family.
I feel very confident about our party’s changes for victory at the next polls. And I commit myself to form an administration that is INCLUSIVE.
Inclusive of talents and resources from Nevis , from St. Kitts and from any and all political party supporters in our federation.
We are confident that whenever the polls are called the people of this country would, in their large numbers, go to the polls and resoundingly vote a government of the Peoples Action Movement.
But it shall be a government for ALL our citizens.
Our Party has never been more ready and excited about the coming polls and we want to encourage our supporters to standby because the bells of victory are sounding.
The choice in the next elections will be clear. It will be a choice of hope over the despair of the government; and it will be a choice of the good that PAM can do, over the mismanagement that we have suffered under Dr. Douglas.
In closing, let me assure the outgoing Prime Minister that he will be treated with respect and cordiality when he leaves office, and a new PAM government will ensure that he is granted certain rights to which he has become accustomed.
My fellow citizens, I leave you tonight with the understanding that there is hope and if we as a party do not rescue this country, the future of our children would be at risk.
My Fellow citizens, may God continue to bless you and this country of ours.
And keep in mind that we will do all in our power to protect our freedoms, especially for the rights to engage in FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS.