Deputy PAM Leader – Shawn Richards
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
November 15, 2009 (CUOPM)
The opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) has confirmed that a member of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce gave its Party Chairman a copy of a statement four days before it was released to the media.
The confirmation by PAM’s Deputy Political Leader and lone Parliamentarian Hon. Shawn Richards at a public meeting in Molyneux on Thursday night confirms collusion between the Chamber and the People’s Action Movement (PAM) as no other party or media house was given a copy.
It also raises serious questions of the Chamber’s professionalism in handling sensitive political issues and the apparent disregard for proper consultation with the St. Kitts Christian Council and the St. Kitts Evangelical Association.
“Last week Saturday (November 7Th ) on Inside the News, our party chairman Sydney Osborne read a Press Release which was penned and agreed to by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Evangelical Association and the Christian Council. We have now heard this week, in particular from Isaiah Phillip (Chairman of the St. Kitts Christian Council) that there was no agreement in terms of that particular Press Release,” said Mr. Richards at the meeting.
“They are claiming that the chairman of this political party, Sydney Osborne, issued and read from the Press Release when it had not being made public. Well, let me ask you all a question? A member of the Chamber called Sydney Osborne and said “˜this particular Press Release has been circulated to Chambers Members. This particular Press Release has been issued by the Chamber and of as such I am giving you a copy and you are free to go on Inside the News and make reference to the Press Release.’ said Mr. Richards.
Mr. Richards continued: “Well, if a member of the Chamber call me and tell me that the Chamber issued a press release. “˜Here is a copy of the press release, and you can talk about it,’ what is there to stop me from talking about the press release?”
“If that particular member is misinformed and was not sure that the press release had been made public, what does that have to do with me? I am going by instructions by a member of the Chamber, who said “˜this is a Press Release agreed to by the Christian Council, the Evangelical Association and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and you can talk about it.’ What is wrong if Osborne talk about it? What is wrong with that?” said Mr. Richards, adding” “The only thing that different in the Press Release must be a paragraph by the Chamber which said they met with PAM, they met with Labour, they met with Denzil Douglas. They make one or two changes since, but when the person gave it to Sydney Osborne, they said it is finalized, it has been released and you can go ahead and speak about it.’
The St. Kitts Christian Council has distanced itself from the joint statement released from the Chamber offices on Tuesday 10th November.
Its Chairman, Rev. Fr. Isaiah Phillip said the statement is premature and he is “flabbergasted and annoyed” that such a thing had taken place.
“I don’t know the details of it. I have heard that it was read, but I want to reiterate that we have no agreement and no statement to release. I would venture to go as far as to say that the release of it was malicious”¦When I look at all the facts, I believe the release was malicious,” Fr. Isaiah said as the three organisations had arrived at no agreement on any statement.
President of the St. Kitts Evangelical Association Bishop Ron Collins shortly after the statement was read by the PAM Chairman on Saturday 7th November dispatched a text message informing persons that the statement read on Inside the News by the PAM Chairman, Mr. Sidney Osborne, “was not authorized.”
A Labour Party statement on Wednesday is also questioning how the same contents of a purported press release issued from the offices of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce on Tuesday of this week, were disclosed since last week Saturday on WINNFM’s Inside the News by the Chairman of the People’s Action Movement (PAM), Mr. Sydney Osborne while key leaders of the Evangelical Association and the Christian Council remained unaware of the statement’s release.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in a statement said that the nation must question the true motivation of the release to the People’s Action Movement four days before it was officially disseminated to the media and the public “as it appears that high ranking members of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, who have deep allegiances to the Peoples Action Movement (PAM), may be using the Chamber to advance their own pro-PAM agenda.”
The Labour Party said the Chamber statement also reflects an unhealthy pre-occupation with the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in that while neither the Concerned Citizens’ Movement nor the Nevis Reformation Party had signed the Code as of November 10, 2009, this was not mentioned in the statement.
“While everyone respects the right of all persons to support the party of their choice, the political impartiality of signatory organizations must be beyond reproach. Whatever his private allegiances, therefore, it is highly inappropriate for the Chamber president to publicly and brazenly demonstrate his unabashed allegiance to the leader to the People’s Action Movement,” said the Labour Party statement.
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has labeled the statement “irresponsible.”
He said in a meeting with representatives of the two Church bodies and the Chamber on November 6th, “we discussed the proposed Code, and I expressed my willingness to sign once a few modifications had been made. All present agreed that these changes were indeed in order, and that said modifications would be made.”
The Prime Minister said he was asked in that meeting to intervene so as to ensure that there would be no changes to the constituency boundaries.
“I explained that the Constituency Boundaries Commission was an independent constitutionally mandated entity, and that the Constitution not only required that I, in my capacity as Prime Minister, submit the Commission’s recommendations to parliament, but that I do so as soon as possible upon receipt of same. I explained that the Constitution prohibits the interference of either the Prime Minister or anyone else in the work and recommendations of the Commission,” said the Prime Minister in the statement.
He disclosed that the organisations were grateful for this information since they later explained that they had not been aware of this, had checked with their lawyers, and had been assured that, as Prime Minister, “I am legally bound, first, to not interfere with the work of the Commission, and then to submit the Commission’s recommendations to parliament without delay.”
Dr. Douglas said that the meeting ended on a positive and respectful note.
He said the information issued from the offices of the Chamber “completely contradicts their clear statement to me that they fully understand that (1) the Commission is independent and must meet its responsibilities regarding boundary changes as it sees fit, and (2) in my capacity as Prime Minister, it is my duty to present these recommendations to the parliament.”