Usually, the protest, objections, arguments and debate over government actions that displease the people would live a short life of 10-14 days; but not this one. Instead, as time goes by, the momentum along with the demonstrations by ordinary folks against the measure is growing and nowhere near receding. The mission, as one PAM official explained, is to get the government to repeal the legislation that made the swap possible.
Though it is obvious that much of the protest is driven by partisan politics, it is also clear to appreciate, based on the diversity of public participation and support, that there is also a genuine objection, (by many fair and objective thinking citizens, not necessarily supporters of the opposition), against this land swap deal. For some, it is a cause to protect the patrimony and heritage of generations yet unborn. It is a momentum too that no government should casually dismiss.
Therefore the second protest march organized by the opposition People’s Action Movement, PAM, came off on Thursday 6th December, 2012, with a slight increase in the number of participants who braved the harsh political climate of St. Kitts to show their solidarity with the cause for which the event was initiated.
Already, party leaders are expressing extreme satisfaction over the results which they have described as an overwhelming success; bringing just over 1,200 citizens of varied backgrounds together, in protest against the government’s decision to swap over one thousand acres of public lands, to help pay down a massive 3 billion dollar debt, that has been severely impacting the country for years.
Again the event commenced at Greenlands, in Central Basseterre, moving its way through Cayon Street, Church Street, Fort Street, West Square Street, ending on George Street, in Newtown, the heart of East Basseterre; a battleground constituency that the opposition is closely eyeing for the next elections.
Like so many public marches in St. Kitts, this one also had its controversial and heated moments. When the first march was held back on Thursday 22nd November, 2012, PAM officials explained that though they were granted permission to follow a route that included the entire stretch of Church Street, upon arrival at the junction with Central Street, they were diverted by police road signs that caused them to use College Street, at the back of the government offices. On that occasion also, there were verbal clashes between supporters of the two main parties, PAM and Labour.
Faced with similar circumstances this time around on Thursday 6th December, and though with a more determined swell of participants, they again formally followed the route that took them onto College Street. However this did not prevent a number of protestors from holding their ground, refusing to be forced off track, electing to make their way down the full length of Church Street, passing in front of Government Headquarters, the seat of parliament and government. Once again tempers flared and the cross-party verbal exchanges were quite evident; but no major violent altercations resulted. However, the PAM officials and the bulk of the participants respected the police diversion away from lower Church Street.
Lining the streets were hundreds more of onlookers, many showing their solidarity, with others in contemptuous observation.
The march culminated with a rally filled with speeches by party leaders, including parliamentarians Shawn Richards and Eugene Hamilton, who were ably supported by former PAM leader Lindsay Grant, former Minister of Finance in a previous PAM administration, Richard Caines and others. The meeting was chaired by Party Chairman, Selwyn “Rusty” Liburd.
The march was held under the theme, “Save Our Lands”.