First, I was taken back to the Federal elections of 29th November, 1993, in which I was a candidate.
There was a 4-4 tie in St. Kitts, although the Labour Party had much more popular support on the ground than PAM. The CCM, which had won two seats in Nevis, declared that it would not join with any Party to form the Government, while the NRP’s single winner, Mr. Joseph Parry, agreed to join with PAM to form a 5-member minority Government.
However, that Government, and the manner in which it was formed, aggravated and angered the people of St. Kitts who, by virtue of the heavy popular support that they had given to Labour, clearly wanted a change.
Now with 6 members on the Opposition benches, the minority Government could have been toppled on a vote of no confidence at any time. So governing would have been extremely difficult, and very probably short-lived, for it anyway.
But Dr. Douglas, who was then Opposition Leader, did not trust Mr.Vance Amory, the CCM Leader. This was due, at least in part, to the fact that Mr. Amory, to save face with his own supporters, had spurned Dr. Douglas after he had sailed across the Narrows in the dark of night on 29th November,1993, to try to get him into a coalition, and also because Mr. Amory would have preferred the route of the no confidence vote to bring about fresh elections.
This reaction by Mr. Amory angered and embarrassed Dr. Douglas, who decided that he would bring down the minority government in his own way, by capitalizing on the people’s frustration and anger, and by calling them to the streets.
Unrest and instability followed.
And while it may always be a matter of doubt in the minds of some persons, I am convinced, especially with the benefit of hindsight, that Dr. Douglas squandered a glorious opportunity to establish a good relationship with the CCM, and that Mr. Amory and his parliamentary mate, the late Mr. Malcolm Guishard, would have supported a no confidence vote to topple the Simmonds Government in quick time and with less trauma to the country.
And a good relationship with the CCM would not have had to mean a bad one with the NRP.
But Dr. Douglas was driven by: (a) his hunger for power, and (b) his personal feelings towards an individual, (Mr. Amory, who had not done his bidding), two character traits which, over time, I came to notice with great concern.
He knew that minority governments are permitted under our Constitution. And if you do not believe that, ask yourself what he would have done if, after the elections of 25th January,
2010, he had ended up with only 5 seats. Do you think he would have called for fresh elections? Or would he have tried to form a government?
But in 1993 he simply was not prepared to wait any longer to become Prime Minister, and on top of all of that, he could not resist the temptation to show how much power he had to call people to the streets, and the country became ungovernable.
In this regard, it is a matter of public record that, years later we heard him: (a) describe himself as “ten man in one” and as “the only unstoppable force in this country”;(b)describe the people of this country as “my subjects”; and(c) boast that he had incited before and that he could incite again.
Then after a meeting of all political parties and social and economic stakeholders at the Four Seasons Hotel in 1994, fresh elections were agreed to, and they were eventually held in July,1995.
So notwithstanding all of the brouhaha, the unrest, the instability and so on, it still took nearly two years to have an election, while a vote of no confidence could have brought down the minority government much sooner, and at far less economic and social cost to the country. Also, in the process, a good relationship could have been established with the majority party in Nevis (and, through it, with the people of Nevis).
But Dr. Douglas never ‘forgave’ Mr. Amory for 1993. And to make matters worse, he was upset with Mr. Amory’s attempt at secession five years later, not wanting something like that to happen on his watch. Then in 2007 came Mr. Mark Brantley, a bright, bold, charismatic and eloquent man known to be disliked by Dr. Douglas, who prefers more malleable and pliable people to deal with.
These CCM leaders would be of little use to a man who has been bent on capturing his last frontier in this Federation: Nevis. Indeed, they would resist him stoutly.
Hence his affinity to the NRP. And that is why he got himself involved in assisting Mr. Parry, even as far back as the 2006 NIA elections, but in a big, big way this last time around. He desperately wanted Mr. Patrice Nisbett to win and Mr. Brantley to lose. Indeed, Dr. Douglas’ errand boys would say openly and unashamedly that it was their intention to “bury” Mr. Brantley.
Maybe that is why the Voters’ Lists for St .James (where Mr. Nisbett ran) and St. John( where Mr. Brantley ran) were so heavily loaded with Kittitians who have absolutely no right voting in a Nevis election.
Did you not notice that, for the first time, St. Kitts radio stations, even ZIZ TV, were carrying jingles for a Nevis political party, the NRP? Why do you think the NRP did that, other than to connect with their St. Kitts voters?
The List for St. James ballooned from 1,591 voters in 2006 to 1,942 in 2011, an increase of 351 voters, with a number of illegitimate Kittitian voters included. And while the heavy padding was taking place, the names of some 40 legitimate Nevis voters were removed from the List.
On top of that, a massive amount of money was dropped in the area on Sunday, 10th July, compliments of a St. Kitts-based benefactor with heavy influence on the leadership of the Labour-NRP Government, to sweeten up the pot.
Yet with all of that, and to the deep anguish and disappointment of Dr. Douglas, Mr. Nisbett lost by 37 votes. In a clean fight, he would have lost by 150 or more votes.
Now in addition to NRP’s general campaign, they also had a campaign specifically targeting Mr. Brantley. Remember, they wanted to “bury” him in St. John.
The number of registered voters in St. John soared from 2,636 voters in 2006 to 3,263 in 2011, an increase of 627 voters.
Scores of persons residing in St. Kitts (Kittitians and others) voted illegitimately on Monday. In addition, 171 names of perfectly legitimate Nevis voters, nearly all of them Brantley voters, were wrongly removed from the List. In addition, some of that sweetener that had been sent over from St. Kitts on Sunday to help the NRP in St. James also reached pockets in St. John as well.
These moves set back Mr. Brantley by well over 200 votes, and at the end of the night he ended up falling short by 14 votes.
In a clean race, he would have won by over 200 votes, a landslide.
And the CCM would have formed the Government.
Not even the chartered jets coming in with NRP supporters would have stopped the CCM from winning .Charters that cost about $1 which was provided, inter alia, by beneficiaries of sweetheart contracts and other arrangements.
I will tell you more.
The things that happened in St. James and St. John also happened in St. Paul, and that race could have been competitive.
Now lest anyone come to the wrong conclusion, let me say that if the NRP were on the receiving end of this heinous crime, only the names would have been reversed. My argument would have been the same.
What happened in Nevis on Monday, 11th July, 2011, was wrong. Terribly wrong! And worse, far worse, than what had happened in St. Kitts on 29th November, 1993, and in the days thereafter.
And justice has to be done. The Court of Law and the ‘Court of Public Conscience’ need to do their respective jobs. The former needs to analyze each applicant’s case to see if he or she was unlawfully removed. It also has to ask why the List was published so late, why the aggrieved persons had not been given a fair chance to challenge their removal, and why there was still another List which appeared on Election Day and which showed variances with the earlier List with regard to the battleground constituencies. And the latter ‘Court’ needs to apply and maintain the pressure. Nobody must be allowed to feel comfortable and complacent until justice is done.
Leaders need to be firmly disabused of the notion that they can break the law, abuse their power, disenfranchise people, ‘tief’ an election, and get away. Every man and woman in the electoral chain of command, need to be scrutinized and dealt with by the law, right up to the very top.
Telephone records may have to be sought. And so on.
And if the Director of Public Prosecutions is to be involved, then nobody must interfere with her in the faithful execution of her duty.
If the people of Nevis, and we in St. Kitts too, fail to take a stand on this, God knows how many names will be taken off the Lists in the next elections.
The good name of our country is at stake here.
What was particularly inappropriate on election night was the repeated chatter by the Supervisor of Elections about how much fun he was having, as well as the frivolous banter that went along with it, while 250 residents of Nevis were robbed of their right to vote and the biggest election robbery, the most egregious injustice against democracy and against the people of this country in modern times was being perpetrated.