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If Not Unity, WHAT?

Be they affiliated with the Church, the business sector, non-governmental organizations or government, the commonality that stands out among many great leaders is their passion to serve others; an intense drive to direct the course the lives of the impoverished and less fortunate in society lead: from a world of destitution and misfortune to one of promise and absolute progress.

These enlightened men and women who choose to serve are the torchbearers of change. Their drive is the gel that keeps our communities together and unifies our nation in the process.

In his book “From Commoner To King”, Nevisian born author Whitman T. Brown offers a candid and remarkable account of the federation’s first Premier Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, who from an early age was called “Papa”; a name he acquired as he was deemed by many to be noble beyond his years. Premier Bradshaw envisioned himself as the Saviour of the people and rejected the myth of his time that “there could be no justice and equality for people of African descent”.

During the 1940’s, a time when slavery like conditions still existed in St. Kitts and Nevis, despite the fact that slavery was long outlawed in 1834, the cry of the black people resonated loudly enough for Bradshaw to yearn to do more in the interest of improving the living conditions of the descendants of slaves. Among other things, Papa Bradshaw cared deeply about the abject living conditions of black people, the unfair treatment of the working class, the lack of educational opportunities for the masses and the need to shake the mental shackles that he believed many descendants of slaves were still bound by.

The challenges Premier Bradshaw faced, including the barrier of distance between sister islands Nevis and Anguilla, put many at odds with him. The eventual break up of the three State Union of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, achieved through Statehood in 1967, was in part sparked by the angst of those opposed to him and their desire to sever the union. Revered though he was by thousands of natives on St. Kitts, Premier Bradshaw was faced with insurmountable challenges from the Plantocracy who essentially saw him as a threat to the livelihood of so many planters; the very same planters who had done incredibly well for themselves by reaping the spoils that slavery and sugar had brought them.

Premier Bradshaw diligently sought to stand up to the planters, even in the face of strong opposition. “Papa Bradshaw” would not easily back down. His priority was the PEOPLE.

It is the work he did, the trials he overcame and even the controversy surrounding his leadership that made his legacy a solid one. That history cannot be rewritten. He remains the epitome of many leaders throughout the region today and his leadership is a benchmark for the Labour Party and many others even decades after his death.

Former Labour Government Ministers Sam Condor and Dr. Timothy Harris strongly believe that the tenets of Bradshaw’s leadership and the stalwarts of the Labour party have been long lost because of the direction New Labour has taken the party and ultimately, the country. They both feel strongly that their leader, our nation’s Prime Minister, has lost his way. Having worked with our current Prime Minister for as long as they did, these men also recognized that their principled positions would be rife with scrutiny from within and outside their beloved Labour Party if they opposed him.  However, like the hardworking stalwarts of Labour before them, these men also believe that it is incumbent upon them to remain true to the ideologies of the Labour party that speaks to empowering and enriching the lives of the people and not the enrichment of themselves as servants of the people.

Both men could have tolerated the wrongs they observed, transitioned smoothly into retirement with their attractive pensions and post ministerial perks and simply ride the “comfort wave” that comes after more than four terms in public service. Why then ruffle political feathers and cause the ruckus they have? Why not just let the status quo be? Why shake up the apple cart when they sit at the brink of basking in their political golden years? These series of questions set the precedence for a host of “What Ifs”.

What if the desire to right the wrongs these former Government Ministers observed sits on their consciences more greatly than the entitlement to their pensions?

What if these men are seriously moved to stand up for the impoverished, the voiceless and outcast lot in our little Federation?

What if the continuous decay of our social fabric that has stifled once strong relationships has convinced these men that party politics is to blame for much of the plight of our people?

What if these men genuinely want to be architects of real change in our federation?

Do we embrace their perspective or do we shun them?

Per our constitution, there are eleven parliamentary seats. On a Motion of No Confidence, only elected members, not appointed senators, can vote. Currently, the Labour Party has five parliamentary seats and collectively, opposition party PAM and Nevis based CCM have four seats. Former Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Sam Condor and Senior Minister Dr. Timothy Harris are both elected members of parliament; backbenchers on the government side who hold significantly powerful positions in our parliament. They are bona fide power brokers at this juncture should a Motion of Confidence be tabled in parliament. We are at a true political crossroads where the “All Eight” scenario is unattainable.  It seems that given our present political outlook, our nation has already made its case for a government of National Unity. If we do not thrust forward with a united front, what is our best bet?

Whether we like it or not, our political predicament demands we look at other feasible alternatives outside the realm of the “status quo”. The faith of the people in political parties has waned considerably in St. Kitts. People are tired of the injustices meted out by politicians just because they are the “ruling party”. When times are this difficult, walking down the same failed partisan path is tantamount to walking down the road to nowhere.

The position of both former government ministers is also a reflection of what the electorate is feeling. Constituents are not content in voting for a political party just because of tradition, not when that equates to a select few abusing power to the detriment of an entire nation.

Constituents are not just touting they are from the bowels of Labour either. In fact, the history of our federation dates us ALL back to being descendants of that same “Labour Belly”. Wasn’t it our ancestors who in 20th century post slavery days turned to the Trades and Labour Union to be the watchdog for the interests of the people, who still felt the heavy hands of the planters at work? Whether they supported him or not, it was our grandparents and great grandparents who experienced first hand the attempts of “Papa” Bradshaw and his colleagues to unify his people against the autocratic rule of the Plantocracy.

Thirty years after proclaiming our independence from Mother England, our nation begs for a way “away from” the politics that has divided us as a people who share the same ancestry. We claim to be one people; we claim to have one heritage, yet we pride ourselves in supporting “wrongs” so long as we benefit, often financially, in the short term, while the long term repercussions wreak havoc on the lives of the entire populace.

The case for a unity government is for the people to decide and no matter how long the opportunity to decide is strategically delayed, the people WILL decide. In fact, the sooner our leaders acknowledge that people, particularly young people, no longer feel the need to be “locked” into a political ideal, the sooner they will realize that a unified initiative can serve to re-direct our path and set us on a more even footing as a nation.  Still, those against the unity concept will first have to acknowledge that all is not well with the current political status quo.

The Right Honourable Premier Robert Bradshaw the Commoner, who ultimately became the people’s King, understood his role in his time. Bradshaw’s leadership was scrutinized by many but he was idolized by many more. The Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, the once glorified leader of an all eight government will understand his role in our time. Governance has always been about the people and the people first. When the people have lost favour in their leader, the inevitable, no matter how long delayed, will come.

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