On Monday, 15th November, the day after the Brimstone Hill hold up of 17 tourists, Minister Skerritt was invited by local radio, WINN FM and newly established news website, MiyVue.com, to give his reaction to the incident, but he indicated that he had no intention of speaking to the media, although other government reports had indicated that they were in fact speaking to international media organizations that are specialized in reporting on trends in the tourism market.
The unfortunate decision of the minister has now been attacked in the political arena, as one of poor judgment and inefficiency.
In a release issued on Wednesday morning, (17th November), the opposition party in St. Kitts, the peoples Action Movement, (PAM), stated, “With all this lies, deceit and declines in the economic performance of the industry, the country has to seriously review and analyze Minister Skerrit’s proficiency as a tourism Minister, particularly in light of his actions since this most serious incident,” says Hon. Shawn Richards.
Skerritt was blasted by Richards and labeled dishonest and hypocritical, as Richards pointed to Minister Skerritt’s recent statement, that his “NO COMMENT” stance on the tourist robbery issue, was his policy regarding matters in the hands of the police,
As the basis for his criticism, Richards referenced an incident that took place in 2009, regarding the vandalizing of an “It’s Working” Tourism billboard, where Minister Skerritt was quoted in a Press Release published on sknvibes as saying, “This is an absolute disgrace. Whoever did this should be ashamed to call themselves Kittitians. This national campaign is designed to sing the praises of St Kitts and Nevis – for all of us.”
Mr. Richards argued that in the July 2009 release, Skerritt further stated, “Tourism is fast becoming the lifeblood of this Federation. To burn these boards is an attack on the livelihoods of every decent citizen here; on our jobs; our economy; our entire society. This campaign is about Kittitian pride. Why would these people want to undermine our country in this way?”
The Release went on to indicate that the matter was still under police investigation.
The PAM Deputy Political Leader reminded that during a Press Conference held on Tuesday, (16th November, 2010), Skerritt confirmed that he did in fact give no comments to two news outlets that approached him.
Skerritt said that he gave “NO COMMENTS” because it was his policy not to give comments on a matter whilst a police investigation is ongoing in said matter. However the actions taken by Minister Skerritt in the incident alluded to above, and detailed and highlighted in the 2009 Press Release, shows a stark variance in Minister Skerritt’s policy then and now, said Richards.
Mr. Richards however is of the view, that Minister Skerritt was simply deceiving the country.
“17 tourists robbed and cruise ships pulling out and the best thing the Minister of Tourism has to offer is “NO COMMENT”,” said Opposition MP Shawn K. Richards.
“Minister Skerritt’s statement, that it has ALWAYS been his policy to give “NO COMMENTS” on matters being investigated by Police, was a blatant untruth as has been highlighted with the revelation of his comments regarding the vandalism of the “It’s Working” billboard last year. He is deceiving the country, frankly speaking” said Richards.
“When that incident occurred in July last year, within hours the Minister came out in the strongest possible language to condemn the act and its perpetrators. Are political billboards more important than the 17 violated tourists, the livelihood of thousands and the very existence of our main economic driver Tourism?” Richards Questioned.
Richards joined colleague Eugene Hamilton in questioning Skerritt’s competence. Richards said “In light of the Ministers recent actions or inactions as well as his blatant lie to the country and or convenient memory regarding his personal policy, Minister Skerritt’s competence and ability to properly manage our tourism product must be questioned. Just last week the IMF revealed that tourism has been on a decline in St. Kitts-Nevis since 2006”.
However the Minister has been telling us different. In fact he has questioned the credibility of the IMF. The IMF is one of the most respected and credible institutions in the world. With all this lies, deceit and declines in the economic performance of the industry one has to serious review and analyze Minister Skerritt’s proficiency as a tourism Minister”, remarked Richards.
Skerritt on Tuesday during a press briefing hosted by the Ministry of National Security spoke out on the issue, condemning the actions of the culprits.