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New Year’s Address to the Nation

It is a commitment in which we dedicate ourselves to work with members of other political parties or groups in our Federation, whether they be the CCM, NRP, Labour, or independents, to offer to the people of our country a new direction in which we strive to end the divisiveness that has plagued us for so long, which pits brother against sister, and neighbour against neighbour, in which there will be opportunities for all to get a job, to own a piece of land and to prosper in the land of their birth. It will be a new direction in which we will offer relief to our people, to uplift and make life easier for all those who are having such a hard time to get through each day, each week, each month. This is our pledge.

As we end the year 2012 and we look back on the journey we have traveled over the year past, we can reflect on the many difficulties that many in our society, our many families, our businesses, have had to endure to make ends meet. Parents have had a very difficult time to provide basic necessities for their children; many businesses have had to close, as times have proved to be hard. 

A standard of living to which we had become accustomed, was under attack. Poverty has been on the increase. Finding a meal is often difficult for some. Some are without electricity, or cable. The high cost of living, brought about in no small measure by a burdensome Value Added Tax, VAT, and an unreliable electricity supply with its ever-increasing rates have played havoc on our incomes. The Denzil Douglas-led Administration had promised much but has delivered little more than hardship!

Those who had invested in Government bonds, a supposedly safe security, were forced to take a “haircut”, losing as much as 50% of their investment. These included our local public companies where many had their life savings, and even our Churches, with our tithes and collections, lost their investments which were thought to be safe to promote the work of the Church here on earth. Our children graduating from High School, have few or no job opportunities. Unemployment is high as reports indicate that our economy has shrunk in the latter part of the year. 

Lest we forget! All this can be placed squarely at the feet of the Denzil Douglas-led Labour Government! Years of wasteful spending. The projects and programmes are well-known, whether they be the Warner Park Football Stadium built in 1996 for millions of dollars and pulled down 10 years later to be rebuilt for millions more; or the La Vallee Golf Course Project in Sandy Point built for $250 million with nothing to show for it, no greens, no club houses built; the failed Beacon Heights residential project built with $70 million from Social Security, and many more. 

In the course of multi-year deficits stretching over the tenure of this Labour Administration, our National Debt ballooned to $3 billion. Our debt-to-GDP ratio was by far the worse in the CARICOM region. It was the worse in the entire world with only Japan, a first world country, worse than ours. We in my Party had complained for many years about this terrible state of affairs, only to be scoffed at by the Right Honourable Prime Minister with his infamous and insulting remarks at a political meeting at Old Road.

But the chickens have finally come home to roost. It has brought down on us, austerity measures occasioned by the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, making the Douglas Government put in place draconian restrictions on spending, hiring, and the way we do business as a country.

And in doing so, it has led the Douglas Government to go as far as to abandon the people of this Nation, to give away our patrimony, our birthright, our limited land space that was so difficult to come by, which has meant so much to our people given our struggle, our servitude, our history. 

Dr Douglas introduced what has become known as the Land-Swap Deal, the Bill introduced into the Parliament to vest 1200 acres of prime land in the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank for $900 million debt. It is an action that is unacceptable to, and has been rejected by, the vast majority of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. 

And it highlights another fascinating failure of the Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas and his leadership of his Government and the country. The Prime Minister has shown his total lack of care for the people, his failure to consult, even amongst his closest Cabinet colleagues.

We recall that the Deputy Prime Minister Terence Sam Condor and Senior Minister Timothy Harris both made impassioned speeches against this action of the Prime minister in the Parliamentary debates on this matter. They declared that they were unaware of the details of the Land-Swap and clearly indicated that they were not in favour of it.

This was unprecedented. Never before in the history of Parliamentary Democracy in St. Kitts and Nevis since Independence had any member of Cabinet been so clear in their disapproval of any measure brought by the Government. 

But further problems for the Prime Minister later surfaced when the Nation was told the shocking news by the Deputy Prime Minister, who also has the portfolio as Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the Government intended to open a Consulate in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates without his involvement. It highlighted a total breakdown of the public service and raised constitutional questions about the running of the Government.

This latter, this break down of constitutional arrangements, has been a source of much concern for many of our citizens for some time in relation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, SIDF. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised by the sale of St. Kitts and Nevis passports, the proceeds of which have been put in a fund that the Right Honourable Prime Minister has said in Parliament is “a private fund” instead of going to the Consolidated Fund of the Government’s Treasury. Like many of our citizens, we in the Peoples Action Movement along with other members of the Opposition, vehemently disagree and say: “This is the peoples money!”

We believe that this ‘SIDF’ money should be subject to the oversight of Parliament! We believe that the Director of Audit has a constitutional role to investigate how every penny of this money is spent! Further, we believe that this Fund would go along way to reduce our National Debt, and equally as important, spare our land from being swapped for debt!

For these reasons and more, the Peoples Action Movement has given full support to the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Mark Brantley, in the tabling of a Resolution for a Vote of No Confidence in the National Assembly in the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, and his Government.

Fellow Citizens, you are familiar with the events that have followed; with the summary postponement of a sitting of Parliament to debate the Increase in Senators Bill, on the 7th December, some two (2) days after the Resolution was tabled! Citizens would also recall that on the 11th December when the Budget Session of Parliament was to be debated, Parliament was once again suddenly and curiously postponed! And we believe that all this was a ruse brought about by the Right Honourable Prime Minister to avoid facing a Confidence Motion in his leadership!

In all of this, we say that our people are … Land-less, Job-less and In the Dark…!! We believe that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis have been failed by the Denzil Douglas-led Labour Administration. We believe that Dr. Douglas’ tenure as the head of Government has divided us as a people. We believe that our electoral system is less than desirable and that Dr. Douglas has used it to perpetuate himself in office. We believe that attempts by us to introduce measures of good governance in our country, such as Integrity in Public Life, and Freedom of Information Legislation, have been thwarted by the Prime Minister to the detriment of our country.

And we believe that the failure of the Douglas-led Government to quickly bring the debate of No Confidence to the Parliament is a further indication of his utter disdain for good governance and the rule of law in our Country. And it is our believe that our Country can do better, much better. 

Dr. Douglas has said that it is his belief that the Parliament needs to debate the Budget before any other business is dealt with. We reject that notion. If there is no confidence in a government, it makes no sense to do any other business with such a government and it should step aside.
And so, as we welcome in the New Year, we call on the Government of the Right Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, to go the National Assembly and seek a Confidence Motion in his Government. If he is afraid to face his Parliamentary colleagues, then he should either resign or he should seek an audience with the Governor General and ask him to dissolve Parliament and let the Electorate determine what Government they want.

Finally, our Federation, our identity in the wider world, and the stable force that has shaped each of us, remains key to our future. Our nation is in need of caring and repairing. In 2013, let us not forget that the work of building St Kitts and Nevis still relies on “old-fashioned” dedication, cooperation and sacrifice.

I’m sure that many of us are now looking to 2013 with a mixture of excitement and some uncertainty. 
But above all, we look forward to this New Year, with Hope, with a true sense of Optimism. We look forward to the dawn of a new day, a new era in our Country, in which our Party, the Peoples Action Movement, commits itself to reach out across the aisle, to bridge the political divide, and to embrace men and women of goodwill, who care for our country, and who are all willing to work together to create genuine viable and sustainable and nationally acceptable solutions to stabilize our staggering economy. 

We will work together to rebuild our fracturing society around core values and principles, and commit to restore trust in government and engender a new political culture which will give our people a genuine chance to improve their livelihood and fulfill their dreams and aspirations..

I am committing myself to this road in 2013. I look forward to meeting you on the way, and I wish that in this New Year, each and every one of you will enjoy good health, happiness in the love of friends and family, and strong hope for our future together. 

God Bless Our Nation.



 

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