Power outage throws opposition rally in darkness…then cancellation

This was the second consecutive Friday that the planned meeting of the opposition had to be cancelled. When the attempt was made last week Friday, 3rd January, the permit provided by police authorities was cancelled at the very last moment, leading to a spontaneous protest against the country’s prime minister. The reason provided by the police was that the permission had to be withdrawn to facilitate a street jam session that was given the green light, albeit at the last moment, to take place under the banner of the National Carnival Committee. Carnival in St. Kitts ended the day before, on 2nd January, with the Last Lap street activities; therefore the unplanned jam session took everyone by surprise.

Last night however, it was a power outage from the lone electricity company on the island, SKELEC that forced organizers to abandon their plans for the meeting. When the lights abruptly intervened, the meeting had started only minutes before, and only a youth representative and PAM’s Central Basseterre candidate, Jonel Powell, had the opportunity to speak. He was to be followed by at least six other candidates, punctuated by live performances by well-known calypsonians.

The crowd was hyped from a protest demonstration that had occurred earlier in the afternoon, ending at the downtown Bank Street venue, which served also as the location for the meeting. But even before that, the opposition supporters were disturbed about an early morning fire of the same date that occurred some 10 hours before the protest march. That fire was the latest in four recent fires, but this one destroyed a building owned by the family of the former leader of the People’s Action Movement, (PAM), Lindsay Grant, who is a candidate in upcoming elections, for the districts running from Challengers to Halfway Tree, (Constituency Number Four).

Suddenly, with the loss of power, the television cameras were shut down, sound system, muted, internet streaming ceased and a boisterous crowd of opposition supporters bolted from their moment of excitement and joyous political celebration, inspired by the protest calypso that had been presented by popular female calypsonian, Lady Diva.

It was now 7:12pm and PAM’s East Basseterre candidate, Ian Patches Liburd was at the opening segment of his remarks and then….darkness…silence…and for some, suspicious disbelief.

Candidates exited the stage, moving to a more secured location as perhaps a precautionary measure, with a few police officers gathering closer to the politicians.

As meeting goers began to come to grips with the fact that it was not a short term measure, they broke out in song, attacking the government and the prime minister in particular, singing, “We shall overcome, we shall overcome some day.” They soon shifted to other choruses and chanted, “Douglas must go. Douglas got to go.”  They then sang, “Duggie is a wily fox, we gon put him in de box, then we throw away de key, for all de tricks he play on we.” Whistles and other noise-makers accompanied the singers as the chatter began with participants beginning to debate their conspiracy theories for the possible loss of electricity.

Some 45 minutes after the power outage and finally recognizing that the electricity disruption would continue, the decision was taken to cancel the meeting. This task was assigned to the leader of the group of opposition parties involved in the rally, Dr. Timothy Harris.

He thanked supporters for what he characterized as a tremendous turn out. “Today they thought that after all the ups and downs, the troubles and the tribulations, Unity had ‘gone een’. Today we show them the strength and solidarity of Unity.”

Harris also thanked the young people, especially those who turned out for the march, suggesting that they did so because they “Understand that this fight we are having, is a fight for a better St. Kitts and Nevis, for the future generation and the younger generation now.”

As the political leader of the People’s Labour Party, PLP and the designated future leader of a Team Unity Administration, Harris gave special thanks to PAM’s former leader, and candidate, Lindsay Grant, whose property was burnt by fire earlier in the day. He said that “Despite the challenges of today, (Lindsay Grant), came out, showing that he is strong and he is determined to fight for you the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and especially the people of Number Four.”

It was Harris’ summary that “The writing is on the wall and this battle is the Lord’s (and) victory is on our side.”

The power outage also affected passengers travelling through the Robert Bradshaw Airport, though not causing any extensive delays or cancellations. One traveler, who was due to leave the island on an 8:30 flight, told MiyVue.com that he and other passengers were seeking to check-in when the electricity died; but because of a delay in the start-up operations of the standby generator, the terminal was left in darkness.

However, one flight for the cargo airline, Amerijet, still managed to land safely. Shortly after the standby power kicked in, helping to allay the fears of the travelers and returning the facility to normalcy.

Electricity returned to most parts of the island by 8:30pm.

SKELEC has since indicated that the outage was caused by a fault in the line at Bayford’s in the north of the island.


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