We publish below, without comment, because of the nature of the subject, the full text of a speech delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis, Shawn Richards, on Tuesday, 26th April, 2022:
By Hon. Shawn K Richards, Political Leader of PAM and Deputy Prime Minister
Before I formally begin my remarks, allow me to recognize the awesome support that we have received from so many citizens across the nation and overseas.
And equally, let me acknowledge the tremendous support that our efforts have received from the Political Leader of CCM and Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley, who as you were told, is currently overseas and returning on Wednesday. Equally I thank his other two members of parliament the Hon. Alexis Jeffers and Hon Eric Evelyn.
But I also wish to say thank you to the incredible support provided by these patriotic PAM Members of Parliament here today: Hon. Lindsay Grant, and Hon. Jonel Powell.
I also thank the Hon. Eugene Hamilton for his support, and I acknowledge too, the contributions of our Master of Ceremonies, Lawyer Natasha Grey Brookes, who has been one of the pillars of support. Thank you all.
My Fellow Nevisians and Kittitians, Good Day.
The time has come for St. Kitts & Nevis to move on.
It is time for us to focus on the future.
There can be No Turning Back to an era where One man diminishes the value of our democracy.
The past six years have brought much prosperity for thousands of our citizens, but that did not come from the sweat and toil of One man. No, it came from all of us.
ALL nine (9) elected representatives- 4 from PAM, 3 from CCM and 2 from PLP, along with the support of our 3 senators, it was WE ALL who made the progress possible, not One man.
As someone likes to remind us, there is no “I” in Team and there is no me in Unity.
But the greatest credit I wish to allocate, is to our devoted citizens, our committed civil servants and our private sector partners, whose remarkable contributions helped to advance our nation since 2015. It was not One man.
The two years of over 1 Million cruise ship visitors resulted from the strategic negotiations and partnerships established by our tourism staff and the Caribbean’s Number one Tourism Minister for 2021, the Honourable Lindsay Grant.
This did not come from One Man. It came from a Team.
Even more progress could have been achieved were it not for COVID-19.
One man sat in a Cabinet corner quietly and systematically undermined his own colleagues.
Not even his own other PLP colleague was spared. Because she too was undermined.
The plot to undermine was to serve one purpose only, and that was to claim responsibility for all the success.
Many of the projects that were to be undertaken by CCM, PAM and even the other PLP minister, were frustrated and starved of money from the Ministry of Finance.
And the reason, was to make us look bad, and make One man look good, because later he would implement some measures and claim that only he alone was responsible.
But my Fellow Citizens, that was the past.
We are now at a new beginning.
As true patriots of these two small islands, we must never doubt our abilities and resilience to recover from even the most difficult experiences-like we suffered in COVID-19.
Nor should we have any fear that St. Kitts & Nevis will continue to prosper in the coming future. Have no fear because there will be CONTINUITY and STABILITY.
The philosophy that united our approach is not dead. Team UNITY was and is a coalition of 3 parties-CCM, PAM and PLP.
Therefore, if One man departs, and there remains all the others, or put differently, if 3 parties make up TEAM UNITY and one has drifted away, TEAM UNITY remains with the 2 that continue to work together.
In other words, there is still TEAM UNITY, but without Timothy.
We must learn from the good, but also from the bad.
We must be strong, and we must have abiding faith in the powers of God.
And as I was reminded in church on Sunday, the word of God stands forever, and we must stay true to the word, even in the face of iniquity.
Let us pledge today that we are going to stand for the things that are RIGHT and JUST. This is what the preacher admonished on Sunday.
The preamble of our Constitution partly states that “We declare that the nation is established on the belief in Almighty God and the inherent dignity of each individual.”
I say to you today, once you truly believe in God, as I do, then you must also accept that there will be deliverance.
It also states that we believe in the concept of true democracy with free and fair elections.
And finally, the preamble of the Constitution concludes that we are a people committed to achieve our national objectives with unity of purpose.
Not unity of convenience, but “Unity of Purpose”.
That is why we cannot turn back. We must focus on the future.
By now the entire world is aware of what was the past and cognizant that we cannot turn back to the cloudy days of that era, where a galloping constitutional dictator loomed on the horizon.
We must press on.
Much has been written and spoken about the recent political developments over the last couple months. It is not my intention to dwell further on those matters. We think we have made the case.
Instead, we wish to look towards the future. It is our collective desire to introduce a Fresh Start, with A New Vision.
We, the majority of elected Representatives of the National Assembly of St. Kitts & Nevis, are turning to the Right Direction. We are building for the future.
We assure you that Tomorrow is Looking Better because we will be giving something that is also better.
In recent days, the Leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement, CCM, the Hon. Mark Brantley, was pellucid when told an interviewer that PAM and CCM intend to work together.
As the National Political Leader of the People’s Action Movement, I too wish to confirm our intention to work together with the CCM, in a true relationship that is anchored in TRUST and RESPECT.
In other words, in Real Unity!
We were reminded last week, by our first Prime Minister and only Living National Hero, The Right Excellent & Right Honourable, Dr. Sir Kennedy Simmonds, that it was the late Premier of Nevis, Hon. Vance Amory who also believed in working together but in an existence of fairness and equality in worth.
Vance Amory, according to Sir Kennedy, in 1993, during the 10 Anniversary of Independence, called for renewed efforts to unify the peoples of both islands.
He emphasized that Kittitians and Nevisians need to ensure that the Federation develops along lines which are mutually beneficial, and which would allow each island to achieve its full potential.
Those words remain relevant and instructive today, as we face the trials of the current political crossroads.
But permit me to declare here today, that the best political friend that Nevis has always had, is the People’s Action Movement.
We stood with you during some of your darkest days of suppression.
It was PAM under the leadership of William Herbert and Kennedy Simmonds, who came to your assistance to deliver the basic needs of water and food.
I say to all Nevisians at home and abroad, that your only true friend, continues to be the people’s Action Movement.
And I say to Kittitians, our only true friend in Team Unity, has been the CCM.
Real Unity between PAM and CCM remains the best hope if each island is to achieve its full potential as declared by the late Premier Amory, almost 30 years ago.
I do realize that some political leaders still believe that Nevisians ought to be treated as minions while they in St. Kitts fool themselves into thinking that they are masters.
It is time for this to stop and for Nevis to be treated with respect and dignity.
As we focus on the future, our emphasis must be on what is good for our people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
Looking ahead to a Fresh Start the following should offer a glimpse of our vision for the future.
The pillars of our future economic, political, and social development, will include, but not be limited to:
- The full actualization of our political aspirations to chart our own destiny under a republican system of government, where a Kittitian or Nevisian sits as our Head of State.
- The advancement of the decades has taught us that the time has come for St. Kitts & Nevis to review its Monarchial system of government, and to begin the dialogue to advance to a new status, just as Trinidad, Guyana, Dominica and now Barbados, have done in the past.
- However, this will not be pursued along partisan lines. All political parties, along with civil society and the youth, will have an opportunity to guide the way forward. These thoughts on republicanism, are of my own and I would have to dialogue with the partners.
- Additionally, after almost 40 years, we, as a nation need to begin introducing meaningful constitutional change. This too will be a consultative process with all social and political stakeholders.
- This means that we remain committed to the pledge of Good Governance and will introduce and where applicable operationalize legislation to give effect to Freedom of Information, Term Limits, Integrity in Public Life, Electoral Reform, and others.
- We will also work with agencies within the structure of government and with private sector representatives to introduce new legislation, policies, and procedures to curtail and eventually eliminate the problems associated with the awarding of major government contracts and with corruption.
- We will build an economy that is driven by Tourism, Light Manufacturing, Information & Technology, Agriculture, the Culture & Entertainment Sector & Services.
- In addition to the traditional tourism of cruise and land based, we will pursue a new agenda in Sports Tourism and Education Tourism.
- We intend to work more meaningfully and strategically, with our Taiwanese partners, to turn the wastage of our fruits and vegetables, into exportable commodities.
- Agriculture must become a priority focus.
- Another initiative that is proposed for the future, is the introduction of comprehensive Immigration Reform. This would include amnesty for all qualified foreigners who are in our country. And it will include a new Residency Status Program, and the reduction in the number of years for legal residents to qualify for citizenship. In other words, our new partnership would give consideration to introducing a Blue Card, similar to the American Green Card.
- We will also pursue an aggressive program for Poverty Alleviation, to lift our citizens to the highest heights of social and economic security.
- A new Youth Agenda, that shall see greater opportunities for young people in business, increased academic scholarships, mentorship programs and vocational initiatives, are part of our program for the way forward.
- Finally, our new agenda will also include a partnership with the Rastafarian community, to offer land and other assistance to build a temple for their worship and the practice of their faith.
These are just a few initiatives that will occupy priority attention in a new administration driven by the collaborative efforts of the CCM and PAM.
However, none of this would be achieved if we do not take decisive action now.
The leaders and MPs of the CCM and PAM, tried for a long time to amend the differences that were hurting the Team Unity Government.
But every time we made the effort for dialogue, we were rebuffed, ignored, slandered, insulted, and ridiculed with acts of character assassination.
We made, not 1, but 2 efforts to meet and resolve the differences, but these were derailed by ONE man.
We did not give up, and we wrote in a third effort, outlining our concerns and recommendations, but, yet again, we were treated with disrespect and a vile reaction from ONE man.
No honest person can say we did not try. We did. But we cannot negotiate with ourselves. We cannot extend a hand of reconciliation and continue to be met with a closed fist of defiance.
And even though the clock has started to tick, even at this last hour, both CCM and PAM remain committed to resolution.
The door remains ajar but only for a short while. Let us see, if anyone would ring the doorbell or knock on the door of opportunity.
However, because of the distrust we have experienced over the years, we-PAM and CCM- were forced to act in the best interest of St. Kitts & Nevis. Good men cannot continue to stand by and see our nation hurting, and not take action.
Therefore, on Monday 25th April, 2022, the majority of members of the Team Unity government formally lodged with the Clerk of Parliament a Motion of No Confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris.
We expect that in keeping with the rules of parliament, that the motion will be placed on the Order Paper for an urgent sitting, and that a sitting of the parliament to hear the motion will be scheduled at the earliest possibility.
Indeed, we have been advised that this should be done within 21 days.
I know some people are skeptical about that schedule being kept because of recent memory.
But any delay will not only be just against the rules of parliament, but against the genuine national interest.
This new era of political uncertainty brought on by the action and inaction of the Prime Minister must come to an end at the earliest.
If this is to continue to be a worthy nation, we all must be committed to follow the rules that sustain and give credibility to our democracy.
Of course, we, as will Prime Minister Harris, are acutely aware of a previous instance where such a similar motion was never aired in the parliament through undemocratic machinations and maneuverings.
Prime Minister Harris must remember that episode – which will forever be a stain in the national democratic psyche of the nation.
However, in this case we do not expect history to repeat itself.
St Kitts and Nevis has matured as a democracy since then, with the coming into office of this very Team Unity government on the mantra of good governance and accountability.
This new phase in our political history demands accountability now more than ever, from all sitting elected members of parliament – no matter which party they represent.
We expect the motion will be duly debated and passed, as we are confident that it will get the majority support of the parliament.
While people will debate the political ramifications of this landmark motion, we believe that what is of more significance, is that it will provide an opportunity to refresh our confidence in the democratic ideals of this favored state – where constitutionality and accountability reign side by side.
While our brother Eugene Hamilton is not a signatory to the motion, we intend to continue to engage him. He remains a valued member of the PAM caucus.
My brother Eugene has different views on many aspects of the current political debate, and he has articulated many of them in our ongoing discussions.
He is an experienced man, with strong views – and as a democratic movement, and we respect that.
We understand some of his concerns, though obviously not his conclusions.
Brother Eugene, like is every member of the PAM caucus, is united in the view that trust in the Team Unity has been eroded; we have failed to keep too many promises; we have failed to give a fair share to everyone; and that we have fallen short on the issues of good governance and accountability.
If we are honest men and women, we must accept our misgivings and then move on to correct them. If there is forgiveness in our God, then there ought to be forgiveness in our people.
Eugene has accepted that in general terms the Prime Minister has failed in his general duties to the values and principles of Unity.
What we do not accept is that even in the face of that reality we should do nothing; and just accept the status quo.
There are principles which are larger than our own individual concerns; principles that honourable men and women must stand up for — even if it causes them personal discomfort.
Failure to do that will make us guilty as the Prime Minister on the very issues we have all identified as concerns.
The leader of the government has no inclination to offer genuine inclusion and to change his overall approach to the things that have led to the broken-down trust in Unity.
We are still confident that when the motion is aired it will get the support of nine of the 11 MPs.
And we understand what this means.
There will be an election in which the people will have the opportunity to renew their faith in the principles of Team Unity- but in this case, “Real Unity” between the coalition of the willing partners; an election in which the People’s Action Movement and CCM will be dominant.
We also expect that when this is done we will be able to govern through a partnership with our friends in Nevis – and usher in a new era of REAL UNITY.
We shall run a campaign on hope; not fear. And we shall rally a nation whose recent memories of their experiences of various versions of Labour, will give it pause.
We shall seek a reset — and we shall be comforted by history that REAL UNITY is a dream to be pursued. It is a dream that still could be attained.
As I close, I say to you, that all the PAM and CCM ministers could have continued to close our eyes to the injustice against us, and to continue in our so-called lofty positions.
But no, we took the decision to do what is right and just and to sacrifice in the interest of all citizens.
We too would prefer not to have an election, but if one comes, be assured we are ready and are confident of victory.
A new election will bring all the uncertainties of any election, but if an election comes, there is only one thing that is certain. And that is, Timothy Harris will not be the next Prime Minister.
We therefore say to any CCM or PAM supporter or any other citizen who today are rallying the cause of the OUT-GOING Prime Minister, come back home to PAM and CCM, because after the next election, there is only one certain fact, and I repeat, Timothy will not be the next Prime Minister.
My fellow citizens, we are Not Turning Back. We Are Focused on the Future, with a Fresh Start and a New Vision.
May God bless us all!