In the past, when the People’s Action Movement was in power, then Prime Minister, Dr. Sir Kennedy Simmonds was challenged to a debate by then Opposition Leader and now Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas. Instead of a much awaited verbal dual, the two appeared separately on the Voice of Nevis, VON Radio. Douglas accused Dr. Simmonds of avoiding him.
But as political twists are sure to flourish as time goes by, Dr. Douglas too found himself running away from any idea of a debate with then PAM leader, Lindsay Grant, who urged Douglas to debate the issues to help the electorate of the country determine their choice of party and leader to head the government. This was during the elections that were held both in 2004 and 2010.
Many in the public thought that Douglas was afraid to submit himself to such debate because there is the school of thought that when an incumbent is preparing for an election and is trailing in the polls, they are more likely to refrain from such formal public debates.
However, others have charged that such actions are politically immature, especially when compared to other countries, including sister CARICOM state Jamaica, where debates of this nature are held at each election between candidates and surely between those hoping to occupy the seat of Prime Minister. Not so in St. Kitts and Nevis though.
There is actually a special non-governmental organization in Jamaica that plans, structures and hosts such debates. This is the Jamaica Debates Commission. They have existing formats and debate rules and regulations that could be easily modified and applied to the St. Kitts and Nevis experience.
The latest challenge for a “debate showdown” has come from Dr. Timothy Harris, who is calling on incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas to open himself to a formal public discourse that focuses on the issues. There has been no response from the Prime Minister, but such an episode would be a turning point in Kittitian/Nevisian politics…but it is unlikely.
Harris said he is ready and willing.
This would be a spectacle most welcomed by the electorate, recognizing that both politicians are oceans apart personally and politically. If by some magic or perhaps miracle they were to find a common ground on such an appearance, the country would be better served. It would be tough in every way. And it could be very entertaining with possible sparks of personal attacks, mixed with the high quality of discussion expected on the core issues affecting the country.
Among the key topics that citizens would expect on the debate floor, include SIDF, National Debt, High Electricity Rates, Electoral Reform, Corruption, Victimization, Good Governance, and many other economic, social and political matters. Both are very savvy on the issues and astute as politicians and are quite knowledgeable on the matters of state and if they maintain the level of calm and poise associated with such serious undertakings, St. Kitts and Nevis would benefit from a political lesson never before experienced.
Harris, is the leader of the People’s Labour Party (PLP), and also designated as the man to lead the country as Prime Minister, if the Unity Partners (PAM, PLP, CCM), are successful at the upcoming polls. He is a former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs and until a few months ago, was a Senior Minister in Douglas’ Cabinet.
During a recent radio interview, he said he wanted to “debate the causal factors leading to the bankruptcy of the economy and solutions to take the country out.”
He said he was “also prepared to debate the Prime Minister on governance issues including the stalemate on the Motion of No Confidence and the illegitimacy hanging over the office of the Prime Minister, with a Leader with minority support of the Members of Parliament irrationally and shamelessly holding onto the office of Prime Minister contrary to the constitution which requires that the Prime Minister should command the support of the majority of Members of Parliament.”
It would be a great debate but sadly one that would not come easily…if ever. But if they truly believe in the Motto of the country, (Country Above Self), then it is something that should be allowed to happen. They should debate.