Dr Denzil Douglas has done it again.
Just when we thought the St Kitts and Nevis prime minister had exhausted all means at his disposal for denying the opposition’s wish for fresh general elections, as well as ensuring that there can only be one result when he actually announces the date for the much-anticipated poll, Dr Douglas has outfoxed us all — or so he may think – not least of all, his political opponents.
During a hastily-convened emergency parliamentary session late last week, which clearly took members of the opposition Team Unity by surprise, including Douglas’ former deputy Sam Condor, the prime minister moved swiftly to dissolve the National Assembly after getting the necessary approval for Governor General Sir Edmund Lawrence to sign an official proclamation, which would give effect to new electoral boundaries.
“The proclamation speaks to the boundaries as have been revised after several years and months of sitting of the Constituency Boundaries Commission,” said Dr Douglas, as he forcibly pushed the matter through the National Assembly on Friday.
Ironically, the same parliament has been dragging its feet for the past two years on an opposition-sponsored motion of no confidence against the government, which also lost another senior cabinet minister, Timothy Harris, over the course of its last tumultuous five-year term.
However, serious doubt now hangs over the success of an injunction filed by the Harris-led Team Unity – made up of elected members of the Basseterre-based People’s Action Movement, the Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement and the recently formed People’s Labour Party. The governing St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) therefore seems on course to get its much-desired, fifth straight term in office — a feat that would put Dr Douglas in the country’s record books for good, and assure him of Napoleonic bragging rights for a long, long time to come.
That the 62-year-old prime minister, who celebrated his birthday on January 14, has been able to successfully pull off such a stunt would be quite amusing, laughable even, had it not occurred at a very high price for the process of democracy in the twin island Federation.
We hold no brief for any of the parties affected by this very shameful, Third World-looking political charade.
However, on this occasion we are forced to agree with the position issued by the St Kitts Nevis Chamber of Commerce, the St Kitts Christian Council, the Evangelical Association and the St Kitts Small Business Forum. In a joint statement today, they described last Friday, January 16, 2015, as “a sad day for democracy” when the SKNLP government displayed “a blatant disregard” for the rights of all members of the National Assembly.
We believe it is also a sad day for our region as a whole.
However, even more lamentable than Dr Douglas’ actions to date has been the deafening silence of other regional governments and indeed the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, which has treated Friday’s worrying development as just another general news item posted on its official website for regional consumption.
While we understand “the need for respect of diplomatic propriety and for adherence to the principles of non interference in the domestic affairs of member states”, as has been emphasized in the case of Guyana and its pending elections, we believe there are just some overarching issues on which CARICOM must at all times maintain common ground.
Therefore, just as the Irwin LaRocque-led CARICOM Secretariat has urged with Boko Haram, it must lift its voice and insist on greater urgency when it comes to matters, which appear to trifle with its mandate for upholding and defending our democracy.
Indeed as members of the family of Commonwealth, our nations have always stood in the vanguard and have aligned themselves with others known for maintaining the best democratic principles.
Now therefore is not a time for us to appear to be faltering on the altar of expediency, especially when one of our own appears to have so blatantly stepped out of line.
Today’s statement from the stakeholders in Basseterre best summarized what is currently at stake.
It warned that “elections should not be treated as like a game to be won in any way and at all costs”.
Furthermore, St Kitts and Nevis does not belong “to any one man or party” and that “the country’s constitution and its norms and conventions must be respected if it is to progress and avoid dictatorship”.
We concur for fear that others in this region would readily follow Douglas’ harmful precedent – disregarding constitution and people, moral and ethical behaviour, not to mention common decency – for the singular purpose of remaining in power at all costs.
Maybe there needs to be consideration of term limits for our leaders after all, so that there can be no confusion, least of all by them, over when they have reached their “expiry” date, by which time they must gracefully ride off into the political sunset.