St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party’s Annual Conference a Smashing Hit!

ST. KITTS-NEVIS LABOUR PARTY’S 87TH ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE A SMASHING HIT

It is being called the champion of all national conferences. The 87th Annual National Conference of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party held Sunday, May 19, 2019 surpassed all expectations. With well over 700 persons attending the standing-room-only Public Session and over 9,000 reached online, the National Conference which was held under the theme, “NextGen SKN: It’s all about you!” broke all records, demonstrating the burgeoning public support for the Party’s message.

“This event was downright cinematic!” has been the constant refrain by those who attended. From the futuristic décor, to the larger-than-life projections of the candidates, to endorsement after endorsement by diverse groups within Kittitian society, it is clear that “NextGen SKN” has captured the imagination of the people and fired up their anticipation for a change of government in the next general elections.

The inspiring Business Session left delegates energized and highly-motivated for the campaign ahead. Highlights of the Business Session included the re-election of the Rt. Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas as Political Leader; the Hon. Marcella Liburd, as Deputy Political Leader; Ms. Diana Williams as National Secretary and Ms. Thamesha Fyfield as Floor Member. The newly elected members were: Ms. Mariette Williams, Floor Member; Mr. Don Grant, Floor Member and Mr. Javon Liburd as Public Relations Officer and President of Young Labour.

Delegates also unanimously endorsed the adoption of the historic St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Code of Ethical Conduct as well as the constitutional amendments to establish a National Disciplinary Committee.

“The document that is before us today is a powerful document. It is firmly rooted in the principles and tenets that were established by our Party’s founding fathers, such as Bradshaw, Southwell and France, lest we forget. It is powered by all the expectations that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis have of their leaders. It will ensure that the duties and obligations of the leadership of our Party to you the members of our Party will always be kept in focus, front and center, and that all our Executive members conduct ourselves in a manner deserving of your confidence and trust”, said Dr. Terrance Drew, Chairman of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party during his remarks.

The Public Session was truly electric, as the audience was treated to powerful presentations from the Diaspora, the Nevis Reformation Party, Labour Women, Young Labour, the Spanish Community, Rastafarian Youth and the LGBTQIA+ community in which each outlined the various reasons for supporting the Labour Party.

The Guest Speaker, the Honourable Everly Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade et al of Antigua and Barbuda reminded participants that the history of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party is also the history of every progressive step that has ever been taken by St. Kitts and Nevis. Drawing parallels with his own party, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, the Honourable Minister emphasized that Generation Next has an important part to play if the future of St. Kitts and Nevis is to be successful.

The Rt. Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas was given a superstar’s welcome as he rose to deliver the keynote address. Throughout his hour long speech, the crowd remained enraptured as he outlined the party’s vision and plans for the “NextGen SKN”. While taking the time to remind of the sterling and unsurpassed record of achievements of the Labour Party, Dr. Douglas, drew excitement and tremendous applause when he said that “the best is yet to come!”

“Today we are here to tell you that our NextGen agenda for progress is all about you! Your success is the destination of our grand vision for this country. There can be no progress without the people! We cannot do it without you! You are the drivers of economic activity and social and economic advancement!

Our NextGen SKN is an inclusive agenda that puts every man, woman and child at the very center of our development planning. Putting people first is our highest priority! Our NextGen SKN agenda for progress is not about us – it is all about you! It is our covenant with you, the people so that we can serve the interests of people of all generations from the cradle to the grave and in all sectors” said the veteran statesman and political leader.

Dr. Douglas ended his remarks with a passionate appeal for every person to take a stake in the future of St. Kitts and Nevis and to begin by electing the “NextGen SKN Dream Team” who have the competence, compassion and commitment to take the country forward.

ANOTHER PROMISE BITES THE DUST

ANOTHER PROMISE BITES THE DUST: Chairman of Integrity in Public Life Commission, Mr. Damian Kelsick Resigns

For an administration that made “good governance” the centerpiece of its campaign platform this goal has remained perennially elusive with general elections just around the corner in a matter of months. For four and a half years the Harris-led coalition administration has made the excuse that this focus on good governance is the reason why not much has been achieved in other important policy areas such as the economy, healthcare, crime and social development.

With the announcement of the resignation of Mr. Damian Kelsick, Chairman of the Integrity in Public Life Commission, who was appointed to the post in October 2018, the last hope for any semblance of positive change or improvement to the good governance institutional framework under the Harris administration, has been extinguished. No reason has yet been given for Kelsick’s resignation. This latest development could have been said to be more or less inevitable, if not predictable, given the fact that Mr. Kelsick has for some months now, been complaining about the lack of the necessary financing for the Commission to perform its work and to do so effectively.

Two months ago, in March 2019, Chairman Kelsick told national media that the Integrity in Public Life Commission was without adequate funds, and the order for the submission of declarations by public officials was not yet in place.

“At this point, we’ve gotten our first tranche of the funds that government has allocated. In the 2019 budget, the government allocated EC$350,000 dollars which apparently, in accordance to government practice, is dispersed quarterly, so we got the first quarter of that which is $87, 500 dollars. Not adequate by any means for the task that we have to perform to get up and running but we’re going to work with what we have in the meantime and continue to request that government disperse more funds,” Mr. Kelsick said at the time. The allocation fell far below the EC$1 million budget that was requested to fully finance the Commission’s needs.

He told national media that while the Commission had held weekly meetings since October 2018, the three commissioners were essentially volunteering their time and skills since the quarterly tranches could not meet the expenses identified to operationalize the office, much less pay the salaries of its Commissioners and staff. He also exposed the fact that the Attorney General had yet to pass the regulation that would establish a deadline for public officials to submit financial disclosures to the Integrity in Public Life Commission for them to actually begin their assessments. Without the Order from the Attorney General, there was literally no work for the Commission to do.

Attorney Kelsick’s going public with the funding issue prompted a tongue-lashing from Prime Minister Timothy Harris in the National Assembly, where the Prime Minister, in typical Harris-style, essentially blamed Kelsick for not preparing a proper budget and submitting it on time. Dr. Harris said at the time, that the Commission “could not expect funds to be made available on demand”.

The resignation of the Chairman has made it virtually impossible for the Commission to function and to do any meaningful work over the course of the next few months. It confirms that the Harris-led Team Unity Government continues in play lip service to issues of transparency, good governance and accountability, with no real plan to carry through on their campaign promises in this regard.

The failure of the Integrity in Public Life Commission is the latest in a series of falling dominoes that continue to undermine the good governance structures of St. Kitts and Nevis: the Freedom of Information Act has been passed but never operationalized; the Public Accounts Committee has been rendered toothless with the passage of the new Public Accounts Act; the civil service and police force have been politicized more than ever before experienced; the Office of the Ombudsman remains defunct; Opposition access to state-owned media remains extremely limited; the proposed Campaign Finance legislation has never been passed. When measured against its own scorecard which is set out in its 2015 Manifesto, Team Unity has failed miserably on the issue of good governance, this, without even considering the overt acts of corruption, nepotism and victimization that have become the hallmarks of its one-term legacy.