(L-R) – Hon. Marcella Liburd, Ambassado Jonel Powell and Dwyer Astaphan

By LR Liburd

The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer 

With the latest issue being Jonel Powell’s letter to Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris reminding him that after one year he is yet to receive his Instrument of Appointment and that he was returning his diplomatic passport, many persons are asking if the actions taken by the young Attorney-at-Law is an indication of more kinks in team Unity’s armour.

In his letter, Powell said: “Approximately one year later I am yet to receive an instrument of appointment or a contract to this effect.” He also noted that “over the past 12 months I have had several meetings with your good self, the Honourable Minister Richards and the Minister I report to, the Honourable Attorney General and a discussion with the Cabinet Secretary, all to address this matter. To date this issue remains unresolved”.

The People’s Action Movement’s candidate for Constituency Two, who PM Harris announced at a press conference on Wednesday, May 27 last year as the Ambassador and Special Envoy to the Ministries of Sports and Culture, spoke to his discomfiture as the holder of a diplomatic passport while still waiting for his Instrument of Appointment, and explained the reason for having it returned.

“I hereby return my diplomatic passport to your custody until such time as the situation can be justified”.

Speaking on the issue with a local media house, former National Security Minister Dwyer Astaphan was in agreement with Powell for the actions he took, noting that the young lawyer had every right to be disappointed.

“I think his disappointment is justified…in a year. Something like this ought not to take any length of time,” Astaphan said, adding that the Team Unity Government had appointed Powell and they should “give him the Instrument, formalise it, complete the process and put him to work. Of course he has been doing his work but his disappointment was justified”.

The Operation Rescue’s co-founder told the media house that the Government appears to be developing a very slow process in handling matters that should be given priority.

“Insofar as doing an audit, administrative audit on the previous Government’s performance and tenure, it seems as though the timetable for the Government with regard to doing that audit is giving oxygen to the now Opposition. And the same approach is creating disappointment with Ambassador Powell and others who are supporters of the Government and want to see the Government do the right thing and succeed, and carry out the obligations.

“It is my understanding that Mr. Powell has asked for this matter to be sorted out on more than one occasion through vocal communication and nothing happened. I suppose out of frustration he reduced his concerns to writing, and nothing is wrong with that…”

Also commenting on the matter was Chairman of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, the Hon. Marcella Liburd, who claimed that the Team Unity Government was isolating its key supporters and insinuated that the tri-party coalition is unravelling.

“The Press Secretary to the Prime Minister after one year doesn’t want to go back. When we consider that the Speaker resigned even before he spent a year, he didn’t want to stay any longer. He had two weeks to go to make him pensionable and he decided I don’t want to stay anymore. When we look in public spat between Patches and their chief Operation Rescue partner; when you hear what first respondents like Terry Adams and the rest are saying publicly; when you think about all these things, and in the midst of that comes Jonel Powell saying he give back in his passport because one year later he can’t get his Instrument of Appointment; you know that there is something not smelling good with this tug. Too much pulling and tugging in the tug!”

Astaphan was also asked to comment on Liburd’s statements and declared that it was wishful thinking by members of the Opposition.

“As I said, the slowness of the timetable which the present administration feels the right timetable for it to do things, is giving oxygen to those very critics and equating disappointment to its supporters. Their timetable is giving the Opposition its mouthpiece…”

At his last monthly press conference, when asked by a reported to comment on the long delay in Ambassador Powell receiving his Instrument of Appointment, PM Harris, in his growing attitude of not providing direct answers to perceived ‘hard’ questions, said: “As it stands, Mr. Powell continues to serve as an Ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

As a follow-up question, the reporter asked how bona fide could it be if Powell did not receive his Instrument of Appointment.

In his response, which was perceived by many as not befitting a statesman, Dr. Harris said: “Well you are asking me a question as if you have the facts on that matter. And I am saying if there are issues that have been put in relation to that, then those will be dealt with appropriately in the context of the Cabinet and in the context of the legal framework of the Government.”

He claimed that Powell had been actively pursuing his assignments as an Ambassador without inhibitions or obstruction and stressed that “if something has now unfolded, at the appropriate place we will have the discussion”.

Since then, however, no word came from PM Harris or his office on the matter; therefore it is not known if it was resolved.

This issue came sharply on the heels of Astaphan, a staunch supporter of Team Unity, voicing his displeasure over some of coalition’s unfulfilled priority promises stated in its Manifesto, which resulted in him being blasted by Minister Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd during his address at PAM’s 51st Annual Convention.

The other issue was the replacement of Clecton Phillip as the PM’s Press Secretary. He, too, had been a staunch supporter of Team Unity. And in addition to penning numerous press releases against the former Administration, he had taken to the airwaves on talk shows in support of the People’s Labour Party, in particular, and Team Unity, in general.

The reason given by the Government for his departure is that his contract was only for one year and that he might be placed in another governmental position or return to the private sector.

However, in a recent post on the SKNList, Phillip sought answers to the state of affairs at Kittitian Hill and Christophe Harbour, alleging that the PM might have knowledge of monies being injected into one or both entities by his administration.

He also sought answers to what he termed accountability and transparency, saying: “…If Dr. Harris is serious about differentiating himself from the leader he displaced, he would use his good offices as Prime Minister to ensure that the quest for a Freedom of Information Act comes to an end at the next sitting of Parliament and that the Integrity in Public Life Act, which was passed a few years ago by the Douglas administration, is given full effect, without further delay, so that the people of this country can know for sure whether or not government workers are profiting from public office under this Team Unity administration.” 

The former Press Secretary further stated: “Whilst we are dealing with ‘forensic enquiries’, inquiring minds want to know the name(s) of the owner(s) of T&S Rentals, a vehicle rental company whose cars are seen regularly (in Basseterre) being driven and utilised by members of the Police force and the Defence force, agencies of the Ministry of National Security. Perhaps Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris can use his good offices as Minister of Finance and also Minister of National Security and reveal in the public’s interest, preferably before he addresses the nation on the state of affairs at Kittitian Hill and Christophe Harbour, what the ‘T’ and ‘S’ in T&S Rentals stand for.” 

Terry Adams was another supporter who could have been heard almost every day on call-in programmes canvassing for Team Unity. He was also regularly seen and heard on the platforms of Operation Rescue. But of late he has been criticising the Government on its modus operandi.

Douglas Wattley, Chairman of the People’s Labour Party which was formed by Dr. Harris and former Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, and who is now Chairman of the Board at ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation, also had his say about the Team Unity Government.

He was very critical of Team Unity and its Leader in a Facebook post when he wrote: “I find this notion about not criticizing the Team Unity Government in Public to be the height of nonsense. So how are they to hear from us? They don’t call us into private sessions. We used to meet regularly before the elections – now we can’t hardly get an audience. And you all well know that I have a lot to say – so if the public square is the only place to air my grievances – so be it. If they don’t change – I don’t change. And I am only going to get louder.”

Former PAM’s Chairman Chesley Hamilton also commented on the Astaphan/Liburd saga. He noted that Liburd’s comments were unfortunate but agreed with those made by Astaphan.

“The comments made by Dwyer were that he wanted certain things done in short order. I would second that motion. I think that Team Unity is spending its goodwill almost inertia! It needs to accelerate its agenda, and I mean that…”

There is also talk about disparities between a Senior Minister and his junior counterpart, and the belief is that the latter is much preferred by Team Unity’s Leader.

With the existence of these various issues and comments by supporters of the current administration, and those that do not exist in the public’s domain, is it logical to conclude that “Ambassador Powell’s actions are an indication of more kinks in Team Unity’s Armour”?