Social Activists Dwyer Astaphan L and Richard Caines

By LR Liburd

St. Kitts-Nevis Observer 

Operation Rescue’s co-founder Dwyer Astaphan is adamant that his watchdog body would not be silenced and apart from killing or maiming him, no man or woman could shut down, distract or scare him from expressing his conscience.

He was at the time (Tuesday, Apr. 13) speaking on his watchdog body’s talk show programme – ‘The Operating Room’ – in response to statements directed at him by Minister of Public Infrastructure the Hon. Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd.

While addressing attendees at the People’s Action Movement’s 51st Annual National Convention on Sunday (Apr. 10), Liburd had slammed Astaphan for questioning some of the unfulfilled promises Team Unity made during its election campaign.

He told members and supporters of PAM not to be fooled by some talk show hosts who claim to be supportive of Team Unity but are now criticising the Government because they did not get what they wanted.

“The point I am making my family, do not be fooled by some of them who all of a sudden they ain’t got what they want so they criticising Team Unity that they claim they support. They criticising Team Unity because they ain’t get what they want and they still say that they supporting Team Unity. They want change the government, they want change the Prime Minister but they still support Team Uity. And when some people talking about they get rid of Simmonds and they get rid of Douglas and they could get rid of Timmy, what nonsense they talking?”

In response, Astaphan said: “The most ridiculous part of this is that some people seem to believe that if you support a political party, then you are not supposed to question them…

“In the name of God and country I stand and I will speak, and if your skin is thick, your skin thick. If your skin thin, you will bleed easily. I cannot be defeated in this cause because what I have and what I need is my integrity. I don’t have nothing else and I don’t need nothing else…and I can’t lose that and I will not lose that. I don’t have anything to lose.”

The former Government Minister noted that all he is looking forward to as a supporter of Team Unity is good governance and explanations for the unfulfilled promises.

“What I am looking for in return from whoever is elected or even who I don’t elect is good governance, fairness for everybody, adhering to the promises and where you can explain to the people why you can’t, where you explain to the people why you haven’t, and keep updating the people on the timetable of the promises that you made.”

He reiterated some of the things he spoke about in the previous week and provided an explanation for one of the unfulfilled promises.

“Last week I looked at a number of things promised in the Team Unity Manifesto and I expressed my opinion as I usually do in a robust manner. Of course, I am well aware that a lot of things you can’t do as soon as you would like. Some things you can’t do in five or 10 years.

“Let me give an example. The Team Unity said they want to give five hundred dollars to needy families. There anticipation was that would come from the SIDF fund. When they went in they found out that there was more wind in the SIDF bank account than cash. So that is a promise you cannot fulfil…not now and in the near future. That’s my perception of it. So, give an explanation to people so that they will understand. Have that conversation so that you bring people’s expectations to reality and do not give people the impression that you are ignoring them or misleading them. Now having said that, do I sound hostile to anybody in government? I don’t think so, but if I am I have a right to be once I am respectful, once it’s not personal or anything like that. But I am not hostile!”

Astaphan said that last week he was talking about certain essentials such as Integrity Legislation, Freedom of Information Legislation and the Public Accounts Committee.

“We had a Constitution for 33 years and no government, thus far, has seen it fit to mechanise and mobilise through legislation and regulations a Public Accounts Committee, and it is a fundamental component of the National Assembly Elections Act and of Parliamentary governance.

“I asked last week why is it that 13 months is not enough time to pass these laws. Why after 13 months, now nearly 14, have we still not seen at least some reports on the SIDF and on PEP and the Electoral Office and other State agencies, or have seen the consequences of such reports? I am not saying by now we should have seen all, I’m saying by now we should have seen some of those.”

The politician turned social activist said he has the right to ask questions and express his opinions, but because of the stand he has taken, some people have accused him of “wanting to run things and to make decisions for people or that I am upset. That I am upset because I am not getting what I want, which is kind of ridiculous, which is the kind of argument Douglas and them were using”.

Astaphan however admitted to being upset but not for the reasons stated by Minister Liburd.

He spoke to a challenge which all citizens of the Federation should embrace and pointed to himself and a number of others who at the formation of Operation Rescue had fought to achieve.

“The challenge to all right-thinking, responsible and self-respecting citizens is to build and safeguard democracy, and that challenge continues. This effort is being made not only by me, not only by Washie Archibald, not only by Richard or people like Terry Adams, Forrest the calypsonian, Oliver Spencer, Carlton Dupont, Calvin Beech, Omowale Mohammed and other men and women who have stood and being a part of, who have led and marched with Operation Rescue when there was no other game in town. Not just by us! But that challenge, the effort has to be continued, and will be, and is being continued by a broad sweep of citizens and friends of this country who want a better society, a better economy, better governance in this beloved Federation of ours.

Astaphan categorically stated that Operation Rescue is not about him but a movement for change, a better economy and better governance in the Federation.

“So it’s not about me! This is a movement for change that will always be relevant whether you like it or not, whether you think so or not. Operation Rescue or the concept and the work of whatever you call it, social activism must continue because we have started something that political party or politician can stop.”

He is of the view that some citizens might feel comfortable because having gotten rid of the Labour Party Administration they could relax because all is fine and dandy and all would be fine. “But you could not be more wrong. Democracy requires vigilance and democracy, as I said in an article couple of years ago, is a noisy thing. Silence feeds totalitarianism, lack of questioning and challenge feeds dictatorship and we had 20 years of it and no more”.

Meanwhile, Richard Caines, the co-founder of Operation Rescue and co-host of ‘The Operating Room, fully supports Astaphan.

He made this pronouncement on last Tuesday’s airing of the programme.

“Anything that Honourable Dwyer said here on this programme, I stand by that myself. And so I don’t want you to think that it is just him as some persons are saying. We discuss what we are going to be talking about…we speak regularly.”

He also told listeners to the programme that he is still a proud member of PAM and that he has great expectations of the Team Unity Government and he too intends to keep it accountable for their actions.

“The Government is changed now for some 13 months. You could never ever hear that either Honourable Dwyer or myself trying to get on any board, want to be appointed as any consultant, want to be appointed as anything. That’s not our function; we are here of our own free will. What we say we stand by and no apologies for that,” the past PAM Minister said.”