PM Harris presents a painting on behalf of the Ministry of National Security.
PM Harris presents a painting on behalf of the Ministry of National Security to Major Anthony Comrie.

The following is the original, unedited content of Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris’ remarks at yesterday’s Change of Command Parade.

Brief Remarks by the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister, at the Change of Command Parade Feb. 26 at Camp Springfield

Historic…Momentous…Notable!

These are arguably the top three descriptors that all of us in attendance can assign to today’s splendid Change of Command Parade at Camp Springfield.

This is so because today marks only the second time that this Nation is witnessing the change in command of the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF) since it was re-established as a full-time professional security body in 1997 after a 16-year hiatus.

Twenty-one years ago, Major Norman Williams was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel, and the appointment of Commanding Officer – which he held – was upgraded to Commander.  Lieutenant Colonel Norman Williams remained Commander of the SKNDF until his retirement in 2003. 

It was 15 years ago then that Lt. Col. Williams handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Wallace who was before that the Commanding Officer of the SKNDF Coast Guard with the rank of Major. 

History repeats itself today, as the retiring Commander turns command of the SKNDF over and passes the flag to the Commanding Officer of the SKNDF Coast Guard, Major Anthony Comrie.

Today, the magnificent presentation of colours, the passing of the flag, the reading of orders, and the first and last salute from the incoming and outgoing Commander, respectively, remind us that the time-honoured tradition of the change of command is a celebration of not just military heritage, but of possibilities, embodying an anticipation of achievements to come.

This remarkable display of military heritage therefore brings to the front of our minds that change is the only constant in life, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote more than 2,000 years ago.  Nevertheless, it is important to preserve our traditions and honour our history. 

Our SKNDF and other agencies working assiduously in the Nation’s dynamic security framework play a vital role in our country’s preservation – they fight for our honour and dignity by defending and protecting our country and ensuring that laws are observed and strictly enforced.  Their duty to our society is paramount, for, as Aristotle, another ancient Greek philosopher, wrote, “Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law, and without justice.”

I take the opportunity now to acknowledge the pivotal influence of Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Wallace in helping to create a peaceful society for the citizens and residents of our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis, particularly the younger generation.

His fatherly concern and affection for our Nation’s youth are displayed in his mentorship of many of our young boys and girls, some of whom have gone on to successfully complete the basic military course and advance through the ranks of the Defence Force. 

Lt. Col. Wallace’s concern for our youth was also displayed during an interview that he did with Diálogo Digital Military Magazine back in 2012 when he said, “the biggest threat for us is the youth gang violence.”  Commander Wallace told Diálogo six years ago, “If you’ve been following the news in St. Kitts, you’ll see we’ve had 31 murders in 2011, and so the biggest issue for us is youth gang violence…”

The homicide tally in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis stood at 35 in 2011, and that infamous record, which occurred under the Denzil Douglas regime, still stands.

Improved Safety and Security 

I am proud to report that major crimes such as homicides and non-fatal shootings are trending down under my Team Unity administration.  According to longitudinal statistics I just received from the Local Intelligence Office (LIO) of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force (RSCNPF), as at today, February 26th, 2018, two homicides have taken place in the Federation – compared with two homicides at this date in 2017, six at this date in 2016 and nine at this date in 2015.

What’s more, the number of non-fatal shootings in the Federation stands at zero in 2018, as at today, February 26th – compared with seven at this date last year.  Back in 2015, the Federation had 11 non-fatal shootings as at February 26th

Commander Wallaces’ Contribution

The Nation owes a debt of gratitude to Commander Wallace for his contributions in helping to inspire and lead the men and women of our security apparatus to give yeoman’s service and step up their fight against crime in loyal service to our country.

You would hear him at any given passing out parade for new Defence Force recruits saying, “Be proud of your uniform.  Be proud of serving your country.  I want you to know that the whole Nation is grateful for your service.  Stand tall and proud; remember you worked hard. Your achievements are well deserving.  Use these to spur yourself to greater heights, not just in the force, but throughout your life.”

These new recruits hung on his every word because Commander Wallace walked the talk. 

A son of Prickly Pear Alley in Basseterre, St. Kitts, Lieutenant Colonel Wallace has given 40 years of distinguished service to national security. 

Upon completing the St. Kitts-Nevis Technical College, Lt. Col. Wallace enlisted in the Regular Corps of the St. Kitts Nevis and Anguilla Defence Force and served in Combat Group Alpha of the Regiment until the Unit was disbanded in 1981.  He was then transferred to the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force. 

As a police officer, Lt. Col. Wallace worked in the Special Services Unit (SSU), the Traffic Department, and Beat and Patrol.  He also served as an instructor at the Police Training School.

In 1984, Commander Wallace was transferred to the Police Marine Unit of the RSCNPF and later that year was sent to the United States Coast Guard Officers Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia, for basic officer training.  Upon returning to the Federation, he was posted to the Coast Guard Cutter STALWART as 1st Lieutenant and subsequently held the appointments of Navigation Officer, Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Cutter.

In 1990, he served as a seamanship and navigation instructor at the Regional Security System (RSS) Maritime Training Unit, and in 1992 he was appointed Commanding Officer of the Police Marine Unit, which was re-designated the St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard. 

Lt. Col. Wallace successfully completed the Canadian Coast Guard College Patrol Craft Commanders Course in 1988, and in 1994 he graduated with distinction from the Naval Staff College of the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.  Commander Wallace is also an alumnus of the United States Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

For sure, Commander Wallace’s loving family has been the wind beneath his wings, and so I extend sincere thanks to his wife, Telca, and his two daughters, Jervique and Shai, for sharing him with his country.  

Indeed, my Government has relied on his background, expertise and experience in matters of national security.  For instance, Commander Wallace has given invaluable input as a member of the National Defence Council, which held its inaugural meeting in October 2017, and as a member of the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Board, which held its first meeting under the Team Unity administration in January 2016 after not having had a meeting for several years.  TheDefenceBoard has oversight for all activities of the SKNDF, and the Defence Council enables the law enforcement and security forces, as well as agencies of the Government, to cooperate more effectively. 

Investment in Law and Order

Upon taking office three years ago, my Government decided that the security forces would stand to make a great deal of progress by deepening their collaboration and sharing resources.  We also gave them more to work with; in 2017, my Government allocated $72 million to the Ministry of National Security. That was double the combined total amount ($36 million) allocated in 2014 ($15.3 million) and 2015 ($20.7 million).  My administration allocated $75.5 million to National Security for 2018.

The increased investment is bearing fruit.  The Ministry of National Security has seen a dramatically stepped-up operations tempo by its forces, with intensified joint operations involving all agencies of law enforcement becoming a permanent feature of the national security response system.As a result, more vehicle checkpoints, stop-and-searches, as well as searches of abandoned properties (including derelict vehicles) and lots are taking place throughout the Federation.  More search warrants are also being executed, and Commander Wallace has been there every step of the way, helping to valiantly lead the charge against criminality.

Our New Commander

Today, he passes the flag to Major Anthony Comrie, the Commanding Officer of the SKNDF Coast Guard, who will take the helm of the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force effective March 1st, 2018.  Lt. Col. Wallace recommended that Major Comrie should succeed him as Commander of the SKNDF, and the Defence Board accepted his recommendation.

Today’s Change of Command Ceremonial Parade filled with rich Army tradition reinforces the great legacy and leadership of Commander Wallace, and embraces the opportunity for reinvigoration that this transfer of authority presents.

A former police officer, Comrie has led the Coast Guard Unit since May 2010.  He has a Master’s Degree from the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy located at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.

During his 30 years of military experience, he successfully completed courses at several security-related training institutions, such as the Canadian Coast Guard College, the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the United States Coast Guard Training Center, and the Britannia Royal Naval College.

Apart from his credentials and experience, dedication to country – and to its sustainable development – makes Major Comrie a worthy successor to Lt. Colonel Patrick Wallace. 

During his tenure at the Coast Guard, Major Comrie made the personal development of his staff a priority.  As he leaves the Coast Guard Unit, 80 percent of the officers there have a first degree – and he intends to encourage more of our security officers to pursue academic endeavours. 

Moreover, Major Comrie looks forward to promoting even further collaboration among the Defence Force and other security agencies.  He says, “Working with the police for us will be unwavering…You will see more soldiers on the road under my command.”

My Government also looks forward to building upon the many great accomplishments that we have worked so hard to achieve on behalf of the citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis.  We thank Commander Wallace for his strong leadership over the past 15 years and we welcome Commander Comrie and wish him unmitigated success, confident in the continued support of the Government and people of this beautiful Federation.