Dwyer Astaphan (L) and the Hon. Ian 'Patches Liburd

By LR Liburd

The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer 

The political landscape in St. Kitts and Nevis is heating up as Minister of Public Infrastructure the Hon. Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd is calling on Team Unity supporters not to be fooled by criticisms emanating from some talk show hosts.

“Do not be fooled by some of those we hear on the talk shows; even those who host you own talk shows. Some of them, they come across like they holier than thou. I know one who believes he is the expert on the economy and social issues and expert in law and government. No, no let me correct that because he is a lawyer and was in government. But when you hear him talking, you ask yourself if he got a three-year syndrome because he was in government.”

Liburd was at the time addressing delegates and supporters of the People’s Action Movement as well as invitees to the political party’s 51st Annual National Convention held on Sunday (Apr. 10).

It is widely believed that Liburd’s remarks were in response to criticism made by former Minister of National Security in the Labour Party Government, Dwyer Astaphan.

Astaphan, a co-founder of Operation Rescue and co-host of the watchdog body’s weekly radio programme – The Operating Room – aired on Winn FM, last week Tuesday (Apr. 5) pointed to Team Unity’s February 2015 Manifesto and highlighted some of the 193 promises the leader and contesting candidates made to the nation should they be elected into office.

Astaphan said he had voted for a change and had accepted the promises and undertakings that Team Unity’s Manifesto embraced.

Quoting page five of the Manifesto, Astaphan said it states: “It is time for our people to reclaim our country from the tentacles of a corrupt, outmoded and self-centered regime.” He said he had bought into that “but as far as I am concerned, until and unless I can see proof that thorough investigations have been done and revelations are being made to the public and justice pursued if and where necessary, then I’ll have to say that we still have not reclaimed our country 13 months later”.

During his address, some members of the audience asked Liburd to whom he was referring and in response he said, “He get a big lump sum gratuity. He secured a contract for hundreds of thousands of dollars from Douglas and he still getting a fat pension. You work out who he be.

“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?”

Following his resignation as a Government Minister, Astaphan had co-founded Operation Rescue. And while he had vociferously criticised former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, he was publicly known as a key supporter of the tri-party coalition Team Unity.

However, Minister Liburd’s address suggested that the Dr. Harris-led Government is not interested in what Astaphan and his Operation Rescue are doing in the twin-island Federation.

“We don’t need no operation to rescue us, so we don’t want no operation to rescue us! The people of St Kitts and Nevis did just that on the 16th of February 2015 and save us from tyranny and dictatorship under Douglas. The people saved us after 20 years of disarray in this country, then how on earth can we turn around in 13 months?

“We can’t turn that around in 13 months, no! There can never be a quick fix to the problems we inherited my family, so we don’t want no operation to rescue us, that operation was done on February 16th last year. So I want to say like Gene Hamilton and like Reverend Jesse Jackson, let us keep hope alive.”

In addition to quoting page five of Team Unity’s Manifesto, Astaphan also highlighted a number of other promises, including non-politicisation of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force.

“At page nine of the Manifesto, they say that they would depoliticise the Police Force. Now, here is my opinion! When I heard that the Police High Command was present at the Church Service to mark the First Anniversary of the Team Unity Victory, I wondered why the Police High Command was there. It is a political celebration!”

He further spoke to the length of time Team Unity is in office and did not pass the Freedom of Information and Integrity in Public Life Law and Regulations as promised.

“Integrity in Public Life and Freedom of Information are essential components of the transparent and efficient governance construct that we are hoping for and that we demand. It has taken too long and I am wondering if there is any enthusiasm for it.”

Astaphan proffered the view that the leaders, movers and shakers in Team Unity need to understand that people would not sit and “be submissive and let them do the foolishness that we worked so hard to get rid of on the 16th of February 2015. And if they continue to act this way, they are going to be in for a big surprise”.

Meanwhile, Leader of the People’s Action Movement and Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Shawn Richards has also rejected Astaphan’s criticisms.

Speaking with a reporter of a local radio station prior to the Convention, said: “In my view, we have kept a number a number of our promises to date, we intend to keep just about all of the promises we have made.”

The Deputy Prime Minister told the media house that promises in the Manifesto are intended to be fulfilled over Team Unity’s five-year term in office and that the Government has done well since elected in February last year.