Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris

By LR Liburd

St. Kitts-Nevis Observer 

It is almost 14 months since the tri-party coalition Team Unity came into office following its campaign vow of providing a “fresh start” and a “fair share” to all citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The proponents of those vows also made 193 promises, some of which in reality cannot be fulfilled in five years much less 14 months. But they had indicated that several among them are on their priority list and would have been addressed shortly after taking office.

Dwyer Astaphan Former Labour Party Government Inside
Dwyer Astaphan
Former Labour Party Government Inside

Former Labour Party Government insider Dwyer Astaphan had recently voiced his displeasure over some of Team Unity’s unfulfilled priority promises stated in its Manifesto, which included Freedom of Information and Integrity in Public Life Law and Regulations as well as activating the Public Accounts Committee.

By taking that action, Astaphan was blasted by Energy Minister Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd during his address at the recently concluded People’s Action Movement’s 51st Annual Convention.

This and other recent incidents have led many people to conclude that there might be a kink in Team Unity’s armour, knowing that Astaphan is an ardent supporter of the Government of National Unity and he had canvassed heavily for its candidates in last Year’s General Elections.

Clecton Phillip Former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister
Clecton Phillip
Former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

The first incident that led to this assumption is the replacement of Clecton Phillip as the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary. He, too, had been an ardent 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.

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, which is co-founded by Astaphan and Richard Caines. But of late he has been criticising the Government on its modus operandi as Astaphan did.

In some quarters it is believed that Adams did not get what was promised to him or what he had expected, other than being made a board member.

The bombshell however came when former Chairman of the People’s Action Movement, Chesley Hamilton was a guest on Freedom FM’s ‘Issues’ programme last week Thursday (Apr. 14).

In response to his thoughts on the Astaphan/Liburd saga, Hamilton said: “The comments by Ian Patches were unfortunate I believe…very unfortunate. If I were to be part of dealing with something like that, I would say, ‘Patches, I prefer you make errors of commission rather than omission and that is definitely an error of commission. And therefore, but, we don’t need that fight and draw back from it.’ I think that Dwyer handled it well on his show on Tuesday by just giving Patches some love. And I think that’s the way to deal with some of these things.”

Hamilton categorically stated that he was in agreement with Astaphan’s comments on wanting certain promises fulfilled in short order.

“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. The agenda for unity, the agenda for change is not just about change of personnel. It is not changing the political directorate in terms of the people who make the decisions down at Church Street. It is changing a culture and a dynamic which you say it is the new wave. You said, listen, we are going to bring in an integrity agenda, you are going to bring (my phrase) a common sense revolution to governance, and this common sense revolution has to be a bottom-house solution where you have participatory democracy. Well, I am not seeing that! With the greatest of respect, I am not seeing it.”

Though the Attorney-at-Law was high in praise of the Government of National Unity, he pointed to a number of flaws in its form of governance.

“These guys are good, they are good managers, they are bright and they are doing their best. And they are managing the economy…the macro stuff, probably well. They are paying their bills, the economy is doing well, the growth…those sort of macro stuff, yes is great, but it is the micro stuff. Apart from in power for more than a year, still to have a public meeting is an indictment in my book, in the common sense revolution to me.

“You had something like a church service upon Greenlands Park. I’m not talking about that. The Jamdown Manners, the Cutie and the Dumpling and them want to hear you in a public meeting. They are not on the Internet and Facebook and so on to hear that. Your press conferences are things where you give the media press releases. It’s a difference between when you are campaigning where you are walking and you are touching flesh and your car window down, (but) when you are in office your window up and your air condition on. You don’t want that! I should not have to turn on my TV to see my Representative, because I know he has his constituency meeting. But I must be able to go out there and hear him on a platform speaking to me and saying the things I want to be able to hear.”

Hamilton also commented on statements made by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris at a past press conference when told that an individual had requested audience with him since December last but was denied.

At that press conference, PM Harris berated the individual, pointing out that a bureaucratic system is in place for persons who want to see him, but at the end of his statements he requested a contact number for the person.

“I would put it this way. What the Prime Minister said last in that whole episode of explanation, what he said last he should have said first,” Hamilton said, adding that media houses aired and published what he had first said, to which they gave precedence, and “when you do it that way you sometimes miscommunicate…and this is what I think is happening right now”.

In furtherance to his accusation of “miscommunication”, Hamilton casted blame on the Government’s Communication Unit and questioned what the previous Press Secretary was doing..

“My Government is miscommunicating, it is miscommunicating! Not that this Government is not performing, is not that it is not doing well, but its communication unit. Where it was when Clection was there?”

He opined that although the communication process has somewhat improved since his sister, Valencia Grant, had replaced Phillip as the PM’s Press Secretary, the problem still exists from a layman’s perspective.

“I still believe that the issue of communication is not about press releases, it is not about Internet and Facebook and that sort of thing alone, you have to give the people, the man on the street a piece to walk with and that he will take the message into the shops so that there would be a one-on-one touch. You got to be doing that. You can’t tell me that you could not have at least three, four public meetings and one before the Budget, one at certain anniversaries and things like that throughout this time where the people come and see you and hear you and feel you.

“Come from the people’s business up there and come down and touch base with the people in a one-and-one situation. Don’t tell me about Facebook and Internet and Twitter and Instagram, the people who rabid behind you, come day come night, sun and rain, they were there fighting on the airwaves and public radio. They don’t want no appointment to see you, they want to touch and feel you, they want to hear you…”

Hamilton is of the conviction that the elected members of Team Unity might live to regret their actions at the next General Elections if they do not take the necessary steps to correct them sooner rather than later.

“That professional distance that they are putting between them and the people is going to cost them at the end of the day, because they are the ones you are going to come back to when time to campaign again. It’s not going to look genuine; it’s going to look wrong, it’s going to look bad. I am simply saying that is the level of miscommunication and disconnect that is going on right now and they have to come back and feed into that. Because, how they got there was a movement, arousal called Team Unity, demonstration, marches, town halls, touching the flesh of the people, and you can’t go down Church Street and then just forget and dismantle that whole organisation and movement. The people want to be part of the thrust, part of the change, part of the new agenda, not by you giving them something, they want to be part of the empowerment for change.”

In addition to being a past Chairman of the People’s Action Movement, Hamilton had contested against Dr. Harris in the 2000 and 2004 Elections for the seat in St. Christopher Seven.