Basseterre, St. Kitts – A lone citizen in Basseterre took protest action against the government this week in objection to the appointment of Jamaican Maj. Gen. Stewart Saunders as national security adviser.
Curtis Crooke braved the summer heat on Thursday morning to continue his protest on Church Street, just outside government headquarters.
Crooke’s rational for the protest focused on the fact that while in opposition, the current prime minister, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, criticized the appointment of CG Walwyn as commissioner of police [because] he was living outside the federation for most of his life, but [Harris] recently appointed a Jamaican to the role as national security adviser.
“I understand that a Jamaican man is going to be an adviser to the police commissioner,” Crooke said. “I find that is very disrespectful on behalf of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. When the prime minister was in opposition, his word was clear that CG Walwyn came here with his foreign accent; I took that very personally. CG was from the village and he went away when he was young and has been away for years, so I guess people wouldn’t know him. When you are going to say he came here with a foreign accent and is a Kittitian, that is disrespectful and, on top of that, you are going to bring [in] a man from Jamaica. What accent does he have?”
He indicated that this was the second time this week he had been protesting and he will continue the protests whenever he has the opportunity. “The country needs help,” Crooke said. “He said before [that] the crime was down; he brought [in] the FBI, he brought someone else from Trinidad. So if the crime is down, why is [there a] need to bring a man from Jamaica? If it’s down, it means we do not have a problem.”
Crooke also indicated what he expects to garner from protesting. “It is a chance to get the message out,” he said. “People [are] passing, people [are] reading, and people [are] taking pictures and that means the message is getting out. I believe in what I believe in, but once you [are] wrong, I am going to tell you you are wrong. Douglas had his issues; we can’t run from the fact…there were things that he did wrong, but these people are not taking responsibly for what they are doing and they are not even consulting the people of the country.”
He also spoke to the significance of protesting outside of government headquarters. “It send[s] a message to who is in charge,” he said. “This is where the prime minister comes to work and I’m going to stand outside government headquarters and when I’m ready, I’m going to stand outside the police station.”
Crooke also expressed his disappointment in some civil groups and prominent individiuals being quiet on the issue. “Some of the people you expect to be speaking out are not speaking out,” he said. “Where is the Christian Council? Where is the Evangelical Association? Why are they so silent? Women are getting killed and what are they doing…they are quiet.”
He also gave his opinion as to why the crime is such a significant issue in St. Kitts and Nevis. “Years ago, we should have done more to solve the crime, but it was made a political issue,” he said “I never play with crime, but yet they come with the rhetoric. You go in[to] Parliament instead [and] you put out your hand and say let’s come together. You say Douglas has 300 murders under his belt. What is that going to do for me and you and the ordinary man?”
In Parliamnet two weeks ago, the prime minister stated that the national security adviser is a very important post in the national security structure of the federation.
“As has been outlined and prescribed by law, this post is distinct from the role of commissioner of police and commander of the defence force, and it is distinct from the role of the permanent secretary yet this is one of most senior person in the security system,” he said. “The office holder should bring his expert knowledge and experience to bare on policy formulation on implementation.”
Harris then gave an overview as to how they arrived at the appointment of Saunders, indicating the search began November 2016.
The prime minister disclosed that they reached out to regional bodies such as the Regional Security System (RSS) and Caricom IMPACS to solicit assistance in sourcing a suitable individual. The wider search produced two new applicants.
“The second batch produced two new applications, with very strong recommendations,” Harris said. “One was a Trinidadian-born professor in security related fields at the point of retirement in the USA. The second applicant was retired Maj. Gen. Stewart Saunders of Jamaica.”
Harris said that interviews were held with the two candidates in May and the Jamaica wowed the panel of interviewers with what he was bringing to the table.
“The report from the interview panel highly favoured Maj. Gen. Saunders,” Harris said. “When the scores were tabulated, the professor got about 54 percent, while the major had 86 percent. In summarizing, the interviewing panel found that Saunders would bring a number of competences to the position few [people] within the region and hemisphere could compete.”