Following days of speculation as to the whereabouts of Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Denzil Douglas, his Press Secretary Erasmus Williams posted an audio clip of a telephone conversation between the two men on www.cuopm.gov which sought to explain the PM’s absence from the Federation. According to the recording, the Prime Minister was in the African nation of Ethiopia attending the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. The summit began on January 31st and lasted until Tuesday, February 2nd. An alarm had been raised on Monday after word began circulating that Dr. Douglas, who had been sworn in for a fourth term as prime minister last Wednesday, was off-island and the public had not been notified as to when he had left, where he had gone to and when he was expected back. Questions as to who was left ‘in charge’ during Dr. Douglas’ absence were also publicly debated since he is currently the only functioning minister of government. The other 10 elected parliamentarians have yet to be sworn in. Former Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Assembly, parliamentarian-elect Mark Brantley said the PM’s absence was a cause for concern since the only functionary under the constitution was out of the country. Brantley won the seat of Nevis 9 for his Concerned Citizens’ Movement in the January 25th elections. “It bothers me and it ought to bother all of us that we have not yet had a government named and in that circumstance the Prime Minister left the country. At this point in time God forbid we were to have anything happen that would demand immediate attention of the government because within those circumstances one is uncertain as to where the Prime Minister currently is and therefore what the state of play is with our government,” he said. Leader of main opposition party on St. Kitts, People’s Action Movement, Lindsay F. Grant also expressed dissatisfaction with the veil of secrecy surrounding the PM’s absence at a time when no Cabinet of Ministers had been appointed, especially the post of Deputy Prime Minister. He said, “It is total disrespect and disregard not only for the country but his colleagues to have left the country without assigning any individual to act as prime minister or to act as a position in deputy prime minister.” On Wednesday, the audio clip was posted to the Communications Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office saying the PM was reporting from Tripoli, Li Bya after leaving Ethiopia. Dr. Douglas explained that he had flown out of St. Kitts on January 30th to attend the 14th Summit of the African Union, to which he had been personally invited. “On the 27th of January the Li Byan Ambassador for St. Kitts and Nevis resident in Cuba brought a personal invitation from President Muammar al-Gaddafi…he was inviting me to personally attend the 14th Summit of the African Union that was being held in Addis Ababa and secondly to have a bi-lateral meeting with the government of Li Bya in Tripoli after the Summit. I left St. Kitts on Saturday evening accompanied By the Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin,” Dr. Douglas informed. He said the Summit, which was also attended By several other Caribbean Heads of Government delegations, was exceptionally important as it demonstrated the region’s commitment in support of the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora. Dr. Douglas informed that the delegations had a very important bi-lateral meeting with the Prime Minister and other members of the Li Byan government where important economic and diplomatic initiatives were discussed. He announced that it was agreed in the meeting that a Li Byan Investment Bank is to be built in the Federation. He said he hoped the people of the Federation understood the reason for his absence and the need for not making any prior statement “before the mission was accomplished”. No mention was made of when he would be returning to St. Kitts, however it is presumed that he will return before Sunday’s swearing in of Cabinet Ministers.
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