A PROPOSED ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL MODEL

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IS SECESSION THE ISSUE?  IS SECESSION THE ANSWER?

(Part 2 of 2 parts)

by Stanhope  Richards

In my first article I indicated that our current political model is inadequate and creates much of our current problems between St Kitts and Nevis. I also indicated that we need an upgrade to an equitable system that promotes fairness and equal opportunities for meaningful input and leadership to both islands.

Here then are some concrete guidelines (short version) for an equitable model of representation for St Kitts-Nevis offered to start the national debate on this issue. Let it be a catalyst to create other models that would be of an even higher standard. Keep in mind always that we currently have equal (“one man, one vote”) representation, but what is needed is equitable representation (“optimal” evenly balanced, equal in all aspects and opportunities).

1.  Create a St Kitts Island Assembly, a St Kitts Island Government, and Administration, and the position of Premier of St Kitts along with a Nevis Island Assembly, a Nevis Island Government and Administration, and the position of Premier of Nevis that are identical in form (structure) and function (duties) and range of powers. Each Island Assembly gets an appropriate number of representatives given the size of its population.

Now all of what follows are proposals relating to the Federal House (Parliament).

2.  Create a Federal Parliament that consists of three sets of representatives (reps). One set consists of members representing St Kitts who would all sit together in the St Kitts wing. One set consists of reps for Nevis who would all sit together in the Nevis wing.  The third set consists of members for St Kitts-Nevis who would also all sit together in the third wing of the Parliament.

3.  Regardless of disproportionate population sizes, the number of elected seats representing each island would be the same. Each of the reps will campaign throughout the full island and be elected by the island’s full electorate.

4.  There will be a phased replacement for all reps (the three sets). None of them will be allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms (and more than three full terms in total). In the initial stage of setting up the staggered election process some may serve numerically more years.

5.  The third set of members would be considered St Kitts-Nevis reps, will campaign throughout both islands, and be elected by the full electorate of both islands. This third set would consist of an even number of reps – half of whom will originate from Nevis, and half from St Kitts. In this case the phased replacement alternates between St Kitts and Nevis.

6.  Candidates for Prime Minister (PM) will campaign throughout both islands and be elected by the electorate from both islands. The election of the PM, as well as the St Kitts-Nevis reps, will be by a process to be determined such that the sheer numbers of electorate in St Kitts would not automatically guarantee that they always get to select the PM or reps. In other words, those seats would not be determined by a straightforward majority “one man, one vote” process. The successful persons will have to at least perform very credibly in both islands.

7.  At a decent time before elections, each PM candidate must declare two individuals who would be his working partners (one from St Kitts and one from Nevis) during his term should he win. These would be deemed to be his Deputy PMs.

8.  The PM may hold office for a maximum of three terms but none must be consecutively. Each island is allowed to offer only one candidate. An exception would be made in the case of a sitting Parliamentarian who has already served four or more years in Parliament who wishes to run, but who also wishes to keep his seat should he lose his bid for PM. In this case, one or two more candidates are allowed (bringing the full count to three or four, maximum) for PM– provided that if there are two sitting members contesting the PM seat, one must be from each island.

9.  For those seats determined by the full electorate (see #6), no seat will be determined by default (unopposed), and only two candidates will be allowed per seat – note the exception above. If more candidates than are allowed wish to contest the election, there would be what can be called a Preliminary Selection Process limited to the island from which the extra candidates come. If the situation arises, an island rep, however, can be elected unopposed.

10.  The St Kitts-Nevis reps shall select two nominated members to sit with them. The St Kitts-Nevis reps from St Kitts will choose a nominated member from St Kitts, and those from Nevis will choose a nominated member from Nevis. The Nevis island reps and the St Kitts island reps will separately also select a nominated member that will sit with them. Thus 4 nominated members total, to be approved by the PM.

11.  All nominated members will enter and exit office at the same time the PM enters and exits office. One or more nominated members can be re-nominated but not for more than two consecutive terms or three full terms in total.

12.  The Cabinet of Parliament, or the PM’s Cabinet, shall comprise the PM, all the St Kitts-Nevis reps (elected by both islands), the 4 Nominated Members, and the 2 Premiers (or a designated elected member, if away) – all of whom will be voting members – and the Attorney General (AG) and both Deputy PMs. Even though the 2 Premiers are voting members of the PM Cabinet, they do not participate in Parliament proceedings; however, they may attend these meetings whenever they wish as Specially Honoured Visitors. The PM nominates the individual who serves as AG.

13.  All Federal Portfolios will be distributed first to the St Kitts-Nevis reps and the nominated members and then if needs be to the separate island reps.. Two persons, one from each island, will share all portfolios. Should it become an issue, the Federal member from the island not providing the PM shall be deemed the ranking member for that portfolio. Nominated members in the Island Assemblies will be Junior Ministers to elected members but nominated members in the Federal House will be equal to elected members for portfolio purposes.

14.  No one who campaigned during or contested the most recent election for any Island Assembly, or was nominated, may contest a seat, or be nominated, in the Federal Parliament. If such person wishes to later contest a Parliament seat, he has to declare that he has ended all intentions of contesting future Island Assemblies. Similar procedure applies for those with Parliament experience who wish to then be in an Island Assembly.

15.  Party Politics to be kept out of the Federal House; it has no Opposition benches.  Allowed only in the Island Assemblies. No Federal candidate may be a member of a registered political party. Each will be seen as independent island/country rep, and be expected to operate, free of party politics and party affiliations. The current party structure in the nation cannot accommodate party politics federally.

16.  A Legislative Unit for Accountability & Information (LUAI) will be set up as an independent arm of all legislative houses but attached to the Federal House. Its purpose is to serve as facilitating arm for all 3 Houses, as an internal regulatory (oversight) body for each House, and public arm for informing the public on legislative matters. Its principal officer is to be chosen by the Chief Resident Judge in the country or the Chief of the Appellate Judges serving St Kitts-Nevis from among civil applicants, and can be removed in the same manner or by resignation only. The PM, the 2 Premiers, and Opposition Leaders may each offer to the judge a ranked approval/disapproval of each applicant. The judge may or not factor them in his selection process. The officer reports to the judge when requested. A unanimous request by the PM, the 2 Premiers, and any Opposition Leader (or the Leader of a non-represented party) will suffice to get the judge to review the officer’s continuation.

17.  Round Tables can be convened by any Member (Island Assembly or Parliament) to give written/oral civil opinions of an expert or deeply affected nature on any matter being publicly raised in the Houses. Such a Round Table can also be assembled through the public’s interest/initiative but its process must be channelled through the LUAI for consideration if its proposals should be forwarded.  In all Round Table cases, the offered opinions should be made public (via the LUAI) with opportunity for public feedback.

18.  All International Treaties will be ratified in all 3 Houses. Both Premiers, or chosen representatives, to be present during discussions prior to signing the Treaties.

19.  Each island’s budget to be tabled, debated if necessary, and approved in the Federal House also.

20.  National Service Corp established – such that at all levels persons from both islands work together in getting ideas, in problem solving, in organising, in executing, and in empowerment.

Let us invite Kittitians to work with Nevisians to establish an equitable model of representation that is also free of divisive party politics (especially since no party binds the whole nation). Let us begin to grasp the possibility of an equitable model such as outlined above, or a better one generated by debate among the public on both islands. Let both peoples build bridges of cooperation using such a model. To this date, this approach has never been tried. I am not aware it has even been proposed.

This approach will take committed effort from both peoples, a new vision of what is possible, new socialisation, and Constitutional change. This approach also requires a conviction that it is the people not the politicians who should determine the political agenda. This is very lofty, but the alternative will be very burdensome for each island – not just Nevis.

Everyone, however, will benefit more if this new vision is fully implemented. Let us require our politicians to have this same vision. Let us remind all our politicians that no part of this country should be treated as a colony, and that those who refuse to fully embrace an equitable model are continuing to perpetuate present colony status. It is very true that a nation is saved or ruined by the quality of its leaders.

There can be virtue in seeking a path of independence and maturing, in seeking to develop self-expression, in seeking full opportunities for self-growth – but there are more lofty virtues. For example, interdependence is a reality that permeates all aspects of life, and successfully facing the pains and joys (the challenges and rewards) of life are more assured from an attitude of interdependence than from one of independence.

An independent Nevis still has to dance the dance of interdependence with others, except that now there is no twin soul in its corner to console and support it – and the expense per person will be higher going it alone rather than together. Life is as rich as the quality of its partners – and there is no better partner than the one in a marriage that works. Every marriage that works requires ongoing committed input equally, into a base of respect and goodwill for all.

If, however, efforts to install the newer better model for equitable (“optimal”) representation for both islands are continually rejected, with party grand-standing preferred – and if all efforts to promote stronger nation-building and to share the blessings of the land do fail – and if Nevis continues to be treated as less than equal, then with prayerful unction we can use secession as a way out. However, let us be reminded even then that it is possible to do a noble act for less-than-noble reasons – yet giving laudable reasons for doing it.

Nevisians aught not to think about seceding before we comprehensively fail at all attempts to build bridges of cooperation between both islands using an equitable model of representation such as outlined above. And not before we are given ample on-going evidence that the Kittitian populace still do not want to treat us as equals, and do not want to implement a political structure that would allow continuous inclusion in the decision-making process as well as an equal chance for top parliamentary leadership to all territorial parts of the country. No part of this country is a colony – nor should be treated as such.

Secession never was the issue – a terrible political model continuously used is the cause for much of what is currently wrong, and thus is the issue. Secession can be a way out for Nevisians, but it is not the answer for its created stage would be worse than our current stage. Establishing a political model and lifestyle of equity will assuredly bring about a more harmonious and successful country, and thus is the answer.

Thus we should make equity our watchword, and aim to respect and empower both peoples equally. The path of this vision will assuredly demand much from us – but every path forward, even secession, will be very difficult. Therefore, why not use our best efforts to create together a legacy that would be a source of inspiration throughout the corridors of time.

Anyone who does not promote establishing an equitable representation, such as the one I outlined, does not have the best interest of the nation at heart. Remember the cliché:  united we stand, divided we fall. Let us move forward to embrace whatever the future holds for us with confidence – attempting always to be a standard-bearer for a nobler endeavour and a more perfect federation.

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