Deputy Prime Minister not optimistic about the coalition’s survival

Deputy Pmof St Kitts Shawn Richards

St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Citizens and residents of St Kitts and Nevis, as well as people across the Caribbean region are waiting in anticipation for a decision by Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris on the way forward for the Team Unity Coalition, made up of the People’s Labour Party, People’s Action Movement and the Concerned Citizens Movement.

During a live interview on Observer Radio on Wednesday morning April 20, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Action Movement, the Hon Shawn K Richards said he is not confident of a positive outcome.

Observer Radio Reporter: Are you optimistic that this matter can be resolved? Was there any indication from Prime Minister Harris that I see you have a point, let me try to see if I can work with you. Was there any conciliatory tone coming from the Prime Minister from your perspective?

Richards remarked, “Honestly, I am not optimistic. When I left the two meetings which were held with the Prime Minister, I can’t say that I was disappointed. I went into those meetings basically expecting the Prime Minister to do just as he did. As far as we are concerned the Prime Minister is just kicking the ball further down the road.”

However, Richards described the relationship between himself and Dr. Timothy Harris as quite cordial. He stated that he does not hate the Prime Minister but he has issues with a number of the different policies and how he is treating partners within Team Unity.

During a National Address on Saturday night April 16, Premier of Nevis and leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement, the Hon Mark Brantley announced a deadline of Wednesday, April 20, as the day when Prime Minister Harris should communicate with coalition partners a final consensus in relation to the political chaos within the Government of St Kitts and Nevis that came to light a few months ago.

Observer Radio Reporter: Has there been any news to report since the ultimatum has been put down to Dr. Timothy Harris?

Minister Richards replied, “Interestingly, there isn’t any. Today is Wednesday, the deadline which we have given to the Prime Minister to respond to our concerns. The day ends at midnight this evening, so maybe during the course of the day, something would be forthcoming. In terms of any scheduled meetings or anything of that sort, we have not heard from the Prime Minister.”

Two Tripartite meetings were held earlier this month; on Wednesday, April 6, and Thursday, April 14 where Brantley and Richards expressed their concerns and grievances to Dr. Harris.

Observer Radio Reporter: How would you characterise your meeting with the Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room?

According to Richards, “The meetings were very cordial. During those meetings we would have outlined our position, we outlined the issues that we consider to be of importance. We also indicated to the Prime Minister our settlement terms. Basically, we placed on the table a number of solutions to the issues that we had discussed with him.”

Following the meeting on Thursday, April 14, Minister Shawn Richards issued a statement indicating that the People’s Action Movement will host a Caucus to discuss the party’s stance in the matter. That caucus was held on Tuesday night April 14.

Richards responded, “Yes. Last night (April 19) the council which is the highest decision-making body within the People Action Movement met, and I can say to you that the Council has basically said to the leadership of the People Action Movement that if the issues are not resolved that it is time for PAM to walk away from this particular coalition arrangement.”

Meanwhile, political pundits say Prime Minister Harris is preparing his People’s Labour Party for early elections by fielding candidates in all constituencies on St Kitts. Richards said that was not the agreement prior to the 2015 elections.

Richards explained, “When we went into the elections of 2015, we had an agreement whereby we allowed the Prime Minister to contest what we refer to as Constituency Number 7 and the Former Deputy Prime Minister under the Labour Administration Sam Condor to contest Constituency Number 3. In the elections of 2020, we gave a further accommodation to the Prime Minister’s Partly PLP to contest Constituency Number 6. What we have seen since then is that the Prime Minister has basically an established branch in all of the constituencies and not just established branches in those other constituencies but we have seen persons going around and campaigning and indicating to the public that they will be the candidate for the PLP in the upcoming general elections. Clearly, what we are saying is that the Prime Minister intends to have his party contest all of the seats in the upcoming general elections and that wasn’t the agreement that we entered into.”

Ministers Brantley and Richards have the option of meeting with the Governor-General to decide whether to resolve or dissolve Parliament and pave the way for fresh elections. Richards made it clear that all options are open.

Observer Radio Reporter: Why not go to the Governor-General, yourself, and Mark Brantley and say look and say we are not supporting Dr. Timothy Harris anymore?

“Well certainly, we are and we have been making efforts to resolve the situation amicably, but if at the end of the day the Prime Minister doesn’t indicate that he is willing to do so, then we would have to consider the other options that are available to us.”

Reporter: Of that being one of them. The nuclear option?

“Of course, that is an option we shall consider.”

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