COMMENTARY : Dr. Timothy Harris – Price Of Dissent – Power Of Politics

Prime Minister of St.Kitts-Nevis Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris

Prime Minister of St.Kitts-Nevis Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris

  • Written by  RAWLSTON POMPEY, 

A developing trend in regional politics has been a leader’s desire to “…cling to power.” In futile attempts many leaders were seen to have employed every conceivable means- “…legitimate and illegitimate” in staving off inevitable. This developing trend may have been evident in both “…twin-island nations of Antigua and Barbuda [2014]; …the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis” [2015] and Guyana [2015]. They were all fighting losing political battles. Apparently gripped by the influences of “…power and authority; …the novelties of public life and engrossed in self-actualization,” a small minority, some demonstrating “…deficiency of scruples and lacking principles and moral integrity,” have not only shaken the pillars of democracy, but have also brought “…governmental institutions into disrepute and people to the brink of civil disobedience.”

ROGUE STATES

Unlike Antigua and Barbuda, the Denzil Douglas administration and the Donald Ramotar Presidency,” in avoidance of the tabling of a “…No Confidence Motion,” both leaders had either declared indefinite suspension of or prorogued the National Assemblies [GUY: November 10, 2014]. Countries with leaders seen as posing “…Threat to Democracy,” or had exhibited “…undemocratic or roguish behaviors,” breaching the “…Charters of the United Nations,” were slapped with suspension by that body.” Those that have suffered the consequences of periodic suspensions, include (i) …Nigeria [November 11, 1995]; (ii) Pakistan [October 18, 1999]; (iii) …Fiji [June 6, 2000] and (iv) …Zimbabwe [March 19, 2002]. Guyana runs the risk of suffering similar consequence for behavior that is capable of being construed as “…roguish.”

ACRIMONIOUS AXING

Framers of the region’s Constitutions anticipated that some “…Axing” will be necessary, but provided a Judiciary for redress for “…Acrimonious Axing.” Across the region, the most vicious “…political axe-wielding Prime Minister” was said to be Kamla Persad-Bissessar [Trinidad and Tobago]. Framers also anticipated that “…an electorate, and by extension, a population” may become “…dissatisfied over (i) …the way State affairs were being administrated; (ii) … discontentment over the quality of parliamentary representation, and (iii) … disenchantment over the behavior of those charged with responsibility for governance.” Given their ruthless political behaviors, many leaders had left little doubts in the mind of the region’s people that they savored (i) …the principles of democracy; (ii) …have respect for the rule of law; and (iii) …possessed a sense of purpose and reconciliation.”

CHECKERED TENURE

Though not to such extreme, perceptively, the “…Checkered Tenure” of many, might reasonably be associated with that of “…former Argentine strongman, President Augusto Pinochet” [December 17, 1974-March11, 1990]. Yet “…craftily, exploitatively and manipulatively,” masses are politically tribalized as some had sought to divide and ruled mightily over the nations.” In the case of Dr. Denzil Llewellyn Douglas, though he may have been waging a “…War of Acrimony,” the mood of the people had already suggested electoral defeat. For Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris and his team of candidates and consultants, “…with or without acrimony,” countering political measures had to be pursued through “…grass-root politics; …the Judiciary and ultimately, the electoral process.”

POLITICAL SAVAGERY

Framers of the Constitutions had anticipated that some leaders might be disposed to exhibit tendencies capable of being called “…undemocratic; …vindictive; …oppressive or tyrannical.” In many formal governmental and informal civic organizations, these behaviors were known to have “…provoked dissent; …triggered internal conflicts; …created rifts and cliques; …precipitated positional and power struggles, and ultimately fragmentation.” Through “…Political Savagery,” those who had ventured to do so, were seemingly dished “…acrimonious punishments.” These may have been evident by “…ministerial sackings; …forced resignations and/or expulsions.” Former St. Kitts/Nevis parliamentarians Sam Condor and Dr. Timothy Harris, bear “…Testament to these Truths.” Both had been driven into a state of “…political paralysis.” They had demonstrated a steely resolve not to be “…bogged down,” but to use their energies, imaginations, time efforts and resources to fight a “…one-time friend; …colleague; …leader and foe,” former Prime Minister, the indomitable Dr. Denzil Douglas.

CONSTITUTIONAL INDEPENDENCE

Long before most of the dependencies were granted “…Constitutional Independence,” the United Nations had anticipated that some leaders will have exhibited behaviors associated with “…despotism.” It was cognizant that out of necessity, the oppressed may have to consider “…unconventional methodologies” in bringing respite to the oppressed.” Many aspirants were known to have resorted to such methodologies.” This might be better gleaned from its Preamble [1948] “…Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” There was no doubt that the holding of prime ministerial positions comes with a price over the way these despots had conducted governance.” Clear examples of these may have been seen through the resolve of the “…Anguillan and Grenadian people.” They had demonstrated clearly that which was likely to occur when “…oppressive instigated rebellion. The oppressive rule of “…Sir Robert Bradshaw and that of Sir Eric Matthew Gary ended- Anguilla- May 29, 1967 and Grenada- March 13, 1979.”

BLOODY END

Incidentally, Anguilla’s revolutionary heroes Ronald Webster and Atlin Harrigan” had averted that which was certain to have ended in catastrophe. Just over a decade later, internal struggles in Grenada, with “…Sir Eric Gairy’s administration and his Mongoose Gang,” had not only left physical scars of torture and brutality, but also indelible memories of oppression in the minds of the people. When the people thought they had won their freedoms, they were forced to contend with “…revolutionary power struggles.” These resulted in the “…assassination of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.” Subsequently, military aggression from collusive support of “…CARICOM/OECS” to the United States, saw the “…Bloody End” to the adventurism [October 19, 1983].

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

In most constitutional democracies, among the basic tenets in the “…electoral systems; …parliamentary debates and Judicial proceedings,” have always been issues of “…rationality; …reasonableness; … fair play and justice.” These are well established universal “…Guiding Principles.” Though expectations were rarely met, these are, nonetheless, highly expected by people of every strata of society. When policies are pursued and/or actions taken on dubious merit, these were known to have provoked consternation and conflicts. Within electoral systems, these were to be seen when incumbents appeared to have positioned themselves to gain unfair advantage. In the small ‘OECS’ nations, it was public knowledge that certain behaviors were often exhibited by a small minority of people, who, either for reasons of “…expediency, convenience or subserviency,” were installed as “…Political Functionaries.”

THE CHOSEN ONES

These were the “…Chosen Ones.” They were either appointed “…Parliamentary Speakers; …Supervisors of Elections; …Constituency Boundaries Commissioners or as Governors-General.” Most were usually men and women of high intellect and repute. Most, however, were exploitatively positioned for specific purposes. Invariably, they were known to have “…created unstable political climate, calculated to frustrate the electoral processes; …Denied moving of no confidence motions; …Make situational proclamations; …or Prorogue and/or Suspend Parliaments.” Then to all intents and purposes, they are manipulated to the good and glory of the manipulators. Designated public officials shall be constitutionally guided by the “…advice of sitting Prime Ministers or after consultations.” However, their actions often suggested “…coerciveness and/or pressured submissions.”

NON-INTERVENTION

Seemingly hiding under the guise of “…Non-intervention,” ‘CARICOM and OECS’ leaders had shown deference to the apparent glaring “…undemocratic behavior of the Denzil Douglas administration” and continues to do the same to the “…actions of Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar.” Incidentally, this had not gone unnoticed within the Commonwealth. Guyana, said to be under “…International Scrutiny,” delivering an indirect caution to President Ramotar, High Commissioner to Guyana Andrew Ayre reportedly said “…The United Kingdom and other governments don’t sign Commonwealth Charters; …They don’t put them to bed.” Speaking further to the issue he retorted, “…Guyana is moving into a category of concern to the Commonwealth.” Emphasizing seriousness, he said “…These things matter” [Stabroek News: January 12, 2015].

FORKED TONGUE

When the leadership speaks to “…democracy, regional integration or the Judiciary,” individually and/or collectively, regional leaders often speak with “…Forked Tongue.” Their individualistic beliefs were often seen as counter-productive to that which might be desirable in fostering and strengthening the regional integration process and the reposing of confidence in the Judiciary. Their expressions were often seen as contradicting their actions. Though regional Courts have always endeavored to deliver “…professional and well-reasoned judicial judgments,” some decisions seemed to have given litigants “…Dreams to Remember” [Otis Redding: 1967]. Thus, likened to the game of cricket, some regional decisions necessitated the intervention of “…the third legal umpire- the ‘JCPC.’ It was the knowledge that when governments were ruled against, they had often scoffed at Court decisions. Most had failed to show appreciation to the “…role, function and independence of the Judiciary.”

UNFAVORABLE DECISIONS

Media reports suggested that a recent “…decision by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) against the Denzil Douglas administration, reportedly forced him into media frenzy “…scoffing, huffing and puffing.” For various reasons, litigants appeared to have abiding faith in judicial decisions that reflects “…unbiased and superior reasoning.” Confidence is usually reposed in an independent and fearless judiciary and strengthened through the expeditious disposal of matters. It is well established principle that “…Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” [Lord Hewart; 1924: 1KB 256 @ 259]. Guided by this principle, many appellants have seemingly placed more of their confidence in the “…Judicial Committee of the (London) Privy Council (JCPC).”

ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES

Thus, it will have been seen that even “…adverse judicial decisions,” were almost always accepted with sparse expressions of dissent. Recent influences in Antigua and Barbuda appeared to have flowed into the political environment in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.” Both had apparently experienced the same situations that had affected these constitutional creatures.” When it appeared that these public officers may have compromised their integrity, this had often provoked responses that had led to calls to demit office or to pursue visitations to the Judiciary. Litigating citizens with the financial capacity, have availed themselves of the appellate services of the “…Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC)” [London]. Regional governments have often used State resources to do battle against the citizenry, even when executive or legislative actions reek of “…self-serving or special interest policies.”

INSULARITY

Among the underlying reasons that had often provoked consternation in regional jurisprudence was that of “…extraneous considerations and attitude and personal feelings” displayed by regional leaders. The case of former acting Chief Justice Sir Brian George Keith Alleyne makes the point. Until the day of retirement, he was forced to perform like an actor in Hollywood. One of the ‘OECS’ leaders had reportedly refused to endorse his confirmed appointment. There was further evidenced in the recent canvassing for support of the nomination of West Indian diplomat Sir Ronald Saunders to the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. Insularity and Petty Jealousy” got the better part of the collective judgment of the regional leadership.” Though he was specific in his response, Dr. Keith Rowley candidly described the behavior of region’s leaders as “…Cronyism and Nepotism” [Trinidad Guardian: March 11, 2015].

  1. KITTS/NEVIS FEDERATION

The twin-island federated nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is a sovereign democratic nation. It is a civilize society with a people who believe in the concept and principles of democracy and the rule of law. It has a population of 54, 000 people, most with brilliant minds and an electorate of 30,000 eligible voters. They cherish the fundamental rights, freedoms of the individual; …have shown respect for human rights and their dignity and worth.”The Federation is also known for many other things, “…steel-band, calypso, carnival and elections bacchanal.” The people are generally law abiding and have more in practice than of disobedience, embraced the “…Rule of Law.”  A land of picturesque sceneries; …boasting many white sand beaches; …drenched in year-round tolerable sunshine and cooled by prevailing winds, gently blowing off the Atlantic ocean.

PERIODS OF UNEASY CALM

The region is known for its vulnerabilities. There are “…five periods of uneasy calm.” Firstly, when there is economic crunch; Secondly, when incumbents failed to call national elections; …Thirdly, when incumbent governments failed to allow tabling of No Confidence Motion against their administration; …Fourthly, when there was economic stagnation; and Fifthly, when meteorologists forecast the imminence of seasonal winds originating off the West African Coast. These ‘wind visits,’ are constant reminder to Caribbean people of their ancestral origin and roots.  Additionally, the environmentally-conscious have accepted them as an inducement to greater awareness and deeper appreciation of the environment.” These allow for better understanding of the “…Forces of Nature” and pre-planning for their descending wrath. Though visitations are not frequent as forecast would suggest, those categorized with intensity of ‘5’ on the Richter scale had often left evidence of their fury. Applied to national economies, such intensity might be categorized as ‘5’ on the “…Economic Scale,” [State of Economy 2009: former Finance Minister Harold Lovell: ANU].

FIRE AND BRIMSTONE

However, apart from nature’s fury and means of revenue generation those which are equally of concern to regional oppositions, are the fury usually dished out by leaders desperately “…Clinging to Power.” The Federation boasts the picturesque “…Brimstone Hill Fortress,” declared a world heritage site. For those who may have died outside the “…State of Grace,” and may have to face “…Fire and Brimstone” in another life, Brimstone Hill neither has the earthly matter that produces them. It is a place of historic significance, boasting a luxurious hotel with its name. Though the sale of one of its national symbols” has aided national economic growth and prosperity, it has not only caused difficulties for the “…Denzil Douglas administration,” but also travel to certain international destinations. While posterity may find the economic initiative impacting negatively upon their patrimony and national image, it is the experience that when “…economic necessity dictates” and there is an avenue, nations often avail themselves of much needed revenue. Thus, if carefully managed, not only will the initiative bring economic prosperity, but will also overcome difficulties that threaten its viability and survivability.

MONKEY MENTALITY

The Federation also has several other “…top-end hotels; …classy restaurants; …fine cuisine; …cane sugar and “…Mimicking Monkeys.” Though not the same with monkeys, humans also have their own style of “…mimicry.” There are two commonalities. Like humans, monkeys eat “…peanuts and ripe bananas.” However, when they are ‘meaty enough,’ humans eat them. Grenadians usually speak to a delicious meal of “…Monkey Rice.” The people of the Federation often boasted of “…Monkey Stew.” Anecdotally, it was said that when monkey meat was consumed, humans tend to exhibit their instinctive behaviors. This may have been a possible reason when people exhibited certain behaviors, they were often chided for displaying “…Monkey Mentality.”

MONKEY QUARRELS

These expressions are not without precedents. When renowned social commentator Dr. Hollis Liverpool, ‘Chalkdust,’ ill-advisedly attacked the administration of former Trinidad Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams, calmly, encouragingly, but crudely, shrugging him off, he spurted, “…Let the jackass sing” [1974]. In some instances, reference to humans as “…Monkeys” had often sparked “…conflicts; …tensions; …protestations and even physical and legal fights.” One or more of these may have been the experience of “…National Youth Director Cleone Athill.” This was said to have occurred over an apparent “…inferior pair of shoes.” Though that which may have been derogatively spewed got under her skin, the pair of shoes was certainly not made of “…Monkey skin” [ANU: March 14, 2015].

MONKEY POLITICS

When internal political affairs and/or regional developments are known, discussions are primarily centered on political personalities. For instance, confident that she would have defeated rival Dean Jonas, at a political rally former Education Minister Dr. Jacqui Quinn retorted “…Tek dat in yo nen-nen” [ANU: June 12, 2014]. Whatever that meant, Dean Jonas ensured that it never got there. Even as smart as some monkeys were said to be, ‘tricks’ reportedly played by humans far supersede those of “…Mimicking monkeys.” While the “…animal trend” goes on, some people have not only used varying expressions, but have even been practicing a style of politics that rivals often associated with “…bolting donkeys.”

CODE OF SILENCE

Leaders have “…Mimicked” every political trick across the region, even a “…Code of Silence.” For instance, there are seemingly observable conduct among the ‘CARICOM and OECS’ leadership respecting mutual understanding that is seemingly founded upon the principles of (i) “…Non-intervention in domestic affairs and (ii) …Maintaining a Code of Silence.” These were to be strictly observed even when (a) …Internal political squabbles threatened the foundation of democracy, civil order and relations with regional counterparts; (b) …When there were allegations of autocratic governance; (c) …When the integrity of the electoral systems were being compromised; (d) …When attempts were disguisedly made at gerrymandering; (e) …When there were disregard for parliamentary rules and/or procedures; (f) …When House Speakers deliberately blocked No Confidence Motions from the Order Paper; (g) …When there were indefinite suspensions or prorogation of Parliament and more particularly, (h)…When there were appeals by opponents of actions by incumbents that seemed void of constitutionality and/or legitimacy.”

JACKASS EXPRESSIONS

In the heat of excitement, there are inescapable innocuous expressions. Political audiences are deeply moved by them. Jackass expressions have found themselves in the vocabulary of political leaders. They were often used to “…rebuff or discourage crudeness or stupidity.” Exhibitionists may be chided “…You are behaving like a jackass.” For instance, when a  visiting Head of State, publicly supported and gave endorsement to a contesting party, former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer  took strong objection to a his intervention in national politics. He likened the interloper to a “…Jackass from Montserrat” [ANU: Elections- 2004]. In some nations, when people were startled, one may exclaim “…Holy Cow.” [Wikipedia: USA/Canada/England/Australia].

CARICOM JOKERS

Likened to Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar, the Denzil Douglas administration had disallowed the tabling of a “…No confidence motion” that may have seen his administration toppled. Both leaders had either resorted to “…Prorogation and/or Suspension of their National Assemblies.” It will have been seen that during his struggles, Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris had made no reference to possible colleagues as “…Monkeys or Donkeys.” Having pleaded in earnest, yet in futility with ‘CARICOM and OECS’ leaders for “…intervention into the questionable behaviors of the leadership of the Federation, they neither “…collectively or individually” intervened, nor accorded him common courtesies. Forced to show indignation over their hypocritical stance, he rightly or wrongly, likened to jesters, he mildly described its membership as “…CARICOM Jokers” [YouTube: November 13, 2014].

CONCLUSION

As the electorate went to the polls, it brought the 20-year governmental tenure of Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas to an end [February 17, 2015]. The end was said to have occurred in almost the same manner as that of former Prime Minister Dr. Kennedy Simmons’ tenure of ignominy” [1983- 1995]. Ironically, even as ‘CARICOM/OECS’ stood silently aloof when the “…Denzil Douglas administration” appeared to have flouted every principle associated with good governance and democracy, regional leaders were said to have dispatched “…congratulatory messages, smack of hypocrisy.” Likened to the rest of the region, the people have often gravitated to, and idolized leaders who have “…displayed charisma, captivating articulatory skills; …making promises that were often disguised in deception and using popular phrases and big words intended to drive them into political frenzy.” However, “…Beneath the Surface” [Paul ‘Chet’ Green], lies that which had constantly produced “…exclusion and/or isolation; …avoidance and/or inaccessibility to offices; …long waits at secretariat; …disappointment; …frustration, pain and anguish, and social and economic miseries.” Many may testify to these “…TRUTHS.”

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