By Caribbean News Global contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Political leader of the opposition St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) Dr Denzil L Douglas has accused prime minister Dr Timothy Harris of introducing the six-month ‘State of Emergency’ to have an unfair advantage in the upcoming general elections constitutionally due by August 14, 2020.
On Tuesday’s radio call-in programme on Kyss 102.5 FM, Dr Douglas reiterated support for the medical authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, however, said it is unfair for the government to use unchallengeable emergency powers to keep opposition candidates locked down like the rest of the residents while the coalition candidates campaigned freely.
“We are saying there is an imbalance. We believe very firmly, that, what the prime minister has done is to impose a State of Emergency not necessarily for the management of COVID-19 pandemic but to get a clear advantage in the political race in which we are all engaged in at this time.
General elections were held on February 16, 2015, and the first sitting of St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly was on May 14, 2015. The law-making body will dissolve automatically on May 14, 2020, if it is not done before that date.
Dr Douglas told listeners to his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader” on Tuesday that Dr Harris’ action “is sinister and deceptive” since the constitution allows for shorter periods for a state of emergency.
“This was fully disguised as an attempt to give himself unchallengeable emergency powers over the electoral system,” said Dr Douglas, who pointed out that government ministers and the three-party coalition candidates were able to move freely around during curfews and conduct election campaigns, thus providing a political advantage.
Former prime minister Douglas is of the view that Dr Harris is using the management of the COVID-19 pandemic to manipulate the electoral system and pointed out that the numerous 24-hour lockdowns and the regulations which only give essential services workers permission to operate have denied citizens and residents the right to register to vote, and the electoral office – to conduct objection hearings in compliance with the laws of St Kitts and Nevis.
“Our right to vote must not in anyway be compromised because of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has to be a compromise. We will not apologize for insisting on the position that we have taken, especially when around the world, governments with despotic authoritarian leadership are trying to use the cover of the pandemic crisis to deprive or erode the democratic rights and civil liberties of their citizens,” said Dr Douglas, who noted that the people in St Kitts and Nevis have already seen what Dr Harris is capable of.
He mentioned the rampant victimisation of persons who are known to be supporters of the St Kitts-Nevis labour party being treated as second class citizens, the politicization of the police force, rampant nepotism and several scandals involving himself, other ministers and several scandals.
“When dealing with a prime minister who politicizes everything to find some sort of advantage, it stands to reason that we should expect him to be just as political in dealing with this public health crisis as well. We insist that the management of this health situation does not require six months of a State of Emergency,” said Dr Douglas, who further expressed the view that the management of COVID-19 must take as long as it is necessary, peoples’ lives to be protected.
“However we do not believe that the management of this crisis demands emergency powers being given to the authorities at the expense of taking away the fundamental rights that are guaranteed under the constitution at the same time,” said Dr Douglas, who called for “a correct balance.”
At a time when other countries are making plans for phased re-opening of non-essential businesses to get their economies going again, why would we want to signal to the world, that St Kitts and Nevis remains closed for business under the six-months State of Emergency?”
Dr Douglas stressed that the St Kitts-Nevis labour party is not opposed to the medical authorities seeking to ensure that there is not a community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We are standing on all four squares to ensure that we are well behind the management of this pandemic so that there is no life lost, that the illness associated with this disease is minimal and the virus not spreading at all.
“We are for these things, but we have to be careful about the conditions under which these are obtained and pursued, especially when the basic freedom and fundamental rights of the people are unnecessarily being withdrawn by a hostile, incompetent, and uncertain government.” Dr Douglas said.
The government is uncertain of its future when the elections are called, however, “none these gymnastics will prevent his Team Unity government from falling. It is just a matter of time,” he said.