Declaring that the current political situation in his Team Unity coalition government cannot continue, St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris on Tuesday fired several ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Shawn Richards and Nevis Premier Mark Brantley, and dissolved Parliament.
“The people of St. Kitts and Nevis deserve better,” said Dr. Harris in a nationwide address on radio and television. “Throughout this process, I have been reasonable — but resolute — in my commitment to ensuring that the government was delivering for you.
“It is for this reason that I have taken the difficult, but necessary step, to remove from their positions, those who have shown a disinterest in their duties,” he added. “I have asked His Excellency (the governor general) to re-assigned their portfolios to members who are willing and able to deliver for you.
“Yesterday, I asked His Excellency the Governor General, Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton, to remove the Hon. Shawn Richards from the Office of Deputy Prime Minister,” Harris continued. “In his stead, I have advised His Excellency to appoint the Hon. Eugene Hamilton to the Office of Deputy Prime Minister. Hon. Hamilton has been steadfast and responsible in discharging his duties as minister of the portfolios assigned to him.
“I have also advised His Excellency to revoke the appointment of Hon. Richards as a minister of government and to reassign his portfolios to the Hon. Eugene Hamilton,” the prime minister said. “Deputy Prime Minister Hamilton will now have conduct of the Departments and Subjects under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Posts and Urban Development that had been previously assigned to the Hon. Richards.”
Harris said he also advised Sir Tapley to revoke the appointments of the other ministers “who have thought fit to disrespect the sacred trust that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis placed in the government following our very successful General Election Campaign in 2020.”
As a result, he said Brantley, Lindsay Grant, Jonel Powell, Alexis Jeffers and Eric Evelyn “have been stripped of their appointments as ministers of government.”
Last week, Sir Tapley denied a request by Richards and the other five legislators to remove Harris as prime minister, as the chasm within the Team Unity coalition deteriorated.
The coalition government, which won re-election in 2020, comprises Harris’s People’s Labor Party (PLP); the People’s Action Movement (PAM), headed by Richards; and Nevis’s Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), headed Brantley.
“As I stated earlier, government must continue to function in the interest of the people,” Harris said. “As such, I have advised the governor general to reassign the portfolios of those members of Parliament that have been removed. The Hon. Wendy Phipps will assume the additional responsibility for Tourism and Transport, including the ports.
“Attorney General, the Hon. Vincent Byron will assume the additional responsibility for Foreign Affairs and Aviation, Education, Youth and Sports. The Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett, in addition to her responsibilities, will have added the portfolio for Culture,” he added. “The subjects of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources and Environment will be brought under the Ministry of Sustainable Development.”
Dr. Harris said he was confident that the government will “continue to deliver the goods and services to the people of our country, as well as we have delivered over the past seven years.”
Stating that he has confidence in the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and that he strongly believes in their right to choose their representatives in free and fair general elections, the prime minister asked the governor general to dissolve the Parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis, effective Tuesday.
“I will advise you when general elections will be held,” said Harris, adding that, in the interim, “the government continues to function and it will do so in an orderly, efficient and effective manner.
“These were not decisions taken lightly, but they were essential to put this period behind us and focus on delivering a better future for all the people,” he continued. “Decisions like these require real leadership. Real leadership is about putting people first. It is about delivering a strong, and safer future for them. That is why I have taken the decisions that I have today in the best interest of the public.”
Prime Minister Harris said that, over the past few months, the people of St. Kitts and Nevis have been “subjected to increasingly strange and irrational behavior by certain members of People’s Action Movement and Concerned Citizens Movement.”
He said these events commenced with the PAM Convention, alleging that Guest Speaker Brantley and Richards “unwisely and publicly leveled scathing criticisms about the relationship between our tripartite movement.
“This development was surprising, inappropriate, uncalled for and absolutely inconsistent with the public pronouncements made by them on numerous occasions,” Harris said. “I have met with both Ministers Brantley and Richards on more than one occasion since PAM convention, at which time they raised several issues.”
He said their concerns were subsequently articulated in a letter, dated April 16, 2022, in which they made “some 18 accusations and demands.”
Harris said he responded in writing on April 20, giving a “comprehensive response to each one of their allegations and demands.”
“That definitive response remains unanswered,” he said.
Since then, Harris said both ministers and four others from the PAM and the CCM have signed a letter to the governor general “to express their loss of confidence in my leadership as prime minister.”
The prime minister also noted that Richards had also filed a Motion of No Confidence with the Speaker of the Parliament.
He said the protracted absence of Richards from Cabinet over the past 91 days was “a major breach of the oath to which he swore following the June 2020 General Elections.
“Such prolonged absence, is a dereliction of duty that is both inexcusable and intolerable,” Dr. Harris said. “During this time, I have exercised great restraint, in an effort to bring resolution to the matter. I could not, however, do what the Hon. Shawn Richards requested; that is, direct the police to alter a police statement.
“It is my duty to inform you that since the submission of the undated letter to His Excellency the Governor General, which he received on April 21, 2022, none of the CCM representatives and only one of the PAM representatives, have attended any meeting of the Cabinet, which continues to function effectively,” the prime minister added. “Whilst others neglected their duty, failed to attend cabinet meetings, I must commend the members of Cabinet who continue to show great respect for the institution of the Cabinet and for giving yeoman service to their country. We have been focused on delivering for you, our people.
“As prime minister and Chairman of the Cabinet, I have listened to our citizens and residents lament about this irresponsible and flagrant disregard for their sworn duty to the Cabinet and, by extension, our people and country,” Dr. Harris continued. “You, the good people of this federation were promised and you deserve better performance by all ministers on the government’s payroll.”