Dr. Douglas writes to OAS Secretary General; condemns Opposition exclusion from review of corruption in St. Kitts and Nevis
Photo 1 – Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas
Photo 2 – OAS Secretary General His Excellency Luis Almagro.
By: Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 16, 2018 – The Parliamentary Opposition in St. Kitts and Nevis has expressed grave concern to the Organisation of American States (OAS) that it has been excluded from the Fifth Round of Review consultations of the Committee of Experts of the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (MESICIC) now convened in the twin-island Federation.
In a letter to His Excellency Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said it has been brought to his attention that the review meetings with civil society, which begin today, 16th October 2018 and extends to October 18th 2018, are being convened to the exclusion of the Parliamentary Opposition.
“This is in direct contravention of the Methodology for Conducting On-Site Visits adopted by State Parties to the Organisation of American States whereby the Office of the Attorney General as the designated Lead Expert and country coordinator is required under Article III, Section 18 b) and c) to ensure that all the representatives of civil society institutions and organisations are invited and are given
“adequate advance notice” as to the specific objectives of the meetings, the agenda and topics for discussion to allow for their meaningfully participation in the review process,” said Dr. Douglas.
He pointed out to the OAS Chief that the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party represents the largest political organisation in the Federation which holds four of the eleven seats in the national legislature.
“As the Parliamentary Opposition, we take very seriously our role of ensuring transparency, fairness and openness in the democratic process through rigorous scrutiny of the policies and administration of the Government with a view to holding it accountable to the citizens of the Federation whom we represent. As the political party which commanded the popular vote in the previous general elections, this role obtains even greater significance and import,” adding: “Therefore, the failure of the Lead Expert to invite the Parliamentary Opposition to these timely and important consultations is a deliberate attempt by the government-side to suppress our voice and prevent our active contribution to the discussions on Corruption. Not only does this go against the democratic principles and ideals enshrined in our national Constitution, it also goes against the founding principles and ideals set forth in the Charter of the Organisation of American States and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man to which as a State Party, St. Kitts and Nevis is required to adhere,” he said.
Dr. Douglas further pointed out that the review consultations aim to discuss several topics that are vitally relevant to the Parliamentary Opposition at this time.
“Topics such as Systems of Government Hiring; Systems of Procurement of Goods and Services; Acts of Corruption and Systems for Protecting Public Servants and Private Citizens who in Good Faith Report Acts of Corruption are subjects to which the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party and the Parliamentary Opposition should have been afforded the opportunity to make meaningful presentations,” the Opposition Leader told the OAS Secretary General.
“The unfortunate reality that exists in the Federation since the Dr. Timothy Harris-led Administration acquired office in February of 2015 is one that is characterized by rampant victimization, corruption, nepotism and public malfeasance, which have directly impacted the country as a whole. The campaign of victimization that has been unleashed by this administration has deliberately targeted the members and affiliates of the Labour Party and has, as result, introduced unprecedented levels of discrimination in the systems of government hiring and has also led to the maladministration of essential government services,” Dr. Douglas told Mr. Almagro.
“For example, many persons who are perceived to be opposition party supporters have been marginalized in their work, whether by being transferred to other departments not within their area of expertise or are being placed indefinitely on long administrative leave or fired. The Office of the Prime Minister systematically interferes in the processes of hiring, firing and promotion and decides unilaterally who should be targeted for termination or rewarded with a job opportunity or promotion with little basis in competence or merit. This is in direct breach of the national statutes and laws of the Federation and completely erodes the political and economic rights of the citizens of our Federation and compromises the quality delivery and performance of the public and civil service, said Dr. Douglas, who served as Prime Minister from July 1995 to February 2015.
He added: “Furthermore, rampant nepotism has ensured that the family and friends of the Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers are disproportionately represented in all of the most senior positions across the civil service, in government statutory bodies, the Executive Boards of financial institutions and the judiciary.”
“For instance, one of the Prime Minister’s brothers is the Chief Executive Officer of the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. A sister is the Magistrate of the local Court of St. Kitts and Nevis and yet another, the Chief Registrar of the High Court. The process that led to their hiring and/or promotion was not transparent. Moreover, on the issue of government procurement, there has been more than one occasion in which the construction companies of certain Cabinet Ministers have benefitted from lucrative government contracts,” the letter said.
Dr. Douglas informed the OAS Secretary General that “in light of the egregious nature of the present realities, I wish to request that the Secretariat of the Organisation of American States, particularly the Department of Legal Affairs, proceeds with alacrity to make provision for consultation with members of the Parliamentary opposition while the review process is taking place here in St. Kitts and Nevis or alternatively, as part of a separate mission.”
“The OAS, as a bastion for hemispheric democracy and human rights has an obligation to denounce the current antidemocratic and corrupt practices of the Team Unity Administration as demonstrated by the lack of impartiality in the conduct of the review process of the MESICIC. Until the ongoing situation is remedied, any outcome document produced by the OAS review team would lack the legitimacy and relevance it deserves,” said Dr. Douglas, who also stated that it is “also critically important that as we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this august body, we endeavour to make real for all citizens of the Americas the promise of dignity, equality and liberty espoused by the OAS and its Charter, including the citizens of its smallest jurisdictions.”
Dr. Douglas further noted that the OAS has been founded on four main pillars – human rights, democracy, integral development and multidimensional security.
“In order to advance its mission and vision across all jurisdictions within the hemisphere the OAS should seek to programmatically engage its smallest members and lend its support to indigenous efforts to diagnose and strengthen democratic governance and integrity systems at the national level,” said Dr. Douglas, a sixth term parliamentarian.