Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says that CARICOM will not “interfere or intervene” in St. Kitts and Nevis on the Motion of No Confidence issue. The official position of CARICOM, by Dr. Gonsalves’ own words as its present Chairman, is that it will do so only if there’s a breakdown of law and order here. And, according to him, that hasn’t happened. Maybe it’s okay for leaders to personally intervene in political activities in St. Kitts & Nevis to promote and support their friends, but neither personally nor institutionally to intervene in defence of social justice. Maybe they need to see graphic images of human carnage, extensive social and economic damage and loss, as a prerequisite to CARICOM action, with regional security boots on the ground, CNN and BBC reporting, investors and tourists apprehensive, some even aghast, and so on.
Dr. Gonsalves described the situation in St. Kitts & Nevis as merely “an intense competition between two competing political forces”, claiming that the “democratic institutions are working out their problems”, and that “the Governor-General, the Speaker of the House and the Courts are seized of the matter”. He even repeated the unfortunate comment of the Commonwealth Secretary that our democratic institutions are working.
The Governor-General and the Speaker represent two of the three institutions that are preventing the Motion from being heard, and thereby compromising good governance and undermining democracy. And the attitude of these two men has served only to aggravate the social injustice.
Dr. Gonsalves and CARICOM’s other leaders know that law and order do not break down only when there’s rioting, burning, looting, killing and the like. As learned men and women they know that throughout history, acts of civil unrest by ordinary men and women of the world have, for the most part, been either instigated and manipulated by leaders (in or out of power), or have been the ordinary people’s own reaction to unfair, undemocratic governance by those in power.
In other words, they know that civil unrest is often the manifestation, the symptom, and not the cause, of the failure of democratic institutions and the instruments of power in a society.
CARICOM’s leaders are also well aware of the critical importance of Motions of No Confidence in our system of governance, and that the obstruction of a Motion, or even an attitude of apprehension towards it by the incumbents, constitutes a very real threat to democracy. So how can Dr. Gonsalves say that our democratic institutions are working when such a grave problem exists at the very core of our democracy?
And apart from the Motion of No Confidence matter, (i) the serial assaults by the Denzil Douglas cabal on our Constitution, upon the rule of law, and on other essential principles of governance; (ii) the incredible politicization of the public service; and (iii) the systemic corruption that bares it ugly face for all to see, all provide even more compelling evidence to debunk Dr. Gonsalves’ claim.
As does the Feb. 12, 2014, judgment of Justice Ramdhani with regard to the Motion, a judgment which must have put on notice all persons in CARICOM concerned with, or responsible for, good governance.
I wonder if at least the six lawyers who’re Heads of Government in CARICOM one of them is a QC, have read that judgment.
I wonder if they also know that the Parliament of this country has not had a Deputy Speaker since Jan. 25, 2010; or that high-level electoral officials have been found by the Appeal Court to have acted with malfeasance; or that a budget was delivered outside of the constitutional timeline; or that the Government forced a Registrar of the Supreme Court to 62 days leave with just 72 hours’ notice, her leave to begin on the day when the Motion of No Confidence case was set down.
Do CARICOM leaders know that there’s no Integrity in Public Life, or Freedom of Information, law in force in our country?
They would, if they were carrying out their obligation to ensure compliance with the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society, which is the moral and ethical compass for governance in CARICOM, at both state and regional levels.
The Charter’s intent is, among other things, for the people of the region to enter the 21st century on the basis of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law and the highest possible level of governance, and to sustain that level by “mobilizing for change”.
Under Article 25, member states are to submit reports every three years on measures taken and successes achieved by them with regard to their obligation to comply with the Charter.
In addition to, and apart from those reports, Article 25 also allows the Heads to request reports from member states “at any time”. And they have a moral and ethical obligation to request a special report from any country going through what St. Kitts and Nevis has been going through since 2010.
But have we submitted any three-year reports? Indeed, has any other government done so? And have the Heads requested any special report from us? Even one?
If there’s been no reporting from Basseterre, and no request for reports, then the Charter of Civil Society is, at present, not worth the paper on which it is written, and the moral compass for governance in CARICOM is broken. Broken by the leaders of CARICOM, which means that we’re seeing serious decay, maybe collapse, at regional level.
This would constitute a potentially catastrophic threat to the institutions and instruments of good governance and democracy, and, from the least expected quarters, to law and order, which is a far greater threat than that posed by ordinary folks acting out their frustration with unrest on the streets of the Caribbean.
And to make matters worse, instead of saluting the good people of St. Kitts & Nevis for choosing the more difficult route of protesting against the injustice in a patient, peaceful and restrained manner, these leaders provide tacit institutional endorsement of the perpetrators of the injustice.
What we’re witnessing here is a grave dereliction of duty by CARICOM’s leaders, and, by that dereliction, a self-declaration of their unworthiness to lead the region in the 21st century, and in the spirit and meaning of the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society
Shame on them. And shame on the people of the region if we allow this to continue.
Meanwhile, who’s going to guard the guard? Are our Courts, thank God for them, sufficient?
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to email@example.com.