Address delivered by Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley, Featured Speaker at the People’s Action Movement Annual National Convention, on March 13, 2022
My brothers and sisters of the People’s Action Movement, I bring you fraternal greetings as the Leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement of Nevis. I am truly honored to have been asked by your Party Leader the Hon. Shawn Kenneth Richards to speak to you gathered here today under your theme “Keeping the Promise”.
I propose not so much a call to arms today but a call to reflection; a call for sober analysis of where we are as a country and where we wish to go. In so doing, I propose to engage about the past and the role of this great PAM Party in shaping this Nation of St Kitts and Nevis. I do so to set the backdrop for what I propose must be our shared future.
My brothers and sisters reflect with me if you will that it is the People’s Action Movement that paid for the sugar lands that the Labour Party acquired compulsorily but did not pay for. In so doing, PAM, under our national hero the Right Excellent Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds, restored legal rectitude to our country by ensuring that lands compulsorily acquired were paid for. In so doing Sir Kennedy and PAM demonstrated the good governance and respect for the rule of law that some now only speak about.
Reflect with me if you will that it is the ownership of the former sugar lands that has allowed subsequent governments to leverage that land for national development whether for collateralizing debt, developing housing, expanding agriculture and even the now infamous land for debt swap.
Reflect with me if you will that it is the vision of PAM that brought Port Zante into being. Every person making a living from the cruise industry from the merchants at Port Zante, to the tour operators, to the taxi drivers, to the hair braiders, to the restaurant owners, to the monkey vendors, must applaud the People’s Action Movement.
Reflect with me if you will that it is the vision of the People’s Action Movement that saw the construction of the Kennedy Simmonds Highway and the opening up of the South East Peninsula which was hitherto inaccessible by road to the rest of St. Kitts.
Reflect with me if you will that absent the Kennedy Simmonds Highway there could have been no Christophe Harbour; there could have been no Sundance Ridge; there could have been no Park Hyatt; there could have been no Reggae Beach; there could have been no water taxi to and from Nevis; there could have been no Salt Plage; there could have been no million dollar yachts in a mega yacht marina.
Reflect with me if you will that the People’s Action Movement ushered in some of the most profound and far reaching social programmes and social safety nets to assist the people of our country. School meals programmes, textbook and payment for examination fees programmes, maternity leave with pay just to name a few.
Reflect with me if you will that it was the vision of PAM that reimagined our tax structure and abolished personal income tax leading to massive consumption and expansion in the local economy.
Reflect with me if you will that it was the People’s Action Movement that spearheaded the move for our country to become an independent State on September 19, 1983. It was PAM that led the way to ensure that the colonial shackles of old Mother England were removed from our lands forever.
Reflect with me if you will that it was the People’s Action Movement which for the first time introduced the concept of true political UNITY between St. Kitts and Nevis when it formed a coalition with the then dominant political party in Nevis, the Nevis Reformation Party led by our national hero the Right Excellent Sir Simeon Daniel.
Reflect with me if you will that it was the People’s Action Movement in 1984 that created the Citizenship by Investment Programme which even today is the mainstay of the St. Kitts-Nevis economy and which has been copied in countries near and far across the world. PAM gave the world the idea of leveraging citizenship for investment and it has now become a global billion dollar industry.
My brothers and sisters you will see from the small snapshot that I have provided that much of what we enjoy and take for granted today was due to the vision of the People’s Action Movement. I say without fear of contradiction that the architecture for the modern State of St. Kitts and Nevis was laid by the People’s Action Movement.
In that regard we can see clearly that PAM throughout its political history has been true to its commitment to the people of our beloved country. PAM throughout its history has been singularly concerned with the development of our people and our small nation. PAM throughout its history has been working for and on behalf of our people. PAM throughout its history has taken decisions that have revolutionized St. Kitts and Nevis.
In short my friends PAM throughout its history has always kept the promise.
When therefore we today speak of keeping the promise, I believe that the People’s Action Movement can stand tall and say that it has always kept its promise to the people of this great country.
And if you wish further evidence of that let me share some more recent history.
The leadership of this great PAM party now lies in the hands of the Honourable Shawn Kenneth Richards. I have seen this young man from humble beginnings in Sandy Point at work both in Opposition and in Government and I say today with no fear of contradiction that he has kept the promise.
How do I know? I know because I have had a front row seat to the unfolding of our recent history.
While many now try valiantly to pass off fantasy as fact and try to rewrite our history even as we who have lived it still are alive to tell it, I present to you today some irrefutable facts that I suggest prove my argument that Shawn Kenneth Richards and PAM are the rock upon which Team Unity now stands.
It was Shawn was who one of the principal architects of Team Unity. When the Labour Party-led government of Dr. Denzil Douglas cast out Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris from its midst and the valiant and noble Sam Terrence Condor, then Deputy Prime Minister, resigned in support of Dr. Harris, it was Shawn and PAM that provided a ray of hope here in St. Kitts. The Concerned Citizens Movement which I am now privileged to lead in Nevis had a long history over the decades of refusing to align with any political party or parties in St. Kitts. It is I who had the responsibility of re-imagining CCM as part of a broader national construct called Team Unity.
We signed two important foundational documents for Team Unity. The Charlestown Accord was drafted by me and signed on the courthouse steps in Charlestown before a massive crowd by Dr .Timothy Sylvester Harris, Leader of the People’s Labour Party, Vance Winkworth Amory then Leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement, and yes, Shawn Kenneth Richards, the Leader of the People’s Action Movement. The second document was signed at the Red Cross conference room again in Charlestown and again signed by the three leaders of the tripartite Team Unity arrangement.
These documents and the discussions around them provided a blueprint for governance under a Team Unity government and formed the core basis of how a Team Unity government would function. They were designed to ensure mutual respect and cooperation between the three political parties and between the two islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.
These documents evidenced the pact that was formed between the PLP, CCM and PAM. They evidenced the promise made by each Party and by each Party leader to each other. But even more than that they evidenced the promise made to the people of St Kitts and Nevis.
Now what was promised by Team Unity? What did Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris of PLP, Vance Winkworth Amory of CCM and Shawn Kenneth Richards of PAM promise each other and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis?
There was the fundamental promise that no leader would serve more than two (2) terms as Prime Minister. Please note that two terms was not guaranteed to any leader but it was agreed that no leader would serve more than two terms. Term limits was a critical part of the architecture and the new governance paradigm introduced by Team Unity.
My brothers and sisters this was critical as we had cried out vociferously that the leader of the Labour Party Dr. Denzil Llewellyn Douglas had served for 20 years as Prime Minister. That was too long we shouted to the world. I myself reminded Dr. Douglas that it was time for him to rest himself or as we would say in Nevis: It was time for him to go siddung. We did not wish for any future leader of our country to fall victim to the oft stated adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Those foundational documents and principles of Team Unity made the further fundamental promise that Citizenship by Investment monies would be shared pro rata between St. Kitts and Nevis on a population basis. This too was critical as the people of Nevis had been locked out of the benefits of the CBI inflows and the then SIDF causing King Bhingi in Nevis to lament in Kaiso that “We want we SIDF Money”.
Those documents made the fundamental promise of a new governance paradigm for our beloved country, a paradigm based on core principles of love, mutual respect and a unity of effort and purpose where every man woman and child in St. Kitts and Nevis would be called upon to lend their efforts to national development and would reap the full fruits of their citizenship.
As part of that promise to each other and to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis we all agreed that Team Unity would be led by Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris. You all would remember the historic launch of Team Unity at Greenlands Park when I was given the honor of introducing the next Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis the Honorable Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris.
The elections came after Motions of No Confidence brought by me and by Shawn Richards and after court cases brought by me which culminated in the now famous Privy Council rulings.
My brothers and sisters it was one for all and all for one. These trials and tribulations were the truest manifestation of the promise of Team Unity. Three parties working together as one. St. Kitts and Nevis finally living out its creed as one nation bound together with a common destiny.
When the elections of June 2015 were over, PLP obtained one (1) seat; CCM obtained two (2) seats; and PAM led by Shawn Richards obtained four (4) seats. Now 4+2 equals 6 and 6 seats could have formed a government. Put differently PAM and CCM could have formed a government without the PLP. But so committed were we all to the promises made to each other and to our nation that Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris with a sole solitary seat for PLP was fully supported as the third Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis. I recall a seasoned Caribbean Prime Minister asking me if we were crazy, how could we give a party with one (1) seat the ‘big chair’. I answered him truthfully. I told him that PAM and CCM are honourable parties led by honourable leaders who always keep their promises.
I pause here brothers and sisters to make the point that if Shawn Kenneth Richards and PAM were power hungry they could have said that they had more than half the seats in Team Unity and more than PLP and CCM combined and therefore demanded Prime Ministership. But Shawn did not do that. PAM did not do that. Shawn remained true and kept to his promise. PAM remained true and kept to its promise. CCM remained true and kept to its promise.
When the elections of 2020 rolled around the people again reposed their trust and confidence in Team Unity. PLP secured two seats; CCM swept Nevis for the first time in its history with all three seats; and PAM again won four seats.
Again brothers and sisters the PLP had the fewest seats. Again 4+3 represented a clear majority to form a government. Again it is clear that PAM and CCM could have formed a government without the PLP. It is also equally clear that PAM and PLP could have formed a government without CCM. Again Shawn Kenneth Richards could have demanded and would have been supported for Prime Minister of this country.
But what did Shawn and PAM do? They kept to their promise and elevated Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris and the minority PLP once again to the Prime Ministership of St. Kitts and Nevis for a second and final term. As for me and my party, we had seen and gave voice to some troubling signs but we nevertheless followed PAM’s lead as the majority partner in Team Unity.
I pause here again brothers and sisters to make the point that if Shawn Kenneth Richards and PAM were power hungry they could have said that they controlled the largest bloc of seats in Team Unity and therefore demanded Prime Ministership. But Shawn did not do that. PAM did not do that. Shawn remained true and kept to his promise. PAM remained true and kept to its promise.
I state all this to make the inescapable point that Shawn Kenneth Richards could not once but twice have demanded the Prime Ministership of this country. He could have done so on the obvious democratic principle that he and PAM controlled the largest bloc of elected members in the National Parliament of St. Kitts and Nevis. But this young man did not do that. He kept his promise. The People’s Action Movement kept its promise.
The question which now looms large my friends is will each partner in Team Unity keep the promises to each other and to our people?
I can say today and do so with a heavy heart that to date the promise of a population based pro rata share of the CBI proceeds between St. Kitts and Nevis has still not been realized despite years of agitation by me as Premier of Nevis and leader of CCM, an integral part of Team Unity. That promise to CCM and to the people of Nevis has thus far not been kept. I make the point my Kittitian brothers and sisters that when I come as Premier of the island of Nevis and representative in chief of the over 13,000 souls that call Nevis home, I do not come as a mendicant, cap in hand. I do not come asking for help or a favour. I come as a full citizen of this country who is entitled to claim on behalf of the people of Nevis an equitable share of the revenue flowing into Basseterre from national efforts such as Citizenship by Investment. Whichever political party or coalition of parties holds the reins of power in Church Street I wish to be clear that the people of Nevis will never stop demanding their equitable share of the national pie.
Sadly in recent years we have seen some key members of parties in Team Unity being so emboldened that they openly attack me as Leader of CCM on social media. Indeed they have not only attacked me but my wife and children too. They used to use fake profiles but now are bold enough to use their own names and images. I have asked the leadership in those parties guilty of these vicious attacks to cause these attacks to cease but to date they continue unabated. In fact brothers and sisters some of the attackers in chief have been and continue to be handsomely rewarded by this very Team Unity government that we all serve. I ask rhetorically today: is this keeping the promise of Team Unity?
My CCM team has time and time again sought my imprimatur to retaliate to these atrocious attacks on me as their Leader. I have consistently said to them that CCM will not under my leadership join anyone in sowing seeds of division and disunity. In so doing some have mistaken my restraint for weakness. I say to you today that my restraint has in fact been an exhibition of sober leadership and maturity. My restraint and that of my party has shown wisdom.
It is as a result of this type of mature and sober leadership that no member of the CCM has attacked any member of PAM or PLP. My party knows that I would never tolerate far less encourage such as Leader of CCM whilst we remain in a Team Unity government. You see I lead a party that keeps its promises.
I have also noticed of late that the legions of fake social media profiles have been unleashed on Shawn Kenneth Richards and PAM. Suddenly, a man with a hitherto unblemished record, is being vilified with Facebook and WhatsApp messages sent viral across the entire landscape of St. Kitts Nevis and into our Diaspora.
I ask, my friends, the question, is this keeping the promise? Is this what Team Unity promised our nation? Is this the togetherness and cohesion that we campaigned on and promised our people? And if it is not then we must ask why not?
Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that Shawn Richards by proclaiming his ambition to be the next Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis is power hungry. But I ask you and our nation how could a man who held and still holds the balance of power; who could have been Prime Minister since 2015 and again in 2020 but instead kept his promise and anointed another as Prime Minister be now seen as power hungry? Shawn and PAM have kept their promise and the evidence of this is overwhelming. So why now is this son of Sandy Point to be vilified and attacked because he has called on others in Team Unity to also keep their promise?
Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that Nevis will never get a fair share from the CBI proceeds. Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that Mark Brantley is greedy for demanding the fair share of CBI proceeds to which Nevis is entitled. I say to you today that if I am to be accused of being greedy for demanding that Team Unity keeps its promise to Nevis then let it be known that I am not greedy for me or for personal gain. If indeed I am greedy then let the record show that I am greedy for the people of Nevis and their advancement.
Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that there is nothing wrong with any Unity leader being Prime Minister for more than two terms. Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that members of Team Unity are giving financial and other support to the political opponents of CCM in Nevis. Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that candidates are being recruited to run in constituencies against the principles of Team Unity where only a single Unity candidate is permitted to run. Suddenly I am hearing in some quarters that the Charlestown Accord and other documents forming the very core basis of our tripartite Team Unity government are but useless pieces of paper not enforceable in a Court of Law.
But my friends let me be pellucid. If the core principles of Team Unity reduced into writing and signed before God and man by the leaders of the political parties of Team Unity are now for convenience to be cast aside as mere worthless pieces of paper, then it means that Team Unity was merely a launching pad for personal power and self-aggrandizement and not for the paradigm shift in governance and for the people as we proclaimed. It means that Team Unity was a mere fig-leaf, an invented mechanism where some members never truly believed or committed themselves to the ideals espoused. I certainly pray that this is not so.
For my part I have said and continue to say that Team Unity represents the last best chance for our nation. I have said and continue to say that Unity represents the most revolutionary political idea that our nation has seen in its modern existence. The lofty ideals that we espoused and that captured the imagination, the hopes, dreams and aspirations of our people must not now be abandoned. The tremendous strides made in our country under Team Unity must not now be squandered.
If Team Unity is to mean anything my brothers and sisters it must demonstrate that each and every constituent element of the team is committed to keeping the promise. PLP and its leadership must keep its promise. PAM and its leadership must keep its promise. CCM and its leadership must keep its promise. For if we can’t keep promises made to each other before God and man then how can we be trusted to keep our promise to the people of St .Kitts and Nevis?
In this life we have absolutely nothing of value except our word. We have nothing if we do not have integrity. The promise of Team Unity was to raise the political consciousness of our people to such an extent that politics and politicians were given a new and better reputation. The promise of Team Unity was to create a new St. Kitts and Nevis based on principles of brotherhood, mutual respect and love for each other and for our country. The promise of Team Unity was that every little boy and girl whether from Crab Hill in Sandy Point or Bucks Hill in Nevis could look upon us and say in whispered breath that we remained true to each other and to our promise to the people of St .Kitts and Nevis.
The question then brothers and sisters, is whether the promise of Team Unity can yet be kept? And I say yes it can. For me hope continues to spring eternal that we are still capable of keeping our promise to each other and to our people. It is hope for a better tomorrow for St. Kitts and Nevis that brought PLP, PAM, and CCM together as Team Unity. It is the memory of that hope and a return to first principles that must now propel us forward in keeping the promise to our beloved people.
There is my friends no “I” in Team and no “me” in Unity. Unity has no “maximum leader” no “ten man in one” and no “Top Dawg”. Team Unity has never been about any one man or any one party. Unity is about all of us. Unity is about all our people. Unity is about our aspiration to be better and to do better.
I wish to state here today and to publicly proclaim that the Concerned Citizens Movement remains fully committed to Team Unity and to the principles enshrined in the various documents and discussions setting out the foundational charter of this great political construct. I wish to make it clear that the CCM is not committed to some of the core principles but to ALL of the core principles. The country must see and feel the paradigm shift in governance, greater transparency, greater inclusivity, greater consultation and greater accountability that we promised. Our supporters must be told to cease and desist from their destructive rhetoric towards each other and love and peace must reign between us as we promised. Nevis must get its equitable share of CBI proceeds and other national assets as we promised. And of course no leader must be allowed to serve more than two terms as Prime Minister as we promised.
You see my friends if we are honorable men and women in Unity; if we are honorable leaders in Unity; if our word is our bond in Unity; if we keep our promises in Unity; then I assure you that our Team Unity, the greatest political idea in our modern political history, will last forever.
But if we merely used Unity for convenience and to gain personal political power and never had any intention of keeping our promises either to each other or to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis then Unity cannot and will not survive. It is really that simple choice that we must make. Shall we be honourable and keep our promise or shall we be dishonourable and break our promise? One road leads to a glorious future. The other road plunges our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis into political chaos and uncertainty.
That my friends is the fundamental question. That my friends is what requires a simple solution.
I say to you in closing that the CCM will win all the available Federal seats in Nevis when the time comes. How many PLP brings I shall leave to the Honourable Dr. Timothy Sylvester Harris and his team. How many PAM brings I shall leave to the Honourable Shawn Kenneth Richards and you the mighty PAM army.
I leave you today with the firm understanding and the irrefutable truth that the People’s Action Movement has always kept its promise to St. Kitts and Nevis. Shawn Kenneth Richards has always kept his promise to his constituents, to his party, to Team Unity and to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
May we all be like Shawn and PAM. May we all keep our promises.
God bless you. God Bless PAM. God bless Unity. And May God continue to bless our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis.
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