STATEMENT BY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE RIGHT HONOURABLE DR. DENZIL LLEWELLYN DOUGLAS CONDEMNING THE TIMOTHY HARRIS GOVERNMENT FOR UNDERMINING THE ABILITY OF DOMINICA AND ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA TO RECUPERATE FROM DEVASTATION BY HURRICANE
Citizens and residents of our beloved country, St. Kitts and Nevis, I address you today on an immensely troubling development that has occurred over the last 24 hours in our Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programme – a development which in my opinion as the Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party and the Parliamentary Opposition needs to be brought urgently to the attention of all right-thinking and conscientious people. Today, September 23, 2017, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis led by Dr. Timothy Harris has sunk to the lowest low in a manner that is most unconscionable and calculated to undermine the desperate recovery efforts that are underway in Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda to restore those countries’ operations and the lives of their citizens to a state of normalcy as quickly as possible.
In a Press Release from the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of St. Kitts and Nevis dated September 23rd and entitled “Hurricane Relief Fund Announced as part of the Citizenship by Investment Programme,” the Timothy Harris-led administration has reported to investors interested in our CBI programme that it has decided to decrease the Foundation investment contribution for the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI programme from US$300,000 to US$150,000, thus launching the Hurricane Relief Fund and suspending the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF). In making the case for this, the Prime Minister has reported that two category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in St. Kitts and Nevis causing phenomenal devastation to homes, businesses and key infrastructure in the country. While it must be said with certainty that our country has in fact experienced two hurricanes recently, why our Prime Minister would want to mislead the entire world as to the directness of the impact of these hurricanes and the extent of the damage caused is truly beyond me.
If indeed St. Kitts and Nevis has suffered the phenomenal devastation of which the Prime Minister speaks, what shall we say of Dominica and Barbuda? In the case of Barbuda, that island has been completely vacated resulting in a 3% immediate increase in the population of Antigua with phenomenal stress brought to bear on the social services in that country. It has been estimated that the rebuilding exercise in Barbuda will cost $2.5 Billion. As to Dominica, what can one say in response to the horror that was left in the wake of Hurricane Maria? The situation on the ground is truly unimaginable. The extensive loss of life and the catastrophic damage to homes, businesses, industries and public infrastructure are truly phenomenal and abhorrent. Although no estimates have yet been posited by the Government of Dominica, it is safe to say that the damage will be assessed to be several billion United States dollars. That is truly phenomenal.
In the Press Release to which I earlier referred, instead of painting an honest picture of the state of affairs of our country and the extent of the damage it has incurred, Prime Minister Harris, in an attempt to raise money on fake news, has sought to utterly deceive the investor community. This dishonest and extremely selfish conduct on the part the Prime Minister can do nothing but serve to woefully undermine confidence of the international community in any information coming from official sources in our country. This, dear citizens and residents is emphatically abhorrent and reminds me of the story of the little boy who cried wolf.
But as if that were not enough, to add insult to the injury of both Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica, Prime Minister Harris, as revealed in the Press Release of September 23rd, has decided to undercut and undermine the desperate recovery efforts of these two countries by reducing the value of the investment contribution to the Foundation option in the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI programme by 50%, bringing it to US$150,000 – the same level as that of Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda. This, fellow citizens and residents is what many people in the region and beyond who have seen the Press Release have called unconscionable, unfriendly, selfish, uncaring and reprehensible. This is a blatantly opportunistic move by Dr. Harris.
Quite to the contrary, when Dominica learnt of our situation after hurricane Irma, Prime Minister Skerritt along with our OECS leaders visited our country to provide moral support and did in fact offer monetary assistance to our government. That is what we would expect from our Caribbean brothers and sisters in an hour of distress. The level to which Prime Minister Harris has stooped is beneath the very Office he holds and frankly is shameful and disgraceful and is an insult to all the support we have received from our sister countries in times of natural disaster. Dr. Harris is repulsively self-serving, self-centred and indifferent.
Fellow citizens and residents, let us remember the people of Dominica, Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, the United States Virgin Islands and other territories that have suffered catastrophic damage as a result of recent hurricanes. My heart goes out particularly to Dominica who only two years ago suffered similar horrific damage in the wake of Hurricane Ericka and whose recovery efforts were still underway when another terrible disaster struck a few days ago. The least Prime Minister Harris could have done was to offer some support and not so callously undercut Dominica’s and Antigua & Barbuda’s own CBI programmes.
Fellow citizens and residents, as we ourselves recover from the inconveniences that we have sustained, let us do what we can to help our fellow human beings in Dominica and other islands seriously impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A week ago, our organization – the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party – and the Office of the Leader of the Opposition teamed up with a number of civic-minded persons and businesses to provide airlift and limited cargo services for our citizens living in St. Maarten. Similarly, we are reaching out to the affected people in Dominica, the BVI, the USVI, Anguilla and other countries. I believe that with your partnership, we will be able to reach out to many more. Let us continue to lift them up in our prayers that God would protect them and make provision for them where we cannot at this time. May God continue to bless us all and protect us from the ravages of natural disasters this season and in the future.