Protesters outside the St Kitts Marriott Resort on Saturday night. (Photo: Clecton Phillip)
By Clive Bacchus
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- A hastily arranged street jam in St Kitts that coincided with an already planned and approved political rally by the opposition is one of the reasons given for the picketing exercise at the hotel where American television personality Tavis Smiley and Trinidad and Tobago’s David Rudder were headlined as featured celebrities at the Prime Minister’s New Year’s Gala.
On Saturday evening, two small groups of opposition protestors stood on the pavement at the entrance and the exit of the Marriott Hotel in Frigate Bay, shortly before Smiley was scheduled to deliver his keynote address.
“The creeping dictatorship is trying to assert itself… yesterday what he did through manipulation was to organize another event to provide subterfuge for the police to withdraw a permission already granted for a public meeting,” leader of Team Unity, Dr Timothy Harris, told WINN FM 98.9.
“An event was stage managed and the event didn’t even get support from the people of St Kitts and Nevis -- everyone was taken by surprise! Tonight we decided to gather and demonstrate to the people that this encroachment of our democracy will not be tolerated,” Harris declared.
Deputy leader of the People’s Action Movement (PAM), Eugene Hamilton, said the police action was another example of growing dictatorial conduct in the country.
“The reason given for the withdrawal of approval was just ridiculous…”Hamilton told WINN on Saturday night.
“We are just struggling under the unsupportable weight of multiple violations by our prime minister… we are just here to give voice, and to demonstrate and let everybody know that there is a churning discontent,” a supporter by the name of Pemberton told WINN.
“The message tonight is very simple. We have waited over one year for a vote of no confidence, the motion which has not been yet tabled, or debated, and we feel that 2014 is the year of change and so therefore every time it is necessary we will demonstrate our contempt for the Douglas-led administration because he himself is contemptuous to the country,” said Lindsay Grant
“There is nowhere in the world, as far as I am aware, you can have a vote not tabled, not debated in excess of one year. It is trampling on our democracy, it’s trampling on the people’s democracy and we are prepared to take a serious stand,” Grant asserted.
Earlier Saturday, Carnival Committee chairman Sylvester Anthony was asked about Friday’s street jam that was not on the carnival calendar and only featured the Kollison Band. The Road March Champion, the Small Axe Band, Nu Vybes and Grandmasters were conspicuously absent from the event.
“We don’t have a contractual arrangement to hire certain bands for certain events. We employ the bands that are available when we want them,” Anthony told WINN in response to that question.
In previous years, the Last Lap celebrations, held on Thursday this year, signaled the end of Carnival band-inspired street jams, so WINN asked when the decision was made to have the jam on Friday and when Kollison was notified
“We decided to have that jam the night before and we spoke to the band yesterday morning,” Anthony told WINN on Saturday.
A Kollison Band representative confirmed that the band was contacted on Friday morning and asked to pull off a street jam from 3pm until sundown. He said Kollison did its best to accommodate the request, believing the session would end before the heavily publicized Team Unity political meeting planned for the Friday evening in Basseterre.
During the jam session, police granted permission for the band to extend its time on the road until 9 pm, WINN was later told.
Deputy Police Commissioner Stafford Liburd signed the December letter granting permission for the political meeting but on Friday morning rescinded it, saying the force had received a request from the carnival committee for a street jam the same day. WINN understands that request from the Carnival Committee was made on Friday morning.
“The police granted Team Unity permission to hold a meeting but, having granted that permission, we recognized that the… national carnival for 2013- 2014 officially ends on the 5th, thereby and therefore, we moved forward to inform Team Unity that we will withdraw that permission to use noisy instrument here today but we will accommodate them at anytime during next week or beyond,” Liburd responded, when asked about the situation.
Asked about the allegation that the police force is being influenced by politics, Liburd responded: “I didn’t hear that and I would prefer if that was addressed to someone else other than me. I am Deputy Commissioner of Police. “
The Street Jam attracted only a handful of young people who followed the band as it played and circled the streets of Basseterre, passing on several occasions just a few yards from the area earlier identified for the political meeting.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network