“While the threat of the Coronavirus COVID-19 looms large, this government is being distracted by so many problems and scandals I cannot be certain that their priorities are in the right place,” said the Leader of the Opposition of St. Kitts and Nevis during his Tuesday radio call-in programme, “Ask the Leader”.
Dr. Douglas’ remarks follow the latest news and developments this week in relation to the world-wide spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As of March 10, 2020, the global death toll has topped 4,000 and the number of confirmed cases worldwide is now at 115,000. Within the Caribbean the number of positive cases have expanded with the Dominican Republic reporting one more case, bringing to two (2) the number of persons testing positive for the virus in that country, and with Jamaica reporting its first case. On March 3rd, US State Department and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) raised the risk level in the Caribbean region from “low” to “moderate to high”.
“While the rest of the world is bracing for impact and trying their best to build resilience in their health systems and their economies to deal with the effects of this latest crisis, Harris and his cabinet are preoccupied with doing damage control resulting from the massive political fallout of the recent ruling by Justice Eddy Ventose,” stated the Leader of the Opposition.
Here, Dr. Douglas was referring to the February 27, 2020 ruling in which Justice Ventose ordered Tourism Minister Lindsay Grant and appointed Ambassador Jonel Powell to appear before a Disciplinary Tribunal within sixty (60) days to be sentenced for misappropriating $460,000 USD in client’s funds, breach of Trust and breach of Fiduciary Duty. When the tribunal convenes at the end of April 2020, a panel of two High Court Judges will decide whether to suspend Grant and Powel for a specific period or to strike them from the Court Roll which is disbarment, never to practice law in again.
“This is a very, very serious situation. The entire region is looking on with keen interest to see how this will be handled here in St. Kitts and Nevis,” Dr. Douglas continued. “For instance, the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association has circulated the Grant and Powell ruling to its members in order to remind them of their duties as Attorneys-at-Law and the consequence of a breach of their duties and standards… All across the Caribbean region Team (Dis)Unity has become the poster child for bad governance, corruption, nepotism and incompetence.”
Dr. Douglas expressed his growing unease that credible analysts in the areas of strategic and international studies are now projecting that the economic impact of COVID-19 could be as severe as the fallout from the 911 terror attacks or the global financial crisis of 2008. If the virus continues to spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean region, it is likely to have a deleterious impact on the tourism-dependant economies of the region.
The Ventose ruling has created a political uproar in St. Kitts and Nevis and have spurred calls for Grant and Powell to resign.
“Harris and his cabinet ministers are so distracted now in their own desperation to win that they have no time to address the many problems and challenges that our country is presently facing. This pandemic, which has now reached the Caribbean region … must be taken seriously, especially since our tourism industry is about people travelling and with the advisories that have been issued, I am very much concerned that things will get much worse for us in St. Kitts and Nevis”, he stated.
“The poor response to dealing with the potential impacts of this pandemic to our tourism industry and economy is obvious. The Minister of Tourism’s mind is far away from the effects that it [COVID 19] would have on tourism, because his mind is preoccupied with whether or not he would be disbarred from practicing law or he would be suspended from practicing as a lawyer”, Douglas surmised.
“And so Lindsay Grant is distracted. He doesn’t have time to warn us or to put any serious plan in place as to how the taxi operators, the restaurant owners, the employees in the restaurants, the employees of our hotels will be impacted by these developments and what alternative the government would have for them if we were to be seriously hit by the COVID-19 virus,” Dr. Douglas said.
This is why the Harris administration must go, the political leader explained, noting that the general elections are now past due since February 16, 2020. “It is time for them [Team Unity] to go. They are unfit and incapable of properly governing our country,” he concluded.