ST. KITTS PM STEADIES NATION

Caribbean RoundUp
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Timothy Harris.
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II/File

Prime Minister Timothy Harris Tuesday moved to avoid a paralysis of state functions in the St. Kitts and Nevis federation by reminding government workers to continue normal duties in the wake of last week’s dismissal of six cabinet ministers, the dissolution of parliament, preparations for fresh general elections and amid a simmering row with his former political stablemates.

Harris’ unity government last week collapsed in the wake of a failed internal coup attempt to remove him as head of government by a band of six rebel ministers, most of whom the prime minister had accused of abdicating their responsibilities to the nation in a bid to unseat him.

The ministers had deemed him a poor team player and communicator and had signed that they had grown tired of his dictatorial style and his dismissive approach to their ideas.

He followed up their dismissals by asking the governor to immediately dissolve parliament but Harris has to date not named a date for fresh general elections as the constitution mandates. His damaged administration has until early August to face the electorate. He has promised to do so in the coming weeks.

“They started to get overly ambitious. It had become overbearing,” the PM said of his former colleagues, some of whom he accused of not attending cabinet and other key state meetings for more than three months, all in the name of weakening and undermining his government. “I told the governor-general that they were out of order and are attempting to disgrace our country and we will not allow it. I explained all the circumstances. I prayed about it and I told the governor I will remove all of them. You cannot refuse to do your work and still every month go to the treasury for a big fat check.”

Aware that the political impasse could hurt national morale and lead to work place apathy, Harris called a meeting of permanent secretaries and other top officials to remind them that there should be business as usual until general elections are held. Harris also presented his reshuffled cabinet with replacement ministers to the secretaries as he noted the importance of continuity in the civil service and other areas.

“We have relied upon and we want to continue to rely upon a skilled, motivated and efficient civil service with a professional ethos. That is critically important. I expect that the ministers will have the fullest cooperation and support of every permanent secretary in general, and those who are directed to report to them by way of the constitutional mandate and the reorganization of the cabinet,” Harris said.

The now collapsed unity government had won nine of 11 federation seats, up from seven in 2015. How it will fare in the coming weeks is left to be seen even as Harris has predicted that lawmakers like former deputy Harris will lose their seats. The rebel group said they had taken a principled position to protest the way the country was being run and are not upset at leaving the cabinet.

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