Yesterday in the Prime Minister’s Press Conference a member of the media said that I gave an opinion on the judgment of the High Court of England in what has become known as the Batman Case involving Peter Virdee and his business colleague. I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have given no formal opinion to anyone on this case. I gave an interview to WinnFm two weeks ago in which I said that the Prime Minister is entitled to the presumption of innocence. I then gave my views on the effect of the judgment on the country and on what ought to be done to limit the fallout.
The Prime Minister has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and no offence has been charged or proven against him. However, the Batman case continues to hover over and to worry many across our fair land. The case is still at a very preliminary stage. What is clear is that Virdee and his partner are undesirable characters and we do not need them here. Let’s hope there will be nothing from the remainder of the case to tarnish the good name of our country.
Against this background and in keeping with his assurances that he has maintained at all times the highest standards of integrity Prime Minister Harris should readily say what if any connection the accused had with St. Kitts and Nevis and whether they had taken any action locally or sought any permissions from his Government to do business here. And the Prime Minister needs to put to rest whether any of the accused has or had citizenship or diplomatic status here. His continued failure to address these matters will inevitably fuel the speculation and concern which are not good for the country.
Prime Minister Harris came to power when the reputation of the country was in tatters. He heads a Government which was elected to office largely on their promise to restore the image of the country, to change the political culture and to introduce accountable and transparent governance. A list of the promised legislation and other action can be found in the Team Unity Manifesto of 2015. They include Term limits for the Prime Minister, Freedom of Information, Integrity in Public Life and anti-corruption laws, Campaign Finance reform, Civil Service reform, equal access to state owned media to all Political Parties. Three years later all we have from that list is a pending Freedom of Information Act and we were told in Parliament that some countries have taken as many as five years to bring that type of legislation fully into effect. I take that to mean that we should not hold our breath.
It is high time that all the legislation promised by Team Unity be enacted and brought quickly, fully and effectively into operation. It is high time that, like everyone else engaged in business, the professions or employment of any kind, politicians be legally bound by a clear set of rules. St. Kitts and Nevis needs a Code of Conduct requiring all politicians (in Government and in Opposition) to keep high ethical standards in their political and private lives, to avoid bias and favoritism, to avoid nepotism and conflicts of interest, to avoid undue influence, to disclose gifts and contributions received generally and for election campaigns, to make annual declarations of their assets, liabilities, income and other finances and to act in a manner which preserves and enhances the trust and confidence of the people who elect them. And there should be effective sanctions for breach of the Code of Conduct.
Our country deserves that its established standards of governance match the economic growth and other progress being made. Our democracy demands likewise.