(SKNIS)—St. Kitts and Nevis’ Leader of the Opposition, Member for St. Christopher 6, and Former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, has written to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Jose Lloyd, to have urgently established the Office of the Leader of the Opposition to the tune of over EC$300,000 per year, an office, that while he was prime minister and minister of finance, he only budgeted EC$45,000 per year for, according to Attorney General Honourable Vincent Byron Jr.
In his letter dated September 15, 2015, Dr. Douglas wrote: “Further to our previous conversations and those with Permanent Secretary Stanley Knight and Attorney General, the Honourable Vincent Byron, I write as advised requesting the following to establish finally the Public Office of the Leader of the Opposition to give greater effect to the appointment made since the 02nd March, 2015. One, the provision of office space located on the top floor of the building situated at the corner of Central and New Streets and which was the office space occupied by the Solid Waste Management Corporation…please be informed that I’m ready to occupy the office as offered effective 01st October, 2015.”
Speaking at the last Sitting of the National Assembly on March 23, the Attorney General revealed that Dr. Douglas was requesting the renting of office space for EC$10,000 per month, furniture and relevant office equipment, an office manager/personal assistant, a communications officer, a clerk, an office attendant, messenger and cleaner.
“The Leader of the Opposition whilst fully aware Mr. Deputy Speaker that the Estimates of the Government provided under his watch—he requested it—45,000 dollars per year to run an office of the Leader of the Opposition, is (now) requesting of this Government in excess of 300,000 a year to run an office of the of the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.
Attorney General Byron said that the Parliament recognizes that there is an Office of the Leader of the Opposition that has been established under the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis but that he questions the cost at which the Leader of the Opposition is requesting for the establishment of the office.
“Deputy Speaker, the Parliament recognizes that there is an Office of the Leader of the Opposition. It is one that has been established under our Constitution and has been in existence for a long time, and every year in terms of providing the estimates to be expended by the Parliament by the Government, these estimates are brought to Parliament and passed,” said the Attorney General, while highlighting that in 2014 the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Douglas, budgeted EC$33,000 for the year and in 2015, EC$45,000 per annum.
Attorney General Byron said that the Team Unity Administration upped the 2015 figure for the Office of Leader of the Opposition from EC$45,000 to EC$70,000 in the 2016 Budget.
“The Team Unity Administration last year in coming this Parliament determined that that sum was inadequate and we determined that we would increase the amount which the then prime minister, now leader of the opposition, had budgeted, to be increased by fifty (50) percent. We increased the amount allocated for the Leader of the Opposition for the year 2016 by fifty (50) percent so that the monies budgeted for the Office of Leader of the Opposition stands in the amount for the year at 70,000 dollars a year, just under 6,000 a month,” he said.
The Attorney General made it clear that the Leader of the Opposition will be provided for with EC$70,000 as budgeted for in the 2016 Estimates.
“I want to put on record Mr. Deputy Speaker that the Government is ready, willing and able urgently to establish an Office of the Leader of the Opposition to provide support to the tune of 70,000 dollars as budgeted in the estimates and that can be provided to the Member for Number 6 as Leader of the Opposition at any time that he wants to access those funds and he can do so through the Clerk and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs,” he said. “Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he can go beyond if he wants to and add whatever difference…so, if he wants all these, he can have all these. We can provide 70,000 dollars of that amount.”
“I just want to put on the record Mr. Deputy Speaker that I would want to ensure that the Member for Number 6, the Leader of the Opposition, that we fully support the establishment of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition,” the Attorney General added.
Also, the Honourable Byron emphasized that when the Member for Nevis 9, the Honourable Mark Brantley, served as Leader of the Opposition from the year 2007 to 2015, that he reported that he has had “to meet visiting dignitaries in the lobby of the Marriott or they had to come to Nevis to meet with him in his own law chambers.”
“He (Dr. Douglas) was the Leader of the Opposition and the then Prime Minister who had full responsibility for establishing an Office of the Leader of the Opposition and was fully aware of that. That is the extent of what had happened. It is important to say this in this honourable chamber,” the Attorney General said.