By NAN Contributor
News Americas, BASSETTERE, St. Kitts, Weds. 9th, 2015: Former Minister of Tourism and International Transport and retired legislator under the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Government, Richard “Ricky” Skerritt, has filed a legal claim against The St. Kitts & Nevis Minister of Finance, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris and Attorney General Vincent Byron, Jr., for withholding payments of his outstanding gratuity and pension, sources tell News Americas.
The lawsuit comes some ten months after Harris took over leadership of the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis as Prime Minister, where he is also responsible for the Federal Treasury as Minister of Finance.
According to an affidavit by Skerritt filed with the High Court Of Saint Christopher and Nevis, he is now owed in excess of EC$200,000 by the current Government for his gratuity and pension after more than ten years of service to the people of St. Kitts & Nevis.
In the affidavit, the former Tourism Minister and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said he has tried since May to amicably secure his entitlements, to no avail.
Skerritt, 59, in the affidavit, says the continued refusal by the Ministry of Finance to carry out their obligations to him is a clear breach of his fundamental rights and smacks of “political victimization and discrimination.”
The lawsuit notes that Ambassador Sam Condor, who also was a legislator in the National Assembly up until February, 2015, was promptly paid his benefits pursuant to section 8 of the Legislators’ Pensions Act. “Further, it is a publicly known fact that Mr. Condor is currently being paid a monthly pension pursuant to sections 5 and 6 of the Legislators’ Pensions Act,” Skerritt states in the affidavit.
After exiting Parliament, Condor was appointed as an Ambassador by the current Government. He is also deputy political leader of the same party in which Dr. Harris is the political leader. The Peoples’ Labour Party PLP is one of the three political parties that form the current coalition “Team Unity Government” of St. Kitts & Nevis.
The gratuity portion of the outstanding payments to Skerritt had reached implementation stage in July, 2015 when the Government Treasury issued the appropriate check to the former legislator and Tourism Minister, drawn on the SKNA National Bank.
But Skerritt said after he deposited the check in his CIBC First Caribbean Bank account, the Government-owned National Bank subsequently refused to honor it.
The former Minister said he was told that the National Bank’s failure to honor their own check was a result of instructions from the Ministry of Finance, which is headed by Prime Minister Dr. Harris.
Skerritt, a Rhodes scholar who served two consecutive terms in the National Assembly of St. Kitts/Nevis, said in the lawsuit that various engagements over the past several months with some top government officials, including two senior members of Harris’ Cabinet, have yielded no results or explanation and his letters to the Ministry of Finance have not even been acknowledged.
As such, according to the affidavit, he feels at an economic disadvantage and that his only recourse now is through the High Court.
“Our client continues to be deprived of his constitutionally due entitlements without explanation, good reason, or lawful basis,” said St. Kitts Attorney Angelina Sookoo, of the Law Firm of Sylvester Anthony in an earlier claim letter to Harris, while noting that the continued refusal to issue Skerritt monies owed to him is in contravention of the Constitution and Laws of St. Kitts & Nevis.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, December 7th 2015, and lists Minister of Finance Harris, as the first defendant and Vincent Byron, Jr., Attorney General, as the second defendant.