Basseterre, St. Kitts (October 4, 2019) — Prime Minister and Minister of People Empowerment, Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, has reiterated that his Team Unity Administration takes the approach that the differently abled are first and foremost people with a need for validation just like everyone else.
Addressing the Nation on Thursday October 3 at his monthly press conference held in the parliamentary lounge at the Government Headquarters in Basseterre, Prime Minister Harris noted that many of the differently abled persons are and have been, for many decades, productive and upstanding citizens who have given their all to the country, but who are now affected by disabilities such as visual, hearing or mobility impairments.
That the Team Unity Administration is not paying lip service to members of the differently abled community, the Honourable Prime Minister announced that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.
“It was a very proud moment on Friday, September 27th, when the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, at long last, acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations Headquarters in New York,” reported the Prime Minister. “I was pleased to be a part of that historic moment as the signatory on behalf of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
According to the Prime Minister, Friday 27th September’s signing delivered on his Team Unity Administration’s promise to Lance Corporal Joseph Bergan, President of the St. Kitts-Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities (SKNAPD) and the members of the differently abled community that the administration would get it done for them.
“This is something in the very first meeting Mr Bergan pointed out needed to be done, and I am happy today to report that we have done it, and we have delivered on this promise made,” said Prime Minister Harris as he thanked officials of the association who were at the press conference.
Present were President Mr Joseph Bergan; the immediate past President Mr Anthony Mills; President of the St. Kitts Society for the Blind Mr Rockliffe Bowen; former senior civil servant – now community activist and PRO of the SKNAPD Mrs Sylvine Henry; and an assistant teacher with the SKNAPD Ms Desiree Matthew.
“Members of our distinguished elderly community who have developed disabilities are industrious citizens like retired senior civil servant and social activist, Mrs Sylvine Henry; Mr Earle Clarke; and the list goes on and we have several others who are here today,” observed Dr Harris. “They and others like them spent their peak creative years contributing to the economic, cultural and social development of St. Kitts and Nevis, and so it is only right and fair that their interests be prioritised at a stage in their lives when they need the benevolence and support of their country the most.”
Advising that his Team Unity Administration has been mainstreaming care and consideration for the differently abled in the society, the Honourable Prime Minister listed a number of areas where this is reflected including the upgrade and rehabilitation of the Island Main Road in St. Kitts where wheelchair-accessible sidewalks have been incorporated into the road upgrade plan.
Sidewalks with wheelchair access have also been included in the plan to enhance the South Frigate Bay Area, specifically in the vicinity of popular The Strip, noted Dr Harris who also added that the East Line Bus Terminal, and the refurbished Basseterre Ferry Terminal, which opened last year, both have wheelchair ramps, as does the new Inland Revenue Department at the John Gumbs Building on the Bay Road.
“We will soon be operating a lift right here at Government Headquarters,” observed Dr Harris. “This has been done in an attempt to make doing business in Government Headquarters much easier for disabled and elderly people. Our new Government Printery will also be wheelchair accessible when completed and it too will have an elevator.”
At the end of the press conference, Prime Minister Harris along with his Cabinet colleagues who had attended the press conference, the Hon Vance Amory, the Hon Ian Patches Liburd, and the Hon Wendy Phipps posed for a group picture with officials of the St. Kitts-Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities (SKNAPD).
Two of the officials who are wheelchair-bound, President Mr Joseph Bergan and immediate past President Mr Anthony Mills, surprised the Prime Minister when they informed him that to get to the Parliamentary Lounge they used the new lift (elevator) at the Government Headquarters – sending the message: It is not officially commissioned, but it is in place and it is working.