Dr. Douglas tells packed Town Hall meeting that voters must ensure they are not disenfranchised
By: Contributing Editor
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS February 23rd 2017 – Two years after the last general election the newly appointed three-man St. Kitts and Nevis Electoral Boundaries Commission has not had a meeting,
National Political Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) and Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L, Douglas expressed concerns over several breaches of the constitution including the six month closure of the Electoral Office in St. Kitts and Nevis by the Attorney General, Sen. the Hon. Vincent Byron, plans to prevent persons who live overseas from voting, and the new Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Elvin Bailey, taking directions and reporting directly to the Attorney General, instead of the Commission headed by a former PAM candidate, Mr. Nassibou Butler and the removal of hundreds of names from the electoral register.
Speaking on the topic “Protecting the Electoral Franchise” at a Town Hall Meetring organised by his SKNLP, Dr. Douglas told a packed St. Peter’s Community Center and listeners to the forum to protect their right to vote by ensuring that their names are included in the Register of Voters prepared in December 2016 and posted in February 2017.
“You have that right to go and see if your name is there as it protects yourself and your right to vote. You have to ensure that your name has not been removed and you are not disenfranchised and would not be able to vote and that can spell trouble here in St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Dr. Douglas, who reiterated the right of each individual to protect his or her right to vote.
He said the right to vote has been won as a result of enormous struggle, loss of lives and bloodshed.
“When we hear that the names of 100 persons have been removed in Constituency #4 and over 90 names from Constituency 5, when persons did not go through the normal legal procedures to have their names removed, then that is creating all kinds of confusion in this country and it will rise up people to ensure that they protect their rights to vote in this country,” said Dr. Douglas, who pointed out that it is a signal that voters cannot depend on the system to ensure their right to vote.
He said a statement by the Attorney General that the government intends to scrap the present Register of Voters and start an enumeration exercise will result in the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
“If you are not present in your home, if you are at work, or your daughter or son has gone overseas to study, it means that his or her name will be removed. We will not accept those things sitting down,” said Dr. Douglas, who added that if the new enumeration exercise is conducted in the way the Attorney General conducted the affairs of the Electoral Office by shutting it down for several months claiming that he is doing a investigation and two years after there the investigation report has been completed.
“Let them know that we will not sit down and accept it in our county,” said Dr. Douglas, to the tumultuous applause of the large crowd.
“We know what their trick is. They want to remove the names of overseas voters from the Register of Voters. It means that persons who live overseas will not be registered as they will not be present when the enumerators come to their homes. We will not accept it just so. Persons on the Register of Voters who are alive have a duty to ensure they remain on the Voters’ Register,” said Dr. Douglas.
“We have been hearing and reading statements from the Supervisor of Elections and the Commission is not aware of what is happening. Why is there no meeting called by the Commission. Why is the Supervisor who should be reporting to the Commission? It means that the Commission is not protecting the right to vote of the electorate,” said Dr. Douglas, adding: “That is why we have to look elsewhere to protect our right to vote.”
He pointed out that the Attorney general Byron, who is the Minister responsible for the electoral system, is receiving reports from the Supervisor of Elections, instead of the Supervisor of Elections reporting the Electoral Commission
“Can we therefore look to the Attorney General, the Hon. Vincent Byron to protect our right to vote? asked Dr. Douglas, to which the large crowd shouted “No. No No.”
He said three important constitutional requirements in projecting our right to vote seem not to be functioning according to the dictates of the constitution, asking “what else can we look towards to get our protection in this country for our right to vote.”
He referred to a body of laws – The National Elections Act and the National Elections Regulations – passed by the National Assembly that speak to functioning of the electoral system and how voting at an election can be conducted.
He said Registration Officers play a key role in assisting in the protection of a person’s right to vote, “but if the Supervisor of Elections who is supposed to supervise the registration officers and supervise the conduct of the elections when they are galled, if his own function has come into question and disrepute, how can we really depend on the registration officers to protect our right to vote.”
Dr. Douglas also outlined the rights, obligations and mandate of both elected representatives and candidates of the SKNLP to ensure that each resident who is qualified to vote in the constituency that he or she is managing gets registered to vote.
“We cannot depend on those who are named in the constitution and also named in the electoral laws to protect our right to vote,” said Dr. Douglas, a seven-term parliamentarian and one of two longest serving elected representatives in the lawmaking body.