United Progressive Party Political Leader Harold Lovell is proposing new overseas constituencies for persons in the diaspora to participate in both national elections and the legislative life of the country.
According to Lovell, regarding only those who live in the four corners of the state as belongers is no longer a viable interpretation of “nation”.
He acknowledges that there is an active diaspora comprising thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans who make their contribution to the state annually but also believes a new relationship should be established.
“We should forge a new relationship with them; make them a part of the juridical process and constitutional fabric of the nation,” he says.
He is suggesting that, by amending the Constitution, a number of overseas constituencies can be added to the current 17 on island, and that persons vote where they live for representatives who are also resident abroad.
In a paper he prepared, Lovell says, “To achieve this will call for a new thought process and constitutional changes will be required. We will need to remove the clause in the Constitution that prevents persons with dual citizenship from being members of Parliament.
“This will significantly widen the pool of persons who may wish to serve as Parliamentarians and the nation will be better off for it,” he writes.
The UPP leader outlines that to bring about these changes, no referendum will be needed and the Constitution may be amended by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives voting in favour.
“In these new overseas constituencies, every citizen of Antigua and Barbuda living in North America or Europe would be entitled to be registered and to vote. To make this work we could utilize our embassies, high commissions and consular offices in Toronto, NewYork, Washington , Miami and London, using modern technology where necessary.
“… The elected representatives would be the authentic voices of the diaspora [and] the annual national budget would include a line item to allow Overseas MPs to attend sittings of Parliament,” Lovell concludes.
According to Lovell, he met with citizens in New York to share his proposal and says he is convinced that the diaspora wants to feel a part of, and have a say in, the running of the country.