Last week, a caller to WINN FM popular ‘Voices’ talk show was critical of students from Nigeria, a Commonwealth country, as is St. Kitts and Nevis, voting in the country’s upcoming elections. The caller went on to make what amounts to death threats against the students.
The station’s host of the show apologized immediately after the incident, having been distracted, it would seem, during the caller’s time on live radio. The station’s management has apologized also, and has promised to have tighter controls over live talk shows, and has indicated that disciplinary action has been taken against the staff member.
Political parties have chimed in on the incident, with the chairperson of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, Marcella Liburd, condemning the call for violence against Nigerian students who vote in the upcoming elections.
Speaking on Freedom FM radio, Liburd called on all politicians to condemn political violence, and expressed alarm at the level of verbal attacks on the students, which she suggests may be opposition instigated.
“We have never had this before, and it is unfortunate that we are hearing so many threats, and so many words of violence and incitement coming from the opposition,” said Liburd.
She said that Nigerian students, as citizens of a Commonwealth country, have the right to vote in the nation’s federal elections.
“They have a right under the Constitution to register to vote, if they so desire, as a Commonwealth citizen. That right is given to them under the Constitution, and they have the right to exercise it. I want to say to them, and any other Commonwealth citizen, if you choose to exercise that right, do so without fear. Don’t let threats stop you from exercising your right,” Liburd stated.
The People’s Action Movement (PAM) has long taken the position that while Nigerian students are Commonwealth citizens, they do not have the right to vote based upon their immigration status, and the party has taken the matter to Court for an interpretation of the relevant issues. The party’s objections to the students were stirred after it became know that the students were being registered to vote.
PAM’s deputy leader Jonel Powell has clarified the nature of the objection to Nigerian students being registered to vote.
“The law sets out four categories of residents. The students do not fall within any one of these categories of residency. They actually fall under the second schedule of the Act, and are listed as ‘permitted entrance’ for the purpose of study in St. Kitts and Nevis. That is the distinction we’re making between the two,” said Powell, who also condemned the threats made against the students on live radio.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, speaking on his weekly radio program, ‘Ask the Prime Minister’, also criticized the incident, calling it “shocking” and “a deliberate act that was allowed”, and queried why Nigerians were being singled out from among Commonwealth citizens living in the Federation.
And a statement from Glenroy Blanchette, leader of the National Integrity Party, called the incident “irresponsible”, and reminded citizens that students from Nigeria are not only Commonwealth citizens, but also are our “African brothers and sisters.”