“The constituencies as they exist today are incredibly lopsided. This means that those who are seeking elected office for vastly unequal constituencies in which to canvass and then, after they have been actually elected, they end up with vastly unequal constituencies that they must serve. This is not good for either the candidates before the elections nor for the representatives, once the elections are over.”
Dr. Douglas was at the time delivering his opening statement at his weekly programme ‘Ask the PM’ on Tuesday (12th August 2014), in which he addressed the issue of boundary changes.
“Where do things stand with our Federation to electoral boundaries? In a nutshell, this is where things really stand. Democracies, they all depend on elections and elections need to be held with dependable regularity. When elections are held they must be fair and free from fear. Our Constitution says that elections must be held by 2015…and they will be.”
He stated that in an effort to ensure elections are fair and in order to ensure that after elections all elected candidates would have responsibilities that are as fairly distributed as possible, his government has been attempting to make all of the Federation’s constituencies as close to equal as possible.
“We have been doing this not only because fairness demands it, but because the Constitution does as well. And we have done our work as the Constitution demands with the full involvement of the Opposition every step of the way,” he said.
The Prime Minister made reference to the inequality of voters in two constituencies in Nevis, a similar amount in St. Kitts and stressed that they should be rectified as demanded by the Constitution.
“Imagine, Nevis 10 has just over 2000 voters but Nevis Nine has over 5000 voters. How can this be good for either the candidates or representatives, or the people of Nevis? These numbers should be reflective of the number of persons who are living within the constituency. St. Kitts Five has about 2500 voters but St. Kitts Eight has more than 6000 voters. Does anyone really think that this is right? I don’t think so, because the numbers in a constituency should be reflective of the number of persons living within the constituency, and we believe that they should be as equal as possible. Clearly, these inequalities need to be fixed.
“The Constitution demands it, international elections observers have urged it, and it will be remembered that we attempted to fix this before the 2010 Election but the Opposition took the matter to court to stop us from doing so.”
Dr. Douglas said his government, together with the Opposition, began working to fix the boundaries since in 2012 when the Constituency Boundaries Commission was establish
“Long before our constitutionally-mandated 2515 Elections, we began working in earnest to do whatever would be required to fix the Federation’s boundaries. And we did this, as I said, in cooperation with the Opposition as required by the Constitution. As a matter of fact, in order to ensure that this process would go smoothly for the good of the entire Federation, we began working with the Opposition not this year, not last year, but well in advance of the constitutionally-mandated 2015 deadline for elections.
“We began our work of this important undertaking way back in 2012. There was never any disagreement during the process, there were no boycotts by the Opposition and there were no complaints about the process. Opposition and Government representatives on the Commission alike, they all agreed that these boundaries had to be changed and they had to be changed now.”
He pointed out that four of the five-member Commission had signed the Report that proposed the manner in which the boundaries should be changed, but the Opposition used the changes as a divisive political issue and took the government to court.
“Indeed, four of the five members of the Boundaries Commission, as everyone knows, signed the Report. Eighty percent support on any measure is an outstanding measure of legitimacy anywhere in the world, and four out of five of any measure anywhere is not only a compelling majority, but an overwhelming majority as well. Especially in the case of the Boundaries Commission Report which the Premier of Nevis himself as one of the highly-senior Opposition representatives on the Commission, he signed.
“To answer the public’s question then, after all of that hard work and after an 80 percent vote, the Opposition has since decided to throw a monkey wrench into the process. They have decided that despite the requirements of the Constitution, despite the urging of the international observers, despite the four out of five sign-off of the Report, despite the need of the Kittitians and Nevisians to have equal representation, it might be good for them to use boundary changes as a divisive political issue. And so that is what they have decided to do.”
The Prime Minister insinuated that the Opposition has been trying for years to find faults in his leadership and governance, but his administration is progressively moving on.
“The government has brought crime down, so they don’t have that as an issue anymore…The IMF, that super-strict highly demanding international judge of economies everywhere, has given us high marks time and time again. So they cannot attack us on the economy. Civil servants are receiving their cheques and they are receiving salary increases; no traction there either because the increments have been returned.”
He also spoke to the government’s distribution of land to the people and the continuing housing programme, Habitat 13, among other developments.