For some, it will continue to be a troubling and vexatious battle until some common ground is found between all political parties and stakeholders, to accept the fact that the electoral system of the country is in many areas, flawed and run contrary to ordinary democratic principles of free and fair elections. The last island election in Nevis and the 2010 Federal Poll in St. Kitts and Nevis, are glaring examples of just how corrupt the system has become.
In particular, politicians and residents have been crying out for a better system that for instance would allow only those living and registered in a particular constituency, to be considered the only legitimate voters for that district.
However, the politicians have been very selective in when to call for this accommodation or requirement, based on their political fortunes at the time.
Amongst those who have recently spoken out on the subject, is the Premier of Nevis, Joseph Parry, who this week said he is pleading to all citizens who are registered where they do not live, to go to the Electoral Office, and change their status and register where they do live.
Reflecting on the window of opportunity afforded electors by the electoral laws, to make adjustments to their registration, which elapsed on 10th February, Parry questioned the logic behind the opposition party, the Concerned Citizens Movement’s (CCM) objection to persons on the voters’ list in 2012, yet he claimed they took the incumbent Nevis Reformation Party to Court, for having objected to, and succeeded in removing certain names from the voters’ list, prior to the local 11th July, 2011 local elections.
While on his weekly ‘In Touch With the Premier’ programme, on Tuesday, 21st February Premier Parry said, “The electoral process is something that we need to respect because it is law,”
He also reported that in February (2012) alone, a total of 589 names have been objected to, out of which 472 have been objected to by the Concerned Citizens Movement.
He told his listeners that both political parties on Nevis, his Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) and the opposition CCM, have made several objections this year, and it will be up to the tribunal to determine whether those names will come off the voters’ list or not.
“Let us stand up and listen to the tribunal and let people register where they live,” he advised.
According to Premier Parry, objections have taken place in three parishes: St. John’s, St. James’ and St. Paul’s.
Giving a breakdown, he said that in St. John’s the NRP has objected to 100 names, while the CCM has objected to 200 names; and in St. Paul’s the NRP has objected to one name only, while the CCM has objected to another 200 names.
In St. James’, the Premier reported that the NRP has objected to 16 names while the CCM has objected to 77. However, a caller to the programme informed the Premier that the CCM had actually objected to 110 names in the St. James’s Parish.
The Premier offered sound advice when he said: “You know where you live; you know where you are registered, go and remove your name if you can, otherwise your name will have to be thrown off and then you can’t re-register because the transfer period, the window of transfer that should have taken place is gone”.
“But if you know that you live in a particular place, go to the electoral office and say, ‘they object to me, I do not live where I am registered, I want to register where I live’, and let us get rid of this confusion,” the Premier offered.
Looking back at objections before last year’s elections, and the resultant Petition case brought by CCM’s St. John’s candidate Mark Brantley, Premier Parry observed that it was the CCM party that started to object and had objected to a total of 386 persons while the NRP objected to 276 names, in the three parishes of St. Paul’s, St. John’s and St. James’.
“And then having done all this, they (CCM) go outside there and start to call all kind of names and all kind of thieves and who took off names off list and who put names on list,” lamented the Premier. “We had no access to the list, and we did not want to have any access to the list. We objected properly.”
Several persons brought by the CCM in the recent Petition case submitted sworn affidavits, and gave testimony in open court confirming that they were registered in places where they do not live, some in excess of 20 years.
According to Premier Parry, the Chamber of Commerce had invited a prominent lawyer from St. Kitts who advised that if a voter had been reconfirmed where he or she did not live and that they were objected to; their names would come off the list. Likewise the Nevis Christian Council invited the Supervisor of Elections who gave the same information.
“I believe if they understood, it was their business to go out and tell the public and to encourage the public to register where they live,” said the Premier. He added that some members of the clergy “have gone in the churches and have said all kinds of negative things, although they knew that if you were registered in the wrong place and you were objected to, that you would have a problem.”
Reflecting on the tenure of a previous NRP Administration, Parry said “Nevis used to have clean elections up to 1992, but this changed with the CCM going into government. He stated that this continues even when they are in Opposition, where they do as they like, taking advantage of the NRP.
“Well, the advantage is over,” warned Premier Parry. “Let us have fair elections on the island of Nevis. People must register where they live and those are my words as far as that is concerned.”