The opposition has however always questioned the means by which that victory was secured and they have advanced the explanation that her triumph was achieved through bribery, intimidation and questionable electoral practices. At first the main challenge to the opposition was the growing pool of Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic.
Today, the new challenge for the People’s Action Movement and its candidate Jonel Powell is said by the party to be foreign students from Nigeria attending various medical universities here in St. Kitts.
Since being picked in 2012 as his party’s candidate for Central Basseterre, Powell has been on a crusade to identify and object to a growing number of such students who have been registering for the next poll. Given their status here as students, Powell and his party have argued that the Nigerians do not qualify. He and his colleagues have read out some of the names of the students but now they are going one step further and have also released the photos of selected students.
Powell has declared that “Illegally registered Foreign Students will not be allowed to vote in Central Basseterre!” . This declaration came as Powell released a number of photos of foreign students who have all registered to vote in the upcoming elections.
According an opposition release, Powell has also sought the intervention of the court to have the names of these students removed as according to the law these students do not qualify. He said that by virtue of their student visa, they are not considered to be residents under the Immigration Act. The Immigration Act provides for 4 classes of residents:
(a) permanent residents; (b) annual residents; (c) temporary residents; (d) work permit holder residents. The students fall under the category of Permitted Entrants under the Act. More specifically, under Paragraph 2 of Part I of the Second Schedule to the Immigration Act as:
“Persons entering Saint Christopher and Nevis to attend as students at (a) an educational or training institution approved by the Minister for the purposes of this Act; or (b) a university or college authorised by law to confer degrees or to offer training in holy orders.”
In a statement issued by Powell he argued:
“When our Kittitian and Nevisian students go off to study at the University of the West Indies or institutions on North America and Europe, we are not eligible to register to vote for the same reasons. We are permitted to stay in those countries subject to student visas or their equivalent for the purpose of study and are not considered to be resident. For these same principles, we cannot and do not consider locals studying abroad as a part of the phenomenon that is overseas voters.”
It is further submitted by him that the result of this is the Electoral Office has incorrectly and illegally been allowing these non-residents and permitted entrants to be registered to vote under the guise that they are Commonwealth Citizens.
He concluded by stating, “To add insult to injury many of these students are either not aware that they have been registered to vote, or are coerced to register upon being granted their student visas. Even if the relevant authorities were misguided as to the law as it relates to these Commonwealth Citizens, are we to believe that they were also misguided as to the 12 month residency requirement?”