Prime Minister – Dr. Denzil Douglas
Photo By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
November 08, 2009 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says legislation which makes provision for candidates seeking election to the National Assembly to declare on oath or affirmation that they are duly qualified in accordance with the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis will ensure that the exercise is conducted in “a most uncontroversial manner.”
“We are aware of what has happened in Jamaica in the last election, in which the seats of three Members of Parliament were declared vacant by the court after the election because the winners held dual citizenship in contravention of the Constitution of Jamaica,’ Prime Minister Douglas told the lawmaking body and the country during debate on the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2009.
Section 28 of the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution given the twin-island Federation on gaining independence under the Kennedy Simmonds’ People’s Action Movement Administration on September 19th 1983 forbids persons who “˜by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state’ from becoming members of the National Assembly.
“We thought that the best thing was to ensure that we do not find ourselves enmeshed in a similar situation following the next general elections in St. Kitts and Nevis. We have tried to put in place the enabling legislation in the spirit of the Constitution and avoid this difficulty,” said Dr. Douglas in winding up the debate on the legislation.
“We cannot agree with members who have taken the view that we are imposing in a very unnecessary way, restrictions on persons to qualify to become elected or nominated to positions in our National Assembly. The basis of this law, firstly, is already rooted in the parent legislation Chapter 162,” said Prime Minister Douglas, whose Labour Party Administration has been carrying out reforms to the electoral system following widespread national consultations that begun in August 2006.
“Mr. Speaker we need to progress. I believe that it has been solidly proven that there is good basis in law for ensuring that there are basic features to be put in place in the process of election and in the preparation for elections,’ said Dr. Douglas.
“The Constitution is clear. It speaks to the dissolution of the House. It speaks to the issuance of writs. It speaks to Nomination Day and then, the Constitution allows for the establishment of laws to outline the procedures that should be followed on Nomination Day and on Election Day,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He castigated the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Hon. Mark Brantley of the Concerned Citizens (CCM) on the measure which calls for candidates being nominated to declare by oath or affirmation that they are duly qualified to be elected.
Prime Minister Douglas with the permission of the Speaker quoted from paragraph 15 of a Trinidad and Tobago judgement in a similar case in which the Chief Justice de La Bastide, agreed with Justice Nelson that “˜it therefore follows that in order to be qualified for election, a candidate must have the qualification described by the Constitution when he or she is nominated and a candidate who is not qualified on Nomination Day to be elected, could not be validly elected to parliament.
“I think it is clear that what we are doing here is not ultra vires in any way. Because we are conscious of the confusion that has been caused in the recent general elections in Jamaica, we want to ensure there is not a similar situation here in St. Kitts and Nevis in which candidates with allegiance to a foreign power or other disqualification are challenged after an election,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said the focus must be on the objectivity of the law. “There must be honesty on Nomination Day. The Constitution which came into being in 1983 under the then PAM Administration, requires absolute allegiance to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
In accordance with the 1983 Constitution, candidates will also be required to declare that he or she is not a minister of religion, is not an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law; is not a person certified to be insane or otherwise adjudged to be of unsound mind under any law, is not under a sentence of death imposed by a court of law in any part of the Commonwealth nor is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) exceeding twelve months imposed by such a court or substituted by a competent authority for some other sentence of imprisonment the execution of which has been suspended.
On Nomination Day the candidate will also declare he or she is not disqualified for membership of the National Assembly by any law of the National Assembly by reason of holding or acting in any office the functions of which involve any responsibility for or in connection with the conduct of any election of Representatives or members of the Nevis Island Assembly, or any responsibility for the compilation of any register of voters for the purpose of electing Representatives or members of the Nevis Island Assembly.