PAM Accused Of Blocking Electoral Reform

PAM Leader - Mr. Lindsay Grant

PAM Leader – Mr. Lindsay Grant

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
December 16, 2009 (CUOPM)

The opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) has been accused of placing obstacles to electoral reform in order to create a general air of tumult and mayhem, and in order to once again use maneuvers in the courts, to distract from their failures at the ballot box.

So says St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas.

In a nationwide radio and television broadcast, carried on several radio stations on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Douglas recalled that in preparation for national elections in 2004, and in keeping with the highest standards of openness and transparency, his St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Government invited the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth, and CARICOM to send observers to witness, to monitor, and to assess the circumstances under which the elections were being held, and the processes via which the people of St. Kitts and Nevis were selecting those they wished to govern the Federation for the then-upcoming term.

He said that CARICOM, Commonwealth, and the Organization of American states all concluded that the 2004 elections had been free and fair, and free from fear.

“Nonetheless, perhaps in an attempt to introduce an air of tumult and mayhem, before the new Labour Government could even get the chance to focus on the national programs and priorities that we had identified as key to moving the country forward, we were taken to Court by the People’s Action Movement – PAM.  The PAM claimed that there had been wrongdoing in the conduct of the 2004 elections ““ despite the findings of three independent and credible election observer missions’ to the contrary,” said Dr. Douglas.

He told the nation that it is the right of any organization or any individual to take any other person or organization to court.

“However, these charges of wrong-doing, delivered with such bravado by the PAM, turned out to be utterly baseless.  As a result, every single one of the PAM’s charges against the Labour Party and the Labour candidates elected by the people of this country was struck down by the Court.  As a result, the Members of Parliament whom PAM failed to defeat at the ballot box, and whom they therefore attempted to defeat via the Courts, were able to continue, uninterrupted, with the work that their respective constituencies had elected them to do,” said Dr. Douglas.

He pointed out that at the beginning of his Government’s current term in office, based on its own observations, based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, and based on the findings of the Commonwealth Assessment Team, it became clear that a major priority of the then-new administration would have to be electoral reform.

“We deemed it both responsible and wise, therefore, to solicit the views of nationals both at home and abroad regarding the way forward on this important issue. Indeed, in the spirit of inclusion and openness, we invited the PAM to be part of this important exercise. From day one, for reasons that have baffled many, the PAM refused,” Prime Minister Douglas said.

He noted that based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Assessment Team, based on consultations with nationals at home and abroad, and based on his government’s understanding of the essentials of democracy, “we deemed it essential that we do everything in our power to put policies and procedures in place that would (i) block any future attempts at electoral fraud, and (ii) inject a greater element of justice and equity into the system, as far as the size of our respective electoral constituencies are concerned.  Our specific mission, in pursuit of this objective, then was to: [i] create a clean voters’ register, [ii] provide a national ID that will also be used to identify voters on election day, and [iii] change constituency boundaries, based on the recommendations of the Constitutionally-appointed Constituency Boundaries Commission, in order to bring about greater equity in the size of the Federation’s constituencies.”

Dr. Douglas noted there is no denying the injustice inherent in one electoral constituency having over 6,000 inhabitants while another has some 2,500.

“What this means is that all inhabitants in the less populous constituency have far greater power in the National Assembly, as represented by their Representative, than do the inhabitants of the larger constituency, as represented by theirs.  Also, it is patently unjust to have one representative carry the myriad responsibilities associated with a constituency of 6,000 inhabitants while another representative is required to address the needs and aspirations of a populace half that size.  These are the inequities that my Government felt honor-bound to address, and these are the inequities that we had committed to the nation and to the International Community to correct,” said Dr. Douglas.

Dr. Douglas said his Government’s efforts in this process of reform are well documented and pointed to the  Throne Speech delivered by The Governor General, His Excellency, Dr. Sir Cuthbert Sebastian on December 16, 2004, that makes clear the importance of  “boundaries revision” to St. Kitts and Nevis.

The 2005 Report of the Commonwealth Assessment Team corroborates the necessity of  boundary changes; and The St. Kitts-Nevis Electoral Reform White Paper outlines the Government’s intention and vision to “review the electoral boundaries to reflect as near as possible equality in the number of inhabitants in each constituency.”

“This is what my Government has tried its best to do.  We can, however, wait no longer.  As we speak, our sincere attempts to create more equitable constituencies remain before the Courts, compliments of the PAM.  And so, we approach new elections just as we emerged from the last one – with the PAM attempting to frustrate the people’s business and frustrate confusion via the courts, and the Government attending to the people’s business.  My Government, fellow citizens, must now choose between the dictates of the clock, and the very important task of creating constituency equity,” said Dr. Douglas.

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