I don’t like the absentee voter. I don’t like the European and American, or Canadian citizen flying into St. Kitts-Nevis every four or five years to vote for a government for me to live under.
It is not fair. These former Kittitians and former Nevisians have opted to live in exile in a distant land where they probably enjoy life a little better than they did at home. I don’t blame them for their choice.
The land where they were born and raised was too small for them. They felt choked in our little 2 by 4. They felt starved of the great abundance which they expect from life.
They decided to go where they might find that abundance. Nothing wrong with that. Let them enjoy their abundant life in the land of plenty.
I am not vexed wid dem for that. Many of my own family have so opted. I love them still.
Having wish them godspeed, I now wish that they would leave my country to me. Let me suck my salt, let me prospect for gold. Let me decide the destiny of my country. Let me and my fellow prisoners salvage what they left behind. They gone and leave the country. Stop dropping in to mess it up.
I get angry when these foreigners they decide to leave their land of plenty every four or five years to spend a weekend holiday in the land they have despised, and mess things up for me by trying to vote for a government not of my own choosing.
What really breaks my heart is when I see them land at the airport, gleefully charged with their evil intentions to overthrow the government I support, and to impose upon me a government of their choice. This gets me very angry and my anger reaches fever pitch when they actually succeed with their diabolical plan to destabilize my political system by whatever act they perform.
Whether they succeed in changing the government or keeping the government in office, they hurt me for as they re-embark on their chartered aircraft to return to their good life in Britain, the USA or Canada. They leave behind them unresolved the problems which my fellow residents and I try to address at the polls.
I cannot forget the agony of 1980 when the result of the elections showed my late friend trailing behind Roy Jones by sixty-something votes. That result was the direct outcome of an airlift of voters financed by the People’s Action Movement.
The result was as heart breaking for me as it was for St. John, who after the election was over, and the seat was declared taken by his rival, still commanded a large majority of the voters who lived in the constituency. The spoilers had gone. They did their damage and left, proud of themselves for the damage that they had done to our island by their interference in our electoral process.
They repeated this misdeed at every election after that, forcing the at-home majority of Kittitians to put up with a government not of their choice. And what was really galling about this terrible outcome was that none of these outsiders, having installed the government of their overseas choice, ever thought that they should return to their original homeland to resettle.
No. They steadfastly continue to live in their new home. The thought of returning home to suck salt or to seek for gold is repugnant to them. No more St. Kitts for them; only when they are required to decide our future by the election results.
In 1989 just before the elections, I accompanied my friend the late Lee Moore to St. Thomas to canvas support for the Labour Party. We met a large audience, stated the case for the Labour Party, and asked for their support.
During the meeting one woman told Mr. Moore that she and her friends want to come home to vote for Labour. She appealed to the leader for free tickets to come home. Lee Moore choked on the idea. He was basically against it. I heard him fumble to give the woman a satisfactory answer. He tried his best but could only manage to say that he did not agree with providing an airlift of absentee voters to come home to vote for his party. If they could come on their own, he couldn’t stop them.
It was a tempting prospect for him; there were more Labour than PAM supporters in the Virgin Islands. An airlift of Labour supporters would swamp the rival party, but Mr. Moore, given his penchant for principle, could not be persuaded.
He lost the elections, of course, for while be blanched at the travesty which would result from bribing absentees with free tickets to come to vote and return to their homes, the Peoples Action Movement had no such constraint on their morals. In 1989 the airlift was even bigger than in 1984 and 1980 and the overseas voters swept the party of their choice into office over the wishes of the faithful citizens and residents who lived here.
The balance changed after 1989. In 1993, under new leadership, the Labour Party decided to play match-me with the Peoples’ Action Movement; to give eye for eye, tooth for tooth, charter for charter.
The change was dramatic. It was charter against charter. The local voters were only incidental. The critical factor was the way the overseas voters balanced.
Since 1993 this has been the critical factor. The foreign citizens have returned each election to fete, vote, and fete again if their party wins. It their party loses they leave quickly till next time.
Everybody would agree that whatever the outcome of an election which includes the absentee voter the result will be corrupted.
It will be even worse if, as is rumored, the practice of overseas balloting is adapted. Under such a horrible scheme, the local voters, the born-here residential nationals and the foreign nationals who reside here, might as well cool out and let the absentees fight it out in the overseas embassies and missions.
As my dread friend likes to say: Fyah pon dem strainjahs.