Former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas has slammed the move by the government to have a residency requirements for voters indicating the government is disempowering the overseas voter
Dr. Douglas said rather than empowering citizens who are living outside of St. Kitts in the diaspora this piece of legislation is definitely going to disempower them. “It is removing one of their fundamental rights that this country has to offer to its citizens and that is the right to vote after being qualified so to do.”
Douglas explained that the essential clause in this piece of legislation speaks to removing the right to vote of those citizens who are living in the diaspora and who are presently voters registered to vote on the present voters register. After this bill is passed they are not resident for six months before registration is again called or election is due they will not be allowed to register to vote,” Douglas said.
He continued, “There is going to be as we understand an enumeration exercise that is going to be conducted by the government.
He claims the Government is not confident of returning to office with the current setup. “As far as the Prime Minister and the Attorney General are concerned, they are not certain that they can win on the present register of voters so they have decided on a scheme that they will totally abandon the present register of voters, create a new register by sending enumerators to every single home in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and those who are qualified and who have been resident here for six months.
“Only they will be allowed to be enumerated and be allowed to be a part of the new register and determine who would have the right to vote in the next elections,” Dr Douglas said.
Douglas then explained how the process will work. “For example, when the enumeration exercise takes place and your uncle is here visiting from New York and he is going to be here for only three weeks although he was already registered and he has his home here but lives in New York and is now visiting for three weeks. He will not be allowed to have his name placed back on the register of voters and thus become disenfranchised as a voter in his own country.”
“These are the matters that worry us, these are the matters that cause the Opposition to not sleep well at night, these are the matters that cause the citizens abroad constantly ringing our phones, sending messages to us saying you need to take up this matter because it is unfair and unjust.”
Dr. Douglas also noted that there are concerns in the diaspora regarding the matter. “It is creating untold confusion and anger amongst some people who believe that the government has abused them and abused them. Brought them home for the last election to vote for them promising them that they will empower them now instead is attempting to disempower them and disenfranchise them in terms of their right to vote.”
He then slammed the government for their handling of the issue. “You cant take people out of a system just like that. And we are saying we will oppose that because it is dictatorial, there is no consultation. You cannot just come into the Parliament because you have the numbers to impose a bill on the people.”
The opposition leader said that they will take up the position and rights of the people who are overseas.
“These people contribute to the development of St. Kitts and Nevis they are not beggars so how can you simply diss them like that. It cant be right.”
Last week at his monthly press conference Prime Minister Dr. Harris indicated that his government is seeking to implement a fairer electoral system in the Federation with recent changes to the National Assembly Elections act and not disenfranchise voters as what is being purported.
Dr. Harris highlighted however, that there is no intention to disenfranchise any voter. For the record, this government does not discriminate against our citizens. The law is the law, for nationals registering and voting whether they live in New York or Parson Ground, the residency requirement obtains for all.