Just after the recent general elections, Supervisor of Elections Leroy Benjamin made a very startling remark. He said the next time around, voters will be obliged to register to vote where they live. To describe his remark as startling is to understate a very egregious problem which has dogged our community for the better part of the past five years. His remark is startling because this has been the very complaint which was raised time and again By Mr. Mark Brantley, representative of one of the Nevis constituencies. Mr. Brantley complained that after the Bye-election which he won, large numbers of names were imported into his districts, making his constituency larger than both of the other Nevis constituencies added together. Mr. Brantley’s complaint to the Supervisor of Elections was met with a shoddy response which caused him to request the resignation of Mr. Benjamin on the grounds of his apparent partiality in this matter. The same issue arose in many other constituencies of St. Kitts. Voters lists were padded with names of people who lived outside of the constituencies where they were registered. Hundreds of residents from the villages of St. Pauls and Newton Ground were organized to register their names in areas where the Labour Party felt threatened; such as Cayon and St. Peters, Old Road and Half Way Tree. In East Basseterre the lists were padded with hundreds of overseas residents who dropped in, stayed overnight, voted the next day and left in the night or on the following day. Long before the election, the attention of Mr. Benjamin was alerted to this unwholesome development and he gave Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Grant the same non-responsive treatment to which he had subjected Mr. Brantley. Comforted By the insensitivity of Mr. Benjamin to the legitimate complaint, many Labour Party activists in St. Kitts were emboldened to have their names listed in constituencies where they did not live. Indeed registering where they did not live became a campaign By itself, as dozens of St. Pauls residents were strategically distributed around the island. This was done blatantly under the watchful eyes of the supervisor of elections in flagrant disregard for the provisions of the constitution. This did not happen, however, without the reaction of the affected candidates. They protested and Mr. Hamilton went to the high court and secured a ruling that removed names from constituencies where they did not live. In a politically civilized society, the high court ruling would have set a precedent and given a signal to other wrongly registered voters to remove themselves to the voters list in the constituency where they live. The Supervisor of Elections would have felt duty bound to carry out the Judge’s ruling where the interactions occurred. Not in St. Kitts. The wrongful registration remained in other constituencies and some names which the judge ordered removed, were actually re-entered on the list, all this under the watchful eyes of the Supervisor of Elections. The situation was at its most outrageous in No 4 where there were some 60 names of non residents on the lists. For months Mr. Lindsay Grant, the contestant in No 4 complained about these names and for months he was callously ignored By the Supervisor of Elections who did not even consider what the high court had ruled. On election day, residents from St. Pauls turned out to vote in St. Thomas. The general elections came and went and the results were virtually decided By the people of St. Pauls, Newton Ground and Saddlers who spread themselves about and secured the outcome that Dr. Douglas wanted. After the elections, the supervisor in his own words is ready to admit that something went very wrong. He is now declaring that henceforth voters must register where they live. I hope his voice was recorded when he made this devastating admission that voters should vote where they live. How are we to understand Mr. Benjamin’s present position on this most important matter? In the period before the elections, was he aware of this important provision, was he aware of it and yet allowed voters from St. Pauls to vote in Old Road and Half Way Tree? Can he face the world and say that the elections were fair? Did he see Dr Douglas egging on his fellow St. Paulians to vote in Old Road? Did he see the armed soldiers at the ready to ensure that these people cast illegal votes where they did not live? Suppose the legitimate voters of the constituencies had tried in any way to prevent the illegals from breaking the law, would Dr. Douglas soldiers have shot them down? And whose hands would be stained with the blood of people defending their representative? But even without the possible bloodshed look at what Mr. Benjamin has done. He has upset the election results By causing serious doubt on the outcome. Mr. Grant has the right to contend that, if the St. Paul’s contingent had not come By bus to vote, aided, abetted and guarded By Dr. Douglas and his armed soldiers, he might have won the seat. Considering that he was the declared loser By only 29 votes, it is reasonable to believe that the 60 strong contingents from St. Paul’s made a significant difference. Thus if the elections in No 4 were allowed to run fairly, it is likely that as far as that constituency was concerned the result in St. Kitts would have been 5-3 rather than 6-2 and this does not take into account the irregularities which were evident in No 1.We are left to wonder if when Mr. Benjamin made his belated concession, he was setting his feet on the road to repentance for the dishonesty, deceit and trickery which he helped to play on our population. Perhaps Benjamin was chastened By the experience of his fellow churchman, Bishop Ron Collins, who now holds the post in Evangelical Movement that Benjie once held. While Benjie was supervising the election with all its fraudulence, Bishop Collins was monitoring it and being a man of God in good standing with his conscience he could not go to sleep without informing the public that he saw gross irregularities in the process. Mr. Collins has paid dearly for his honesty and is likely to suffer more. In addition to having armed men descend on his work place at the school and threaten him with dire consequences, he could expect, sometime sooner or later to be looking for a job. Mr. Collins claims to have no political agenda, and to follow his conscience while he tries to serve Jehovah will be of small moment when the Labour Machine is ready to deal with him more comprehensively. Perhaps the impending suffering of Ron Collins will touch a chord in the backsliding heart of Leroy Benjamin and bring him back to the fold. From what we have been brought up to believe, God is merciful and will forgive the contrite Benjamin for the national sin which he has committed. It is indeed good that watching over us, is a God who has promised that though our sins were as scarlet they shall be white as snow and though they were red as crimson they shall be as wool. And while we compliment Pastor Benjie for accessing the mercies of Jehovah we hope that he will be willing to stand before our earthly judge and vent himself of the shameful deeds committed on behalf of his earthly master.
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