Douglas says PM Harris squandering opportunity to hold general elections under COVID-19 regulations

Basseterre, St Kitts, May 6, 2020 – With the five-year life of the St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly automatically ends on May 14, former prime minister the Right Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas says the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity administration has squandered an opportunity to deal with the constituency boundaries issue and make adequate arrangements for the holding of general elections which must be held by mid-August using COVID-19 regulations and is seeking to hold on to office.

“The government is aware for over two months now that COVID-19 was going to create an environment that was going to be different. The constitutional mandates with regard to the life of the parliament are very clear and only if over the next few days a country attacks us and there are hostilities that would have ensued only then we would have a situation of war and thus the parliament could be recalled beyond the 14th of May. The government had enough time to prepare our people and prepare the environment for the necessary changes that would be expected as a result of adhering to the global and international directives and dictates with regard to the management of COVID-19,” said Dr Douglas.

He told listeners to his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader,” on Tuesday in response to a question, that the government should have already begun to survey polling stations buildings, physical facilities as to where polling stations would be identified and to allow the six-feet distance that is being expected as voters wait in line. “Maybe it does not have to be instituted under the regulations of the National Assembly Elections Act, but it has to be made sure that these are identified and the governement has had enough time to do those things.”

Dr Douglas said that there are reports that nationals who are presently overseas and who return to St Kitts and Nevis from places regarded as hotspots, they would have to be quarantined.

“Is the Attorney General (Hon Vincent Byron, Jr.) thinking of these things? Being quarantined does not take away the constitutional right to vote, especially if one is registered to vote. There is no law that says if one has hypertension or diabetes or some contagious disease or a flu, that he cannot vote. Don’t you think that the AG and others should be putting in place the environment or infrastructure and create the necessary environment that if persons are going to come home to participate in an election and they are quarantined and there are regulations that can say that a polling station must be where they are quarantined? Why are these preparations not being made? What can be done by May 14?” he asked.

“What needs to be done is to ensure that the elections are held under proper conditions that will not allow peoples constitutional right to be abridged,” said Dr Douglas.

The former prime minister also expressed concern that the recent impostion of a state of emergency which have restricted residents to their homes, has prevented the holding of claim and objection hearings as mandated by law.

“Hundreds of names have been removed illegally by the Supervisor of Elections. No letters of notice have been sent to them. Even if there is no response, no hearing has been held and a decision taken to remove someone, the law of natural justice as explained in the regulations insist that these people must be informed and must have the right to challenge in a court of law,” he said, pointing out that the government has no interest in calling the elections as they must according to the constitution.

On the issue of the boundaries to be used in the upcoming elections for the 11 seats in the lawmaking body, Dr Douglas expressed the view that the 2015 boundaries should be used.

“Why should we in 2020 be using the 1989 boundaries when the entire country has changed demographically? Why should we be saddled by the 1989 boundaries,” said Dr Douglas, who pointed out that the Team Unity governing coalition (in opposition) leading up to the 2015 general election had challenged the 2015 boundaries.

“The Team Unity coalition now in government, were the same body that instituted the challenge and now form the government, has lost the appetite to complete the court matter that they brought to the court. With this kind of apparent smartness, they sit down for four years and nine months, and at the last moment Attorney General (Byron) submits an affadavidt in the court asking the former Attorney General (Jason Hamilton) to sign documents as if he is the current attorney general, when he (Byron) is the attorney general. That is the kind of madness that is going on in this government,” he said.

“The 2015 boundaries have not been successfully challenged in the court and should be the boundaries used,” said Dr Douglas, who further disclosed that a new Constituency Boundaries Commission which began meeting under a new chairman in the last few weeks “and not wanting it appears for the boundaries matter to be heard in the court, fired the lawyers who have been representing the members of the former commission.”

“It is a circus, a circus of clowns. There is no seriousness on the part of the government to hold the elections. None. The boundaries matter is not settled. There is no proper Voters List in place. The polling stations to be established to comply with COVID-19 conditions have not been identified,” said Dr Douglas.

“The government is not serious about holding the elections. The government does not want to give up power. The government recognises it is going to lose the elections, but no matter what it does, it will have to hold the elections and it will lose,” Dr Douglas stressed.

“The government which had so many opportunities to call the elections failed to do so because it was far behind in the polls. Now having being visited by the COVID-19 pandemic none of us had foreseen, it now finds itself totally confused in managing the crisis, having the elections and holding on to power. That is why the people of St Kitts and Nevis have the right to vote, should be allowed to make their decision, especially in an environment when people are very displeased with the way the government has handled the crisis and very concerned having lost the confidence and trust of the prime minister and his government, concern that preparations are not being made under these unusual circumstances to ensure that a fair election is held, conducted in a way that they are not deprived of their legal rights,” said Dr Douglas.

He reaffirmed that the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) and the NextGen SKN Team “are again emphasising whatever we do, whatever service we provide, it will always be about you the people of St Kitts and Nevis.”