Change has come?Written by Editor
The Hon. Hensley Daniel will continue to serve as representative for the constituency of St. John until an Appeal to overturn the ruling made by Judge Lionel Jones is heard by the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Premier Parry made the announcement Wednesday morning in a statement to the nation.
There has been lively debate and vociferous protest over the last week concerning the state of the government and the status of the representatives elected July 11, 2011. At the crux of the matter, both parties only secured two seats in the election past according to the ruling of Justice Jones. Therefore, one seat is in dispute. The debate: Does Nevis have a constitutionally elected government governing its affairs presently? Does the party of the Deputy Premier have the legitimate right to govern since he did not secure the third seat needed to constitutionally form the Nevis Island Administration?
Some believe that it should not matter that while the seat of the Deputy Premier is in dispute, he is still in office. They feel that until the appeal is heard his legitimacy should be assumed much like the sentence of a man on death row cannot be executed until all his appeals have been denied. Others believe that it should matter. A man on death row remains there with execution hanging over his head until he proves himself innocent. He does not get a free pass during appeal time. All valid arguments and passionately defended by democracy-loving people.
One understanding of Judge Jones’ ruling is that the names that were taken off the voters list need not be put back on because they were never legally taken off in the first place. Further interpretation is that the voters list in St. John’s - if the ruling is upheld in the Court of Appeal - will revert to the January, 2011 voters list. Many cry, “Justice served!” However, the glaring question - one that surprisingly isn’t getting a lot of air time – is, What happens to the names and the civil rights of those persons who did as they were told and legally and dutifully transferred to where they lived in February, 2011? Their names will not appear on the January list.
If there should be a bi-election in St. John, the above makes it possible that some will be disenfranchised so that others might be enfranchised. Those who transferred could be sidelined, unable to use the same rights that others are fighting tenaciously for in the courts right now.
It is time that the debate be broadened and all the ramifications of the journey we have embarked on be examined. Not so that we turn back, but that in righting one wrong we do not perpetuate many others.
This is a watershed moment in the political evolutionary process of St. Kitts-Nevis. Perhaps now we will take a serious look at the electoral weaknesses in the constitution. Perhaps we the people will push for meaningful constitutional change that protect voter’s rights and strengthen government accountability.
Learned minds have affirmed over the years that the electoral laws of the federation favour the party in government. No sitting government to date has ever seriously wanted to change what so clearly benefitted it. Change has always been the work of the ‘Opposition’. Perhaps now that we the people are really feeling the effects of the procrastination of our leaders, meaningful change will come. Perhaps.