By Carol Phillip-Tudor
According to section 34 (1) of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis, “There shall be a Supervisor of Elections whose duty it shall be to exercise general supervision over the registration of voters in elections of Representatives and over the conduct of such elections.” Mr. Raphael Archibald MBE is the Supervisor of Elections for St. Kitts and Nevis as of October 2nd 2012.
The Communication Office of the Prime Minister, in press release, has said that the Voters List, with the names of all persons registered as at December 31st 2013, will be posted on Friday 31st January 2014.
Many citizens believe that Elections in St. Kitts and Nevis are eminent even as Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis has said of his ruling St. Kitts and Nevis ruling Labour Party “We have found people who will work for you. Men! Young dynamic men, who have come about as a result of Labour’s Springtime, and are now ready to serve and work for you. I ain’t going call no election until I know every single one of them going win.”
Where is the Supervisor of Elections for St. Kitts and Nevis to make statements official? Rumours have persisted, which suggest that the Supervisor of Elections is ill, and furthermore off the island. To date, there has been no official announcement from the Communication Office of the Prime Minister, as seems the new paradigm, neither from the Supervisor of Elections himself.
Election matters on St. Kitts and Nevis have become inscrutable difficulties subjected to anxieties, legal wrangling and judicial reviews.
No less than the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has been hauled before the court to help sort out elections concerns. Since 2009 elections issues before the courts have not been abated by any good answers or solution and what now seems to have become a recurrent theme is that the greatest pressure has been brought to bear on the Court of Law to examine and adjudicate on matters of elections.
The cases involving matters of elections have seen some interesting developments. The more high profile instances include: Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Douglas L. Douglas was referred “a stranger to the truth”; after he took the stand in the High Court in a contempt of court case, precipitated by his tabling of the Commission Boundary Commission (CBC) Report even as an injunction was in place restricting him so to do; former resident High Court Judge His Lordship Francis Belle having to recuse himself from the case after lawyers for the Attorney General and the Constituency Boundaries Commission filed a Notice of Application for Recusal Order indicating that the comment made by the judge prejudiced their client; former Attorney General, Dennis Merchant, was found guilty of contempt of court after Justice Rita Joseph-Olivetti handed down her decision that Merchant facilitated the government’s defiance of the injunction by advising Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas to do “the very thing which the order restrained” – laying the document in parliament (the court of appeals overturned Joseph-Olivetti’s decision); Nevis landmark case of hundreds of voters being removed from the voters’ list and the then Supervisor of Election, Mr. Leroy Benjamin after he was written to by the Electoral Commission for not properly addressing the situation, responded to the Electoral Commission by saying as far as he was concerned, “I am therefore of the opinion that the Electoral Commission has no authority to decide and instruct”. Benjamin was found guilty of misfeasance by the High Court for his mishandling of the people’s Electoral system; in 2014 yet again another case is before the Court in regard to injunction and the CBC’s report tabled and passed in parliament in reference to the legalities/illegalities of boundaries realignment; that case is coexisting with a new court challenge regarding elections registration practices that allow students from the African Continent, studying in St. Kitts and Nevis to register to vote in the St. Kitts and Nevis elections – the fine for engaging in illegal registrations to vote is, at maximum, EC$30,000.00 or five (5) years in prison – and also with another case involving the Motion of No Confidence, which has not been tabled in parliament and which would have determined if Denzil L. Douglas stays on as the legitimate leader of St. Kitts and Nevis or the electorate would head toward elections.
In light of this jagged history of contention and electoral subterfuge on St. Kitts and Nevis, where is the Supervisor of Elections, both in presence and functioning?