PM Douglas again makes case for electoral boundaries to be near equal in accordance with the constitution

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 14TH 2014 (CUOPM) – The Federation’s Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has reiterated his government’s respect for the recent ruling of a High Court Judge in relation to Electoral Boundaries Commission.

“My Government respects the Court, and we abide by its rulings,” said Prime Minister Douglas during his weekly radio programme “Ask the Prime Minister.”

Dr. Douglas noted that the Commission had won on all points raised by the opposition members of the National Assembly, except that although there was no constitutional requirement to consult the judge felt the consultation did not go far enough.

“This country’s political Opposition told you that the Chairman of the Electoral Boundaries Commission was biased. They even took the matter to court. The Court said that they were wrong. They also charged that the Commission had used the unreliable information. The Court said that they were wrong there too. They said that the Commission did not consult properly. And the Court made it clear that the Commission never had any obligation to consultation to begin with – that neither our laws nor our Constitution require it, but that since the Commission decided to consult, they should have consulted more,” Prime Minister Douglas told listeners.

He again made the case for the need for the 11 boundaries to have equal number of inhabitants not only in accordance with the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution but also at the insistence of the Commonwealth, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the CARICOM Community (CARICOM).

“I wish to bring before you a matter that deserves to be thought about calmly and clearly by us all. And I refer here to the size of our Federation’s electoral constituencies. Consider this: Constituency #5, that is, Sandy Point, Fig Tree, Farms and so on, has some 2,800 inhabitants. Constituency #8, however, that is, Cayon, Keys, Ottleys, Conaree, St. Peters, Half Moon Bay and so on, has some 6,800 in inhabitants.2,800 inhabitants in one constituency, 6,800 inhabitants in another,” Prime Minister Douglas.

Asking the questions, “Do we think that is good for our democracy to have some candidates campaigning among 2,800 inhabitants while other candidates campaign among 6,800? And how about once the election is over? Are we comfortable with one Member of Parliament meeting the needs of 2,800 persons while another Member must meet the needs of 6,800?”

Prime Minister Douglas said a similar situation also exists in Nevis, where Constituency #10 contains some 2,400 inhabitants, while Constituency #9 contains some 5,200.

“That is why our Constitution states that our constituencies should be as close to equal as possible. That is why international election observers have repeatedly urged that we equalize our electoral constituencies. That is why the Boundaries Commission attempted to do this in 2009. And that is why the Commission (comprised of two Opposition representatives, two Government representatives, and a Chairman agreed to by both sides) began its work as far back as 2012 to equalize our constituencies: way in advance of the Constitutionally-mandated elections of 2015,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who pointed out that the Premier of Nevis, the Hon. Vance Amory – the senior Opposition representative on the Boundaries Commission – supported the recommended boundary changes, and also signed the report.

“More specifically – this Opposition representative was part of the 4:1 Commission vote in support of the recommended constituency equalizations. Yet there are those who still resist those recommendations. Recommendations from a Commission that is comprised of Government and Opposition representatives; recommendations that were based on a 4:1 vote; recommendations that came not from the Government, but from the Commission, on which Opposition representatives sit,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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