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Let us get on with cleaning up the Voters List

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Tue, Jan 06, 2015

At his first media conference of the New Year, held yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves brought the public up to date on a number of ongoing projects, as well as revealing some initiatives for 2015.{{more}}

Of particular importance to the voting public, and to the exercise of democracy here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, was a proposal outlined by the Prime Minister to clean up the very bloated Voters’ List. This exercise holds even greater significance, given that elections must be held within the next 15 months.

The Voters’ List has been a perennial area of concern, not only in this country, but throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean. In fact, in the recent general elections in Dominica, the Opposition there expressed concern about what it perceived as inaccuracies in the voters’ list there. Specifically, the list contained almost the same number of voters as the entire population of Dominica. There was no evidence of fraud, however, and the elections were given a clean bill of health.

We here in St Vincent and the Grenadines are in a similar position, with the list still displaying names of many persons who migrated many years ago. Clearly there is need to clean up the list, update it and ensure its accuracy. While this is a task for the Supervisor of Elections and her staff, it contains the seeds of political contention and it is in the best interest of all involved, including the major political contenders, to have consensus on it and give full support to the Supervisor of Elections on the issue.

In furtherance of this, the Prime Minister disclosed that he had written to Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace about one month ago, requesting the cooperation of the Parliamentary Opposition in an amendment to the electoral law, the Representation of the People Act 1983, in order to facilitate the updating of the list.

Although there has been no official response, the Prime Minister did say that it was his view that the Opposition Leader had no objection in principle, but wished for a formal assurance of support for the initiative. The Opposition Leader said yesterday on radio that he has already held discussions with the Supervisor of Elections on the matter and will do so again, but did not give a definite indication if the Opposition intends to cooperate with the initiative. We sincerely hope, however, that vows of non-cooperation aside, the Opposition comes fully on board with this process.

The Voters’ List is not a political football and cannot be treated as such. We already have too many unnecessary areas of conflict around the elections and must seek to eliminate any possible sources of contention.

Elections are like justice, in that they must not only be free and fair, they must be seen to be free and fair. Cooperation in ensuring the accuracy of the Voters’ List is a responsibility of all political parties and responsible citizens. Let us get on with it.

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