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Eustace complains to elections Supervisor

Eustace complains to elections Supervisor

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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has made allegations of members of Cabinet being involved in the recruitment of enumerators for the Enumeration Exercise being conducted here. Eustace’s complaint comes in a letter to Supervisor of Elections Rodney Adams.

Eustace, in his missive to the Supervisor of Elections says it is “a very dangerous precedent and is contrary to accepted custom and practice where politicians are kept out of the recruitment of workers in our electoral system”.{{more}}

The president of the New Democratic Party also alleges that there has been “the holding of meetings to deal with election matters in the office of the Minister of National Security with the Minister presiding along with his Permanent Secretary”. He questioned the precedent for this action which he says is “not consistent with free and fair electoral practice”.

Eustace poses the question to the Supervisor directly whether his role has been changed, his office emasculated or whether that office has now come “under the control of other persons or authority”.

But Minister of National Security Sir Vincent Beache has denied that this is so. Sir Vincent explained to SEARCHLIGHT via telephone that the government wished to be transparent with the Enumeration Exercise.

He denied emphatically that members of Cabinet had held any meetings with enumerators. Sir Vincent said that he was the Minister responsible and that it seemed the Opposition Leader feels he should not meet with the Supervisor of Elections.

He explained that there was agreement that the Electoral List should be cleaned up and that in carrying out the exercise the ministry was not doing anything in secret.

Sir Vincent said he got the Supervisor to call in all registering officers to strategize on how best to carry out the exercise. He however said he had not met with the enumerators.

He said Registering Officers were asked to submit names of proposed enumerators who are being paid a flat fee of $500 plus a dollar for every additional name for that part of the exercise which “should not take more than a month”. He however said that the process is being run over the course of three months.

He reminded that the issue had been taken before the House with each political party asked to submit the names of 130 enumerators each.

Sir Vincent however stressed that “the enumerators cannot register anybody.”

But the Opposition Leader in his letter to the Supervisor of Elections said he takes “a very serious view of the developments and the danger they pose to the democratic process and conduct of free and fair elections here”.

Eustace has copied his letter to several bodies including the National Consultative Committee, the Secretaries General of CARICOM, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the OAS which have all observed the conduct of elections here. He also indicated his intention to take the matter to Parliament since he said “the electoral system here must be allowed to function without political interference and the office of the Supervisor of Elections must remain independent”.

Mr. Rodney Adams,

THE SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS,

Electoral Office,

Kingstown.

Dear Sir,

I draw to your attention Section 34 (6) of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which deals with the independent status of the Supervisor of Elections in carrying out the functions of that office. This section states inter alia that in carrying out his functions “the Supervisor of Elections shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”

It has been drawn to my attention that members of the Cabinet have been involved in the recruitment of enumerators for the Enumeration of Electors Exercise. This is a very dangerous precedent and is contrary to accepted custom and practice where politicians are kept out of the recruitment of workers in our electoral system.

In my capacity as Prime Minister in the lead up to the last General Elections I was never involved in the recruitment of election workers.

I am also been informed of the holding of meetings to deal with election matters in the office of the Minister of National Security with the Minister presiding along with his Permanent Secretary. This is not consistent with free and fair electoral practice. Where is the precedent for such action? Has the role of the Supervisor of Elections been changed? Is the Supervisor of Elections contrary to Section 34 (6) now under the control of other persons or authority? Has the office of Supervisor of Elections been emasculated?

I must hasten also to point out that experienced Registering Officers are asking what has become of the Office of the Supervisor when they find the Ministers advising on how the enumeration of Electors is to be conducted.

It is normal practice that Registering Officers supervise the Enumerators, but this time around however Supervisors have been chosen by the political directorate who are not Registering Officers; and will not have the familiarity with the law and the process as would be the case with a Registering Officer. In 1997 the enumeration process was supervised by the Registering Officers. I therefore have become very suspicious and disgusted with this entire process.

Am I now to expect that for this upcoming election that the presiding officers and poll clerks will be recruited by the Cabinet?

I take a very serious view of these developments and the danger they pose to the democratic process and conduct of free and fair elections here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

I am copying this correspondence to the National Consultative Committee, the local and regional and international media as well as to the Secretary General of CARICOM, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Secretary General of the OAS whose organisations served as observers at the last election here and agreed that the elections were free and fair.

I also intend to take action in Parliament as well as mount other political protest on this matter.

The electoral system here must be allowed to function without political interference and the office of the Supervisor of Elections must remain independent.

Yours sincerely,

Honourable Arnhim Eustace, MP Leader of the Opposition.

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