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The Representation of the People Act

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We have been hearing about the Representation of the People Act quite frequently since the last General Elections. You have heard that a section of this Act is to be amended, and you would recall that one candidate was brought before the Court for having violated a section of the Act. The matter was, however, discontinued. In this article we look at Act and in particular the section that is the focus of attention currently.{{more}}



Cap 6

The Representation of the People Act is listed in the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines as Cap 6. This is a consolidation of Act No 1982 amended by Act 2 of 1983, Act 8 of 1984, Act 20 of 1987 and Act 25 of 1989. Cap 6 does not specifically state its purpose, but from the general trend of like Acts and from the substance of this Act, it provides for the conduct of elections to our House of Assembly, the qualification (not the disqualification) for membership, election offences, election petitions and the qualification of voters among others.



Section 51

The section has had some scrutiny recently, and it is the intention to amend the section by removing subsections 3 and 4. The section is a long section and it is about penalties for certain illegal practices at election. For example, any person who induces or procures a person who is prohibited under the constitution from voting or who publishes a false statement about the withdrawal of a candidate for the purpose of supporting another candidate during or before an election, or who during the election season acts disorderly to prevent “the business of a public meeting called for the purpose of promoting the election of a candidate as a member of the House of Assembly” could, if found guilty, be liable to a fine of seven hundred and fifty dollars.

The section also stipulates punishment for any person who is found guilty of an illegal practice such as where he “incites, combines or conspires with others to act in a disorderly manner, with the intent to prevent the transaction of the business of a public meeting” for a person’s election to the House of Assembly. The punishment is imprisonment for two years.



Subsection 3

Subsection 3 and 4 are to be removed. Subsection 3 states that “a person who before or during an election for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate or prospective candidate at such election, makes or publishes any false statement in fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of such candidate is guilty of an illegal practice and liable to a fine of seven hundred and fifty dollars and to imprisonment for one year.”

Well, you can decide for yourself. It is plain and simple. I would think that this bit of legislation would offer protection for the candidates of all parties, whether opposition or not, and it speaks about a “false statement”. False statements about any one is punishable in any event. But the fact that it is specifically given under this Act would mean that our legislators would have seen the danger of person spreading false statements about a candidate. I will deal with section 4 in a subsequent article.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: [email protected]

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