By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts -- The prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas again made the case during his weekly radio programme for the need for the electoral districts in the federation to have an equal number of inhabitants, not only in accordance with the country’s constitution but also at the insistence of the Commonwealth, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Dr Denzil Douglas
“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... has some 2,800 inhabitants. Constituency #8... has some 6,800 in inhabitants... 2,800 inhabitants in one constituency, 6,800 inhabitants in another,” Douglas pointed out.
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?”
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 Douglas, who pointed out that the Premier of Nevis, Vance Amory – the senior opposition representative on the Boundaries Commission – supported the recommended boundary changes, and also signed the report.
At the same time, Douglas also 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,” he said.
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.
“...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,” Douglas told listeners.