BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The newly elected Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis, Dr. Terrance Drew says his government will move to implement electoral reform in the twin-island Federation amid criticism over the lengthy delay in the announcement of results of general elections here.
Dr. Drew, who is due to unveil his new cabinet on Saturday at the Warner Park Cricket Stadium, said the government would also be looking at the situation regarding the constituency boundaries “that are not even in keeping with the boundaries …as required by law”.
In an interview with SKN Newsline, Dr. Drew said that while there had been “multiple attempts” in the past to change the boundaries “we should abide by the law and I think that (it is) something that should be looked at to make sure that by the next elections, the boundaries are aligned in keeping with the requirements”.
He said that there are a number of electoral reform issues that need to be addressed and ‘we have to see how we can introduce the technology in voting so that it can be more efficient and the results could come quicker”.
Former Jamaica prime minister Bruce Golding, who headed an 11-member observer team from the Organisation of American States (OAS) was critical of the lengthy period in announcing the results of the August 5 general; election.
With just under 51, 000 people eligible to cast ballots in the election, the results were not known officially more than 17 hours later when the polling stations were due to have been officially closed at 6.00 pm (local time) on Friday.
“One recommendation that we have consistently made, in 2011 and again in 2015, is that we need to avoid any extended period of time between the closing of polls and the declaration of the results,” said Golding.
He said when the polling stations are officially closed at 6.00 pm on election day “and 24 hours later, the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are still in the dark as to who won the election, you create too much opportunity for suspicion, contention, for anxiety, for conspiracy theories that cause people to question the process and not to have the level of confidence in the process that they need to have.
“People need to know that when a government takes office, that government was properly elected, and you run the risk of undermining that confidence,” Golding told a news conference after his team observed last Friday’s electoral process.
Prime Minister Drew told television viewers that while “I think we got the results fairly quickly compared (to previous elections) a number of things can be done in terms of counting the votes where you voted instead of having all the boxes come to one spot, you can have the counting at the station…
“And so we need to look at a number of critical things like that. So we are going to look at those and see how they can be done,” he said, adding that another thing to be looked at will be the ballot boxes “to make sure they are in keeping with the legislation.
“So we definitely will pursue a number of those things. Then we will get on to the Constitution as well,” he said adding that talks are taking place with the potential Attorney General “so that we can start looking at the whole legislative agenda.
“But if you look within our manifesto there are a number of critical things that we will do…to make sure once and for all we start dealing critically with solving issues between our islands and that has to be done from a legislative stand point”.
Dr. Drew, a Cuban and US trained medical practitioner, said he would be looking to the legislative agenda to deal with the matter of people’s right to health care, recalling the situation that is in existence here as the twin island Federation deals with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed 46 people and infected 6, 477 others since March 2020.
He said the legislative agenda would also have to deal with worker’s rights.
“For example, during COVID when people were told if you did not take a vaccine, you will be fired and so forth…people know my own position and even from a scientific standpoint there is no basis for anything like that….
“I remember writing a letter for one of my patients and said okay if you want the person to be tested can they test with a Rapid Antigen Test and they said no…and it is accepted but they refused and pursed the PCR test and one of the questions I wanted answered was is this a scientifically given type of policy or this policy had other motives…”
During the interview, Dr. Drew said there were a number of issues he would want to discuss with his regional colleagues ranging from the controversial Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI) through which foreign investors are granted citizenship in return for making a significant contribution to the islands socio-economic development to the issue of LIAT and intra-regional travel.
“As a region we need to look at the CBI program together, as a region we need to look at the cost of fuel together to make sure we do what we have to do. The cost of living across the region…to deal with that…
“If you look across the region the issues seem to be the same,” he said describing the LIAT situation as “a tremendous challenge.
“Somebody said to me Doc, you better go to Miami and come down rather than to try and get from the Windward Islands to here,” he said, indicating that his administration would also be exploring the possibility of investing in LIAT.
Last week, regional leaders met to discuss the situation regarding air transportation in the Caribbean amidst concerns that both regional and international travelers are finding it very expensive and difficult to commute.
“It was agreed that we would retain a consultant to provide advice to the heads of the region as to how we can address the critical need to have, particularly air transportation resumed at a level that existed prior to COVID-19,” said the newly elected Grenada Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell.
LIAT is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said previously that a decision had been taken that would allow Barbados and SVG to turn over their shares in LIAT to St. John’s for one EC dollar (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) .
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Browne appealed to Caribbean trade unions to re-think their positions regarding the latest offer made to laid-off workers of the airline.
The Grenada Prime Minister, who led his National Democratic Congress (NDC) party to victory in the June 23 general election, told reporters that LIAT (1974) Limited “is bankrupt and that has been made clear and it is in receivership”.