St. Kitts-Nevis Opposition Wants COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Removed Ahead of General Elections

BASSTERRE, St. Kitts – The main opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) is calling on the government to remove all travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic so as to allow citizens to return home to vote in the pending general elections.

drewTERDr. Terrence Drew, leader of the St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party“The right to vote and participate in the democratic process is sacrosanct. Every Kittitian and Nevisian, whether residing in the Federation or overseas, has a right to take part in the upcoming elections. Dr. (Timothy) Harris and his cabinet of three elected members will not be allowed to use administrative means to prevent and deny citizens of their democratic right to vote,” the SKNLP said in a statement.

The twin island Federation has recorded 45 deaths and 5, 913 infections from the virus since March 2020 and SKNLP leader, Dr. Terrance Drew, said over the last few weeks, the party has been engaged in intense consultations with individuals and groups representing nationals living in the Diaspora who expressed serious concerns and anxiety that the online pre-approval process was going to be used as a means of excluding them from returning home to vote.

“What Kittitians and Nevisians who may be resident overseas want to know, as well as those who may have travelled overseas on vacation or for study, is that when the election date is set, they will be able to make their preparations to travel to their homeland to perform their democratic and constitutional duty: to elect a government of their choosing.

“That is their democratic right. No Prime Minister and his cabal should take away that right from them under the guise of public health measures which do not now exist in any other CARICOM country,” Drew added.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Harris named eight candidates to contest the general elections even though he has not yet announced a date for the poll that has been forced upon him following the collapse of his coalition Team Unity government.

Harris is leading the People’s Labour Party (PLP) that won two seats in the June 202 general election as part of the three-party coalition that included the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and the Nevis-based Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM).

Harris was forced to dissolve Parliament on May 10 paving the way for the general election after PAM and CCM legislators, accounting for seven of the nine seats in Cabinet had filed a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister, who scuttled that move by firing the dissidents and indicating that he would announce a date for the polls within the stipulated 90 day period.

Earlier this month, churches and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wrote to Prime Minister Harris urging him to name a date for the general election.

They warned also that a code of conduct should be implemented to ensure “the society is not plunged into election induced chaos” as voters in this twin island Federation prepare to elect a new government.

In their June 8 letter to Harris, the churches and the NGOs listed several issues they want the relevant authorities to take into consideration, including a pre-election period of sensitivity, neutrality in the electoral process, the delay in annou8ncing the election date and the abuse of office.

“You have therefore constituted a Cabinet with less than one third (1/3) of elected representatives of the people. Whilst it may be within your constitutional right, as Prime Minister, to do so, please be reminded that we are a people who have expressly stated in our Constitution that we believe in a true democracy where the voice of the people is paramount.

“The actions of your Cabinet of Ministers, made up of a minority of elected representatives of the people, should therefore be even more sensitive in nature and limited in scope at this time to conform with constitutionally connected conventions.”

While the PLP will contest the eight seats on St. Kitts, the PAM and the CCM have announced plans for a coalition of their own and will contest all 11 seats in the twin island Federation.

The SKNLP has also announced a full slate of eight candidates for the seats in St. Kitts, while the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) will contest the three seats in the sister isle.

In its statement, the SKNLP said that the island’s vaccination coverage is behind its reasoning for the removal of the COVID-19 protocols noting that “82.8 per cent of adults vaccinated and the admission by the Chief Medical Officer on March 1, 2022, there is a “high threshold of population immunity” that has been built up to buffer against even the most highly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus”.

It said the recent arrival of antiviral and therapeutic medications and tools on the global market “all point to the fact St. Kitts and Nevis is in the strongest possible position to learn how to live with COVID-19 and put an end to government regulation.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) also reported at the start of 2022 that restrictions on travel “do not provide added value” to justify the continued restriction of movement and the negative impacts the regulations have had by adding economic and social stress on citizens.