PM Douglas sounds off on constitutional issues in his Independence 30 Message

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas is give the General Salute on his arrival at Thursday’s Ceremonial Parade to mark the 30th Anniversary of Independence

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 20TH 2013 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas the next general elections, constitutionally due in January 2015 should not be held on the existing 30-year-old boundaries.

Addressing the nation in a radio and television address to mark the 30th Anniversary of independence on Thursday, Prime Minister Douglas also alluded to the Motion of No Confidence filed by members of the opposition in the National Assembly.

In what is his 19th Independence Message as Prime Minister, the St. Kitts and Nevis leader said it was critical to accord utmost respect to the Constitution and the Laws if the reputation of St. Kitts and Nevis as a place for stability and peace is maintained.

“In any democracy there will be differing opinion and controversy from time to time but in resolving these issues we must always abide by the Constitution. For instance in the issues pertaining to the vote of no confidence before Parliament and the constituency boundaries realignment approved by Parliament, I have sought the best available independent legal advice to ensure that at all times we uphold the constitution. We are now celebrating our 30th Anniversary. I think it is important for me to sound my voice above the political noise and state clearly to the Nation my view in relation to these matters,” said Dr. Douglas.

The Fourth-Term Prime Minister pointed out that based on the advice he has received, he has formed the view that the drafters of the Constitution were deliberate in their decision to avoid putting a deadline on the Parliament in respect of the consideration of a vote of no confidence.

“They understood that a vote of no confidence could possibly result in General Elections within three months, and that adequate preparations must be made before General Elections are held. Specifically, a budget for the holding of elections must be in place, the voters’ list must be up-to-date, the institutional arrangements for the holding of elections must be satisfactory and all of the actions mandated by the Constitution to secure free and fair elections must be completed,” said Dr. Douglas.

He pointed out also that one of the actions mandated by the Constitution is that the Constituency Boundaries Commission must review the boundaries and submit a report to the Governor General “at intervals of not less than two nor more than five years.”

“The Constitution did not give discretion to the Parliament nor to the Governor General, nor to any other authority whatsoever. It says clearly and unequivocally that it must be done no later than 5 years apart. The fact that it was not done by successive Governments since the 1980’s, does not justify repeated and continued breaches of the constitution,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He added: “Our nation is now 30 years old so that we are maturing as an Independent Country. We must honour our Constitution and our Laws.”

The Prime Minister stated clearly that he do not agree with the political aspirants and their supporters who argue that the very clear and definite time limit imposed by the Constitution in respect of boundaries should be ignored but must proceed immediately with the vote of no confidence for which there is no time limit prescribed by the Constitution.

He added that the requirement for boundaries reform is not just a trite administrative requirement as some would have one to believe and is convinced that it would be difficult to hold free and fair elections in St. Kitts and Nevis based on the existing boundaries.

“An analysis of the results of the last General Elections reveals that if the People’s Action Movement had achieved an additional 272 votes appropriately distributed in two critical constituencies they would have won the same number of seats as the Labour Party in St. Kitts, although some 58% of the votes cast would have been in favour of Labour,” he told the Nation, pointing out that this would have represented a gross denial of the right of the majority of the people on the island of St. Kitts to be governed by the Government of their choice.

“This is a formula for confusion,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who pointed to the provision in the Constitution that requires that the constituencies be roughly equal in inhabitants (with a few exceptions), is intended to avoid such confusion.

” As Prime Minister, except as directed by the Court which is the authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, I am not prepared to rush into General Elections based on a formula that seems at variance with the Constitution and that could potentially create such anomaly and confusion,” said Dr. Douglas.

The Constitution must be upheld to preserve democracy, said the Prime Minister.

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