St. Kitts gov't accused of interfering in the work of the electoral commission

(DMO) – A member of the three-man St Kitts and Nevis Electoral Commission has confirmed that the List of Returning Officers prepared by the Supervisor of Elections, Elvin Bailey, was thrown into the proverbial waste paper basket by the government of prime minister Dr Timothy Harris.

According to WINN FM, when the new list was made public, among the new names were Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris’ brother in law, Jermaine Sacy Lake, St Christopher 1; Dr Harris’ former campaign manager, Dr Patrick Welcome, in St Christopher 7, where the incumbent is Dr Harris himself and Dr Vincent Hodge, Permanent Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Shawn Richards, the incumbent candidate for St Christopher 5.

Commission member, attorney Jason Hamilton, who represents the opposition, told WINN news that activities in preparation for the 2020 poll were interfered with by the government and erodes the work of the constitutional body.

He identified the selection of the Returning Officers, late publication of the Election Day Voters List, late publication of the polling stations and earlier activities in preparation for the June 5 poll.

“As of today, Wednesday 3 June, the Voters’ List has not been produced yet that indicates where polling stations for this election will be held and that is because there has been some level of interference by the Government halting the supervisor of elections in the preparation of the necessary work to facilitate an election when he would have started that process as early as January of 2020,” Hamilton told WINNFM.

The former attorney general pointed out that the St Kitts and Nevis constitution states that the only authority that can direct the supervisor of elections is the commission.

“However, we have a situation where the supervisor of elections prepared a list of persons to be returning officers. He would have vetted the persons, interviewed the persons and have training sessions with the persons. That list disappeared, disappeared in the sense that none of the persons selected from the list that was voted on and approved by the commission and a new list is presented with returning officers none of whom were selected by the supervisor,” said Hamilton who pointed out that the National Assembly Elections Act says the Governor-General appoints on the advice of the supervisor of elections.

According to the WINN News report, Commission chairman, lawyer Nassibou Butler, initially said he did not know about the first list of returning officers, but later conceded that there had been a commission vote on the matter but he was outnumbered.

Hamilton gave another example where the Commission was informed by Supervisor of Elections that the Electoral Office was going to operate on reduced hours leading up to the elections because there is some preparatory work needed to be done by the staff.

“A sign is posted on the door of the office indicating that the office will be closed from Tuesday of this week to Thursday of this week giving only Friday (June 5th Election Day) to be opened. If the list was published last week, a person would only know last week if his or her name is not on the list. If the office is closed this week where does the person go to complain,” the WINN report quotes Hamilton saying.

“According to the Supervisor, he never gave that directive for the office to be closed and the commission never gave that instruction. The question is who gave that directive?,” Hamilton said.

The people of St. Kitts and Nevis go to the polls tomorrow, Friday, in a general election which Denzil Douglas of the St.Kitts Nevis Labour Party will attempt to wrest back power from Timothy Harris’ incumbent Team Unity which has been governing the twin-island Federation for the last five years. Douglas’ party lost the last general election in that country in 2015, after holding power for 23 years.