PAM Wants Court to Rule on Commonwealth Students Registering to Vote
- Published on Saturday, 16 June 2012 15:33
- Written by Toni Frederick
- Hits: 1543
The People’s Action Movement (PAM) is challenging a decision to allow Commonwealth nationals who are students at universities on St. Kitts, to register to vote.
Deputy Chair of the PAM, Jonel Powell, said that after objections to some 160 such persons were dismissed the party decided to present its case in Court. Speaking on PAM’s Thursday night program “The People’s Forum”, Mr. Powell explained that the names were still on the list or voters so the party filed a notice of appeal to have the objections heard in court. “The, I think, tricky issue that came up was that these persons were Commonwealth citizens. The laws - the constitution and the electoral laws - provide for persons who are Commonwealth citizens resident in St. Kitts and of the age of 18 to register to vote in St. Kitts and Nevis,” Mr. Powell said.
Despite being from within the Commonwealth, the PAM’s position is that the students, predominantly from territories in Africa, mostly Nigeria, did not satisfy the residency requirement to be eligible to register to vote. The PAM Deputy Chair made reference to the Immigration Act for a definition of who could be considered a resident under one of four classes. “…. the four classes are permanent residents, annual residents, temporary residents and work permit holder residents. The Immigration Act goes on in section 13 to speak about permitted entrance and specifically categorizes these students or these persons who come in to study as permitted entrance and it is on this basis that we say that they are not resident in St. Kitts for the purposes of the law,” said Mr. Powell who is a lawyer by profession.
The electoral laws allow a Commonwealth national who has been a permanent resident in St. Kitts and Nevis for twelve months to register to vote, but the PAM contends that the law is not being applied fairly.
The example given was that of a Jamaican national who is married to a Kittitian and has been living in St. Kitts for the last three years. Mr. Powell said he took her to register to vote but she was not allowed to. According to him, she had all of her documentation, including her residency stamps, showing that she was resident on the island. When he inquired why she was not allowed Mr. Powell said, “I was informed by the manager of the electoral office, Mr. Knight, that she has not lived in St. Kitts or has not been resident in St. Kitts continuously for the last year. I said, but I’m showing you her residency stamps for the last three years. His response was she travelled over the last year and because she had left the island it automatically disqualifies her or cancels her continuous residence in St. Kitts.”
He continued by making the point that “….you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure that that does not make sense. So how can you, on one hand, deny a person who is actually resident and who is a Commonwealth citizen and who is actually married to a Kittitian from voting but you allow persons from Africa to come here and register when they're only here for a year or two for the purposes of study.”
PAM Political Leader, Lindsay Grant, who is also a lawyer by profession, said the court needed to make a decision on the issue once and for all. He described the situation as a new challenge. He too was a guest on “The People’s Forum” program. “…. the reason that prompted us to make that particular challenge is because we have....ever growing offshore university institutions and we have several hundred Commonwealth citizens in St. Kitts and Nevis and if you have several hundred voters, new voters coming into your system with such small marginal numbers in our constituencies they can dramatically affect any election and so it is important for us to have the court pronounce on that , decide on it to determine whether or not they are really eligible to register and then to vote in St. Kitts and Nevis.”
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