(PRESS RELEASE) – Pointing that the coronavirus – COVID19 – has introduced a new norm in St Kitts and Nevis, Political Leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), The Rt Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas said Tuesday that if people can line up to shop at supermarkets and pharmacies and do business at banks, they can also line up to vote in the next general elections while observing social distancing.
Dr Douglas in answer to a question, is seen as a response to a recent statement on Monday by Atttorney General and Minister responsble for elections, Sen the Hon Vincent Byron Jr, that the COVID-19 crisis should place general elections which must be held in St Kitts and Nevis by August 14, 2020 “on the back burner.”
“*Every crisis has its unique and distinctive features and this pandemic calls for social distancing, the requirements of which do not prove an insurmountable obstacle that cannot be easily and effectively managed in an election scenario,” Dr Douglas told listeners.
“If our people can line up to shop for groceries, go to the pharmacy and to the bank, they can line up to vote in exercise of their democratic freedoms. Our people love our democratic freedoms just as much as they love food to eat, medicine to make them well and money in the bank to buy the food and buy the medicine. They will line up to vote. They will line up and they will distance themselves six feet apart. They will be gloved up and masked up in order to vote,” said Dr Douglas, a former prime minister.
“Let us not fool ourselves. And so we have to examine carefully what we are being told by those who seem to have some kind of sinister agenda. Let us be very careful. The authorities have more than enough time to prepare,” said Dr Douglas.
He is of the firm view that in light of the ‘new norm,’ the conduct of the next general elections “will have to be different.”
He noted that although the life of the current National Assembly ends on 14th May 2020 and time is short, “we are going to have our elections conducted in the next few weeks under conditions of social and physical distancing.”
“Each of us will have to wear a mask as we approach the polling station and as we take the ballot paper from the Presiding Officer … This is the new normal. Each of us voting might also have to wear gloves to handle the pencils which we may discard after making our “x.” In other words, life has changed and even though the period of time is relatively short for our upcoming elections, we had better begin to understand that social distancing and a limit on the numbers of people allowed to vote at each polling station will have to be instituted if we are going to obey the new realities that have been brought upon us by COVID-19,” the former prime minister said.
“We may even have to look at how we are going to vote. It may take one, two or three days. This is a situation where the rule of law and good governance are of critical importance. This is a paradigm shift that would have taken place as a result of the pandemic,” said Dr Douglas.
In a direct reference to prime minister Dr Timothy Harris’ assertion that St Kitts and Nevis is at war in the fight against COVID-19, Dr Douglas said: “We are not in any war. There are some people who would want you to believe that we are at war, but we are not at war in this country. We are still a blessed and peaceful country, but the realities are that certain changes would have to be made because of COVID-19 and its lingering effects that will last a prolonged period of time.”
The former prime minister also suggested that persons who are employed in essential services such as police officers, defense force soldiers, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers generally, will need to vote early if they are to carry out their duties while exercising their rights as citizens to vote.
“These are some of the things we would have to consider. We will need more agents, more poll clerks, etc. to manage the (election) exercise,” Dr Douglas said.