By Caribbean News Global contributor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — At the invitation of the government of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has fielded a CARICOM Election Observation Mission to monitor the General Elections which will be held in that country on Friday, 5 June 2020.
The three-member Mission will be headed by Gasper Jean Baptiste, chief elections officer in Saint Lucia. He has served as a member of CARICOM Election Observation Missions to CARICOM Member States.
The other members of the Mission are, Arley Gill (National of Grenada); and Chester Arlington Humphrey (National of Grenada).
The CARICOM Election Observation Mission proposes to meet with the electoral officials, leaders of political parties and other stakeholders of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis and will monitor the voting process including the opening of the poll, the casting of votes, the closing of the poll and the counting of the ballots.
The members of the Observation Mission arrived in St Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, and will depart on Sunday, June 7, 2020.
The Election Observation Mission will issue a preliminary statement based on its observations and findings. A report on the general elections will be subsequently prepared and submitted to the secretary-general of the Caribbean Community.
For CARICOM, election observation serves as a platform to support existing democratic traditions within the Caribbean Community as part of its wider policy of supporting democracy and good governance. In this regard, at the request of the government of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, the CARICOM secretariat conducted virtual training in election observation for a group of local election observers.
The St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) deputy political leader Marcella Liburd cautioned that prime minister Dr Timothy Harris is “hell-bent on securing a victory at any cost and by whatever means possible” advised that one safeguard is the intervention of international observers representing key organisations including the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) CARICOM and the Organization of Associates (OAS).
The St Kitts Evangelical Association and the St Kitts Christian Council rejected a request by the Dr Timothy Harris-led Team Unity government to be the sole observers of June 5, 2020, general elections in St Kitts and Nevis.
The group told the government that it lacks the human resource capacity and experience to manage, undertake and comprehensively report on their own, the observations of the June 5 poll; and pointed out that in previous elections their observation took place alongside regional, hemispheric and international election observers.
The NGO’s told the government of Dr Harris that the people of St Christopher and Nevis “believe in the concept of true democracy with free and fair elections.”
In a letter to the political leader of St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) Dr Denzil Douglas, dated May 28, OAS secretary-general, Luis Almagro validated that the Organization had accepted Dr Harris’ invitation of May 19, but the invitation was revoked on May 27.
“Unfortunately, on May 27 the government informed the OAS that, following the establishment of a 14-day quarantine, it would not be feasible for the observer mission to travel to St Kitts and Nevis.
“OAS/GS regrets that a practical solution was not put in place like was the case in Suriname to allow our observers to deploy but is respectful of the sovereign decision,” the OAS letter read.
The Commonwealth ‘Not possible’
A June 2, 2020, letter to Dr Denzil L Douglas, political leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, says, the decision of prime minister, Dr Timothy Harris, that “ requires all travellers to be placed in a 14 day quarantine; and, that given the numbers of days prior to the elections, an election observation mission would not be possible.”
Early on, the St Kitts and Nevis government bypassed elections supervisor recommendation and returning officers, poll clerks.
The decision by prime minister Dr Timothy Harris to overrule the selection of Returning Officers and Poll Clerks made by supervisor of elections, Elvin Bailey, and to replace them with his people, including his brother-in-law, Jermaine “Sacky” Lake, has created considerable suspicion and fear among the people of St Kitts and Nevis.
Increasingly, questions are being asked about the motives of Dr Harris, and others are convinced that “the country will become another Guyana”.
There are also concerns that – extra ballots are expected to hi-jack elections in St Kitts and Nevis.
Commission member, attorney, Jason Hamilton, who represents the opposition, has questioned the government activities in preparation for the 2020 poll that “erodes the work if 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.
The said list was published Thursday, June 4, one day before the general elections, with many unanswered questions.
“A sign is posted on the door of the office indicating that the office will be closed from Tuesday, June 2 to Thursday, June 4 giving only Friday (June 5th Election Day) to be opened. If the list was published last week, a voter would … if his or her name is on or off the list. If the office is closed this week where does the person go to complain,” Hamilton added, “the question is who gave that directive?”
Meanwhile, the NextGen SKN – St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) remains confident of election victory, amid ‘irregularities’ – ‘State of Emergency’ and additional security measures, says, “It’s all about you” – the people of St Kitts and Nevis.