Today, September 3rd 2019, at the start of the Parliamentary sitting in which, among other bills, the National Assembly Elections Amendment Bill (NAEAB) was indefinitely withdrawn from the business of the National Assembly. This comes even after the bill was placed on the Order Paper (Order of Proceedings) on Thursday of last week when documents were circulated to all parliamentarians.
The NAEAB was a bill intended to block citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis who are residing abroad from being able to vote in the country of their birth and belonging. Members of the Team Unity Government over the past year have argued that citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis living abroad should not be allowed to vote simply because they were citizens. They further argued that citizens should live in St. Kitts and Nevis to be able to vote for a government of their choosing.
Only a month ago did Jonel Powell, PAM candidate for Central Basseterre and a political appointee in the Harris-led government as an ambassador, indicate emphatically that the Team Unity government was determined to block overseas citizens from voting and remove those whose names are already on the voters’ list. PAM candidate Jonel Powell argued that although it was the PAM government in 1984 that had passed legislation to allow citizens abroad to vote, the time had come to reverse course, likely due to the fact that the political outlook for Team Unity and PAM was bleak.
PAM candidates Shawn Richards, Eugene Hamilton, Lindsay Grant and Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd have been among the greatest promoters of the policy and supporters of Prime Minister Harris’ desire to remove the overseas citizens from the voters’ list.
However, citizens abroad and their family members at home have pushed back against the political narrowmindedness that created the exclusionary policy. Many of them called into radio shows everyday to highlight the folly and lack of wisdom of the Harris-led government.
Our overseas nationals have prevailed. Whilst nationals of other countries are being courted by the Team Unity government for their vote, Harris and his colleagues were all too willing to disenfranchise hundreds of nationals living abroad who visit their homeland and contribute economically and otherwise to its sustenance and well-being.