Chastanet Wants C’wealth Secretariat Ideas Used
AN attempt to prevent the Boundaries Commission Report from coming into effect is shaping up with a call by the United Workers Party Political Leader, Allen Chastanet to civil society and other organizations to write to the Prime Minister asking him to review the matter.
The call came 24 hours after the Report’s passage through the Senate on Wednesday.
Chastanet wants the government to take heed of a report from the Commonwealth Secretariat which he says was commissioned by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony in 1998, which outlined a few actions a government can take regarding the creation of constituencies and the delineation of their boundaries.
According to Chastanet that report calls for legislation that would direct the Head of State to nominate persons to be on the Commission who should all be non-political.
He added that the Commonwealth Report stated that the chairperson on a Boundaries Commission ought not to be the Speaker of the House but rather an independent person.
“They (Commonwealth Secretariat) also recommended that the Electoral Department and the Boundaries Commission ought to be amalgamated because there’s a fundamental difference why the Electoral Commission has been working more effectively; it’s because Governors General appoint the chairperson in their own right.
“In the absence of amalgamating the two, the Commonwealth Report recommends that the Boundaries Commission then be given a professional staff and an annual allocation from Parliament to be able to fund those things. And the professional staff could include the Chief Electoral Officer and the Chief Statistical Officer and that also the review of boundaries be tied on a fixed term period. Most countries have tied it to their population census. So immediately after a census there is a review,” Chastanet said.
“That takes away the suspicion that a political party is only considering boundary changes for their own political advantage,” he added.
He noted that the Commonwealth Report speaks to the draft report from the Boundaries Commission being made public for feedback by the people and not shrouded in secrecy.
“Only when this is done that a final document is submitted to Parliament for approval,” Chastanet said.
“We have to question the objectivity of the report that was presented. I am asking that the process be reversed and that we do the right thing,” Chastanet added.
However he fell short of saying exactly what his party will do should the government push ahead with the Report.
“The party will have to look at all of its options in moving forward. I’m really calling on civil society and all the other organizations that truly want democracy and transparency and the rule of law, to listen to what the opposition is saying and if there is any merit in it to write the Prime Minister asking that he review this because we believe this is an injustice to the people of Saint Lucia and as an opposition we have every right to do that,” Chastanet said.
With regard to objections being raised now by his party and not at the committee stage at which two representatives of the party sat Chastanet said that all the commissioners acted in good faith in representing their respective political parties.
“The United Workers Party representatives acted in good faith in the process. The place where the opposition needs to question these things is in Parliament. But the fact is that we go to Parliament and the voice of the opposition is continuously silenced by the “ayes have it.”