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Constituency Boundaries Issue Still a Major Concern

Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire
Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire

A review of Saint Lucia’s constituency boundaries has been pending for some time now, and the authorities are keen on bringing some measure of closure to this undertaking.

According to government sources, the last major review was undertaken in 1974, and from thereon, there are still public and political concerns on this issue.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire sought to shed some light on this matter, which he says, is long overdue for some form of recourse.

“In 2016, there was a proposal from the Constituencies and Boundaries Commission to alter the boundaries in Saint Lucia,” Dr. Hilaire told reporters, during the briefing before the weekly cabinet meeting.

The constitution of the land stipulates that a boundaries review is due every seven years and one should have been completed by 2022. However, the review is yet to be undertaken by the Boundaries Commission, which is tasked with taking on this procedure.

“The constitution provides that there should be a review every seven years, and there were recommendations made for the establishment of Constituency Boundaries in Saint Lucia,” the Castries South MP noted.

In 2015, he said, prior to the 2016 polls, the commission adopted a proposal that was supported by the two main political parties- St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and the United Workers Party (UWP).

In the interim period, then UWP parliamentarian Guy Joseph filed a motion against the recommendations, stating that it would prejudice his chances at the polls. The case proceeded and then there was a “Procedural motion” that Joseph lost, and the “substantive case” has not yet been heard.

Since then, 20 years have passed, said Hilaire and there was supposed to be another review in 2022,we’ve not had boundary changes in Saint Lucia for 50 years. The last major change we had was in 1974 when we moved from 10 constituencies to 17 and we’ve had little realignments along the way.”

He said  that a review of the constituency boundaries is on the table and there are discussions taking place as to what the boundaries should be.

Hilaire referred to the Gros Islet constituency, as one of the largest constituencies on the island, which is proportionally many times larger than the Dennery South constituency and much larger than the next largest, Castries South East.

The largest constituencies on island, are listed as Gros Islet, Castries South East and Babonneau, in terms of population.

With the issue under review over the years as the population increases in the respective constituencies, the minister said it is a pressing matter that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Lately, the government undertook a Housing and Population Census to ascertain the population density on the island, and to assess the socio-economic status and well-being of the average citizen.

Hilaire explained that once the Census Report is released, “we can then decide what’s the best arrangement as the constitution states that: you should try to approximate (an) equal number in every constituency, subject to population, transportation network, and other criteria.”

Despite the opposing political overtones and criticisms that has been leveled against a review of the constituency boundaries, he asserted that, “It really calls upon you to have as equal as possible, the number of people living in that constituency and so, we have to do it constitutionally to review the boundaries.”

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