Articles

Fri 20th Nov 2009

A black Friday for 11,280 illiterate voters - is this not a significant breach of voters' civil rights for the referendum?

Dr Martin Luther King Jr, President Nelson Mandela, the honourable Rosa Parks and Malcolm X are the champions of civil rights. In spite of all their sacrifices, civil rights violations are rampant in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The United Nations (UN) has classified SVG as an illiterate State. A UN adult literacy report confirmed that, of the 94,000 voters on the SVG voters list for the referendum for 25th November 2009, about 11,280 are illiterate.

SVG Green Party and Ivan O'Neal wrote to the supervisor of elections on the 18th September 2009, requesting that symbols be used on the ballot paper in place of the YES and NO to facilitate secret and dignified voting by the 11,280 illiterate voters in the referendum.

There was no response from the supervisor of elections. As a matter of civil rights and civic duty, SVG Green Party and Ivan O'Neal filed a fixed date claim 349/2009 in the High Court on the 23rd October 2009, for redress of this serious breach of civil rights.

The matter was heard on the 12th November 2009. Mr Parnell R. Campbell QC represented the Attorney General and the Supervisor of Elections. Mr Campbell told the Court that the claimants', SVG Green Party and Ivan O'Neal, claim was frivolous. They were seeking judicial review and no leave was granted. He asked the Court to dismiss the claim.

Mr Emery Robertson Snr represented SVG Green Party and Ivan O'Neal. Mr Robertson told the Court that the matter was a constitutional one a not a judicial review, and that, the Orders he sought were declaratory and that no leave was required.

On Black Friday 13th November 2009, Her Ladyship Justice Remy ruled in favour of the defendants and also imposed a fine of fifteen hundred dollars on the claimants. A stay of execution of judgement and leave to appeal was sought by Mr. Robertson. The judge refused the stay of execution, but granted leave to appeal.

Attorney generals and supervisors of elections have a constitutional responsibility to protect the civil rights of all citizens, especially the illiterate. For Counsel for the defendants to state that this matter was frivolous is beyond belief. As a result of this ruling, the 11,280 illiterate voters are in our opinion being disenfranchised.

How can the ULP government be pushing a referendum, which in their opinion will improve the civil and fundamental rights of the people of SVG, yet commit such a blatant and wilful act of civil rights denial? This only goes to show that we cannot believe a word of what the ULP regime is telling the nation.

The ULP has a history of being wicked to budding political parties in our society. They passed a regulation no 25/2009 on 20th of October 2009, prohibiting SVG Green Party from putting agents at polling stations during the referendum exercise.

The actions of the ULP clearly warrant a strong NO VOTE for the referendum. Therefore, SVG Green Party is calling on all Vincentians and other nationals to make it their civic duty to go out and vote NO on referendum day.

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