Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay on Tuesday reversed her decision to suspend voter registration in August while her office focuses on cleaning up the voter’s list.
The reversal came one day after the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) objected to the move.
“You cannot prevent people from registering,” NDP president and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said Monday on his weekly radio programmes.
The new decision was announced in a press release on Tuesday, in which Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay said her office will work simultaneously to register new voter’s as well as prepare and publish the new voter’s list and to make it available to the public for scrutiny.
A new voter’s list will be published in August, Findlay said in the release.
“The list will reflect the names of persons who are registered as voter between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2015. The Electoral Office urges new voters as well as individuals who are re-registering to make use of the services provided in the constituencies,” the release said.
The Electoral Office further advised the public that the registration schedules will be published in the weekly newspapers and the Electoral Office page of the Government’s website.
Registering officers will also post schedules in strategic places in constituencies and the Electoral Office will make the schedules available to all political parties, the release said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who also had ministerial responsibility for electoral matters, read the release at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I just want to say that I have full confidence in the Supervisor of Elections,” Gonsalves said.
“This supervisor of Election and the staff they have been doing a lot of work. They have been very open to the political parties to make suggestions,” Gonsalves told reporters.
“There is no need to have any war with the Supervisor of Elections or her office. She is a woman stuffed with integrity and if there are problems, and if we want to highlight any deficiency, we can do so and she would listen.
“Let us not create the impression that we don’t have a good electoral system or that there is a hanky-panky which is going on, because there is none,” Gonsalves said.
The Electoral Office is engaged in a process to assess the status of some 24,000 persons whose names could be removed from the voter’s list, in keeping with a law passed in Parliament this year.
Most of those persons are believed to be dead, or no longer qualified to vote because they have lived outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for five or more consecutive years.
Gonsalves noted that both the government and the opposition supported the bill in Parliament.
That amendment included the provision of one month for persons to challenge the removal of their names.
The month ended yesterday (Monday).
General elections are constitutionally due in March 2016 but Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said they will be called by yearend.
Speaking on Monday, Eustace asked what would have happened if they elections were called in August, during the hiatus of general voter registration.
“I do not agree that we should stop registration at all until such time as the elections are called and you have the late registration period,” Eustace said.
Speaking on Eustace’s radio programme, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, the NDP’s St. Clair Leacock, also opposed the suspension.
“It goes against the grain of an elections that is pending, that for six weeks that the electorate is virtually shut out from becoming participants in the democratic process. I really don’t like it,” said Leacock, who is also a vice-president of the NDP.