The following is an update from the (NMCM), the body in SVG that monitors the nation’s election campaigns and activities on election day. The update was sent to the media today, Tuesday, Dec. 8.
3rd December 2015
The NMCM, having been formed as mandated by the Grand Beach Accord of May 2000, and having served the 2001, 2005 and 2010 elections, and the Constitutional Referendum of 2009, assumes the role once more in 2015 to monitor the elections and to ensure that the period leading up to elections is a peaceful one and that the General Elections is conducted in a free and fair manner.
The mechanism comprises representation from civil society, viz., representatives from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Christian Council (Chair and Convener of the NMCM), the Evangelical Association, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Spiritual Baptist, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Women, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association, the Unity Labour Party, the New Democratic Party and the Democratic Republican Party.
One of the responsibilities of the NMCM is to facilitate the launching of the Code of Conduct. This took place on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015, at the Methodist Church Hall, Kingstown. By signing the Code of Conduct, the political parties (the ULP, the NDP and the DRP) bound themselves to the principles of the Code in view of the ‘common good’ and the interest of the nation. Ultimately, however, the Code rises or falls on personal integrity, in particular that of the individual candidates, and in general, party supporters.
Since we believe that we are all responsible for adhering to the Code, repeating the objectives can be helpful. The Code commits us to:
- Fostering democracy through peaceful, free and fair elections in which voters are permitted to cast their ballots freely, without interference, fear, intimidation or bribery
- Promoting respect for human rights, the pursuit of civil and political liberties, the tolerance of divergent opinions, and full and active participation of all in the political process
- Encouraging participation in the electoral process by this country’s citizenry and to uphold their rights to make political choices.
- Promoting an election free of violence.
So what has been happening on the ground? The following are taken from the reports given by the monitors.
There are a number of concerns:
- Schedule of meetings from the political parties was not always forthcoming on a timely manner.
- Police presence and traffic problems – unnecessary traffic congestion can be avoided and a smoother flow of traffic obtained if officers are present at the meeting sites half an hour or an hour before the commencement of political meetings.
- The deploying of police officers to some political meetings was inadequate.
- The choices of venues for meeting needs to be reviewed to avoid unnecessary traffic congestion.
There have been some complaints:
- After a number of phone calls and face to face interactions on the issue of the distribution of building materials from the Public Works facility at Arnos Vale, the NMCM sent two letters (dated 24/11/15 and 30/11/15 respectively) to the PM and leader of the ULP appealing to him to interrupt the programme until December 10th. We expressed our concern about the timing of the distribution and the volume of the distribution among others. Election, we said, must not only be free and fair; they must also appear to be free and fair. As far as we are aware, the status of the programme has not changed.
These are some observations:
- A man who appears to be mentally ill was transfer from one Constituency to another.
- Racial comments were made on political platform.
- Threatening language was used by candidates and party supporters against their opponents.
- At some meetings candidates did not dealing with issues of national growth and development. The real issues were not addressed substantially.
- At some meetings vehicles were not allowed to pass freely especially those bearing stickers of opponent’s party.
- In most of the meetings, apart from the opening Prayer and few quotation of scriptures here and there, much regard was not being given to morality and Christian ethics.
- In one case a candidate was referred to as an ‘alien’ and it was said he is not from Earth.
These are some proposed recommendations:
- Base on observation thus far police officers should be more pro-active in carrying their roles and functions as it relates the direction of traffic and keeping the peace.
- Candidates and platform speakers need to appeal for peace and calm and avoid threatening language and inciting violence.
- At political meeting candidates should remind their supporters about the Code of Conduct that they would have affixed their signatures to for free and fair elections.
- As we draw closer to Election Day and emotions are high candidates should try to avoid as much as it is humanely possible the clashes of or crossing of path of political meetings
- Person hosting programmes for political parties should refrain from demonising candidates of opposing political parties by lying or mudslinging or entertaining gutter or mud politics.
We urge all persons to respect the Code of Conduct, to be cooperative in the election process, to adhere to integrity, to be tolerant and respectful of each other and to be committed to promoting peace and harmony at all times. All eligible persons must be able to exercise their right to vote and to take advantage of the opportunity to play an active role in the decision-making of the country. This is the time for tolerance.
Let us pray for peace and goodwill.
Msgr. Michael Stewart
Chair of the NMCM