Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he is not expecting any controversy surrounding the appointment of a new Constituency Boundaries Commission, as had been the case in 2010.
Eight years ago, the main opposition New Democratic Party went to court over an attempt by Parliament to increase the number of constituencies from 15 to 17.
Since then, there have been two elections, both won by Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party, based on the same boundaries – although the NDP is challenging, in court, the result of the 2015 vote.
However, with the data from the 2012 census having been published, constitutionally, a new commission must be appointed to review, but not necessarily change, the constituency boundaries.
The commission is composed of a chairman, who shall be appointed by the Governor General in his own deliberate judgment; one member who shall be appointed by the Governor General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister; and one member who shall be appointed by the Governor General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Gonsalves said that in 2010, his government had passed a motion in Parliament to increase the number of constituencies from 15 to 17.
He noted that the NDP had brought a legal action for reviewing that motion
“Once they had brought the action, I said, ‘Listen, if you are not satisfied with the way the boundaries are cut, that is fine with me, you know.’”
He said the government decided to proceed to the election on the old boundaries.
“Because I don’t want to beat anybody unfairly, you know. Because I know there was no unfair decision.”
Gonsalves said he believes that the ULP would have lost the 2010 elections by one seat if it had been contested on 17 constituencies, that the ULP had proposed, rather than the existing 15.
“I look at the number. But they thought we had cut it to disadvantage them,” the prime minister said.
He speculated that the NDP thought that the proposed new boundaries would have caused Arnhim Eustace, then Leader of the Opposition, to lose his seat as Member of Parliament for East Kingstown.
“He would not have lost the seat — on the results of the 2010 elections,” Gonsalves said.
“But whatever boundaries commission is appointed would be in relation to [the new census results] — because I have been advised by the lawyers in the AG’s chambers that that matter, having not been completed, that’s the end of that and that the boundaries commission would be in relation to the 15 seats which we have, unless we are to go to Parliament to renew. That’s what I have been advised,” the prime minister said.
He said that when he looks at the census figures, there is a very small increase
He said a Boundaries Commission is not just about adjusting seats but can adjust boundaries within the existing constituencies.
“But we have to have a Boundaries Commission because the law, the Constitution says that, among other things, … you have to do one after the publication of the census,” he said, noting that one was constituted eight years ago.
The prime minister said he is not expecting any controversy, “though, of course, from the time you say things like that, they think that Ralph, even a simple statement like I make here now, they say, ‘Ralph is a cunning fella.’
“They try and turn me into a demigod and think that somewhere under my hand or my sleeve or something I have some trick. I don’t have any trick. I am just complying with the law. That’s all I am doing,” Gonsalves said.