The new Supervisor of Elections, Dora James. (File photo by Lance Neverson/Facebook)

There is no law allowing scrutiny of voter registration, but the election chief, Dora James, is “a woman of democratic temper and good sense and would not take away the courtesy if she feels that in all the circumstances it is something to be continued,” says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, speaking on WE FM on Sunday, also defended Vibert Pierre, the registering officer for Central Leeward, who suspended voter registration in Barrouallie on July 8, when opposition candidate Ben Exeter refused to leave the room.

Gonsalves said that the nation’s election law, the Representation of the People Act (RPA), gives permission for the appointment of scrutineers for enumeration, and not registration. 

“Now, if the law intended you to have somebody … at the place of registration, that is to say for the preparation of the quarterly list, the law would have said so. It puts in the hands of the Supervisor of Elections, the authority of how to manage that process,” the prime minister said.

Gonsalves described Pierre was “a man of honour and integrity,” he said, adding that no one in the opposition outranks him in this regard.

“Notice, I am not saying they are stuffed with less, you know. I am just saying they are not stuffed with more integrity than Mr. Pierre. Neither are they stuffed with more integrity than the Supervisor of Elections,” he said.

The prime minister said that when one goes to register, one tells the registering officer a number of private things in answer to questions.

Opposition New Democratic Party candidate for Central Leeward, Ben Exeter. (iWN file photo)

Exeter had raised questions about why he was allowed to observe the registration process in Layou but not in Barrouallie, the towns in Central Leeward.

Gonsalves said Pierre “is a completely reasonable man” but the “physical circumstances in Barrouallie are such that if anybody comes inside there, quote unquote to observe, they have to be so close and within hearing distance that they are obstructing the process of registration.

“But in Layou, they have more space so he had extended the courtesy to the same Mr. Exeter who, for these purposes, is in no better position than somebody walking off the street to say they want to stand up there. Because he is not nominated.”

He said that even if Exeter is formally nominated as a candidate and there is any last-minute registration in the 15-day special registration period, he can only go to the registration centre “with the permission of the registering officer who would have received instruction from the Supervisor of Elections who has the constitutional duty in the conduct of these elections”.

‘somebody disturbed the process’

The prime minister said that when opposition senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who is also a lawyer, quoted Section 23 of the RPA to say that Pierre might be mindful of that provision and could be punished under it, “I thought, what kind of folly is this?”

Bacchus-Baptiste had quoted the section of the law, which speaks to the sanction that could be imposed on a registering officer who refuses to register a voter.

Gonsalves said that Pierre did not omit to register anyone.

“It’s that somebody disturbed the process,” he said, adding that Pierre showed himself a person of integrity by immediately reporting the development to the elections chief.

Gonsalves said he understands that on the next occasion, when there was registration in Layou — following the July 8 incident in Barrouallie — “they allowed Mr. Exeter, who was accompanied by one or two lawyers, because they were at a distance.

“That is a courtesy extended. You don’t have a right to be there. But there is this narrative that they want to continue about elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines not being free and fair,” Gonsalves said, noting that the court ruled against the opposition in the two petitions it filed after the 2015 general election.

The prime minister further said that Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, in a letter in response to one from the elections chief, said there was no legal basis to exclude Exeter from the registration centre on grounds of privacy.

“It’s not just privacy. By you being there, it is privacy but you disturbing me in my job and you coming closer to me and you want to film me in what I am doing? No. It is not acceptable.  And that he is barefaced enough to say that Mr. Pierre without, quote-unquote, reasonable excuse for failing to continue in the registration on the 8th of July.”

Exeter said that he used his phone to document what had happened after Pierre halted the registration process prematurely.  

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

‘a courtesy’

Gonsalves said that observation of the registration process “is, in fact, a courtesy”.

“There is no misapprehension there and I am not going to allow the opposition or anybody to bully the registering officer and seeking their own way for their own purposes to undermine free and fair elections and to seek to suppress voter registration. I will not allow it,” he further said in response to a point Friday made in his letter.

In his communiqué, Friday had said that James, who became supervisor of elections in 2018, should be keen to restore the reputation of the officer after the 2015 vote and legal proceeding arising therefrom.

Gonsalves said that Sylvia Findlay, who presided over the 2015 polls, “is stuffed with integrity”.

“The reputation of Sylvia Findlay was reaffirmed — if it needed to be reaffirmed — by Justice John. I want to repeat that. And wherever, her evidence was not — anytime anybody else said anything that was contrary to what she say, the judge preferred her evidence, believed her.

“So Friday is embarking still on a partisan witch-hunt against a decent woman who was supervisor of elections,” Gonsalves said, adding that the opposition leader was “now taking it out on another decent woman”.

He continued:

“I don’t know where the integrity of the Vincentian electoral process was in question. There was a victor in the polls, you say you are not satisfied, you went to court and you lost. There was a judgement. You can challenge it at the Court of Appeal.”

In the same judgement cited by Gonsalves, the judge said:

“This case has highlighted the need for proper training of persons who perform official duties in elections. That, the Court believes will alleviate the many irregularities which have arisen in this case.”

The prime minister said that threat of legal action contained in Friday’s letter does not frighten anyone.

“Anybody can go to the court if they want to go to court, but if you go to the court with folly, the court will treat it as folly. The Supervisor of Elections is clearly a woman of democratic temper and good sense and would not take away the courtesy if she feels that in all the circumstances it is something to be continued. But Exeter doesn’t have special role or place or anybody to give a privileged or preferential position,” Gonsalves said.

He continued:

“So any busybody can walk off the street. And if Exeter can walk off the street, a fisherman in Layou or Barrouallie or the whaler man can go, too. So anybody here or there, but telling me Exeter was a candidate, his status now is Ben Exeter, simpliciter. That’s all.”

Gonsalves said he had never gone to any registering officer in North Central Windward, which he had been representing in Parliament since 1994, to sit down to see how the registration is going.

He said would push his head in the door and say hello, adding that he does not know the politics of the registering officer or photographer.

“But you know what, let them continue to do that,” he said of the opposition.

“Let them waste time on that sideshow. I know what you have to organise to get people registered. I am not going to educate them. How you organise to get people to the registration centre and so on…. Not to gallivant and showboat,” he said, adding that he will make the incident in Barrouallie an issue in the election.

Gonsalves has said that Vincentians will go to the polls by year-end, ahead of the March 2021 constitutional deadline.

15 replies on “James to allow voter registration observer ‘courtesy’ — PM”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    No one can out debate or out think our brilliant Comrade. No one. Not the least any member of the official opposition which is why five-in-a-row is a sure thing.

    No, Ralph Gonsalves is not the “blackest” Prime Minister our young nation has ever had — a racist claim if there ever was one coming from a man who was born into white privilege, if not supremacy — but he is certainly the smartest — and cleverest — and best educated and most eloquent one we have ever had by far.

    1. …and worship the soil he walks on! How does he put his pants on in the morning? Does his flatulence and feces stink like the rest of us? I also heard he is appointed by God, is that true? His son can even be compared to Jesus!

  2. So Ralph: If there will be a fair election this time then the process before the election should be transparent. If there is nothing to hide, then there is no reason why any Vincentian can’t observe the process. Observation of the registration process is not just a fact of courtesy, but also one of transparency and integrity.
    What court are you referring to in SVG? You control the court and legal process using fear. One day the same process will come back to bite you and your family. Be careful of what you sow because that’s what you will reap. Would you say Winston Games is also “stuffed with integrity”? I don’t think so!
    I challenge you to put the voters’ lists of constituencies in a police station so Vincentians can determine there are no dead peoples’ name on it.

  3. Around the sixth century BC in the Greek City States we had what was known as the “Polis” of Athens, the first known democracy, however Athens democracy was later twice interrupted oligarchic revolutions.

    When a small group of people takes control of a country, according to our dictionary, we end up with an Oligarchy, be they one family or otherwise. Thus, Democracy is a very fragile thing and it is forever under attack by the forces of oligarchy and dictatorships or those who wish to be kings.
    Two thousand and seventeen Venezuela https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7xu8mpGtZU

    The economic results of past democracies that fell to the forces of dictatorships are easy to see the world over, the latest being Venezuela https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfvSfzCo_LU gone are the days when Hollywood celebrities and western leftish politicians sang the praises of Venezuela. Now they have nothing to say as much poverty and hunger grips that once oil rich nation.

    If the majority of Vincentians therefore wish to flourish in a true and fair elected democracy, they will need to defend it through “the rule of Law” and not be ever fearful. Freedoms lost to grubby dictators and oligarchs are always very hard to recover.

    1. Y didn’t you pubish the real original statement I made. Do I now have to write an academic paper in order to participate on this forum.

  4. Pm you song like a old fool.The office of the supervisor should be independent.So you can’t say what you going to accept or don’t accept.lt is the responsibility of the office of the supervisor being guide by the law.No you so stop behaving like you stupid.Look at you and still you want to run for election you can’t even walk.Go look after yourself and your health.

  5. Honesty is Spiritual power.
    Cheat, dishonesty, lying , stealing, and all evil is of the devil.. Its our choice

  6. What on earth has prompted such an unscientific remark like this? “No one can out debate or out think our brilliant Comrade. No one” we in SVG may well ask a few more questions of the individual writer?

    Was it frustration on his part or was it some unfulfilled dream of his? Or was it that this individual is on some un-prescribed medication? Which reminds me folks, perhaps it is this kind of thinking that is the cause!
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8544279/University-lecturer-73-sacked-telling-colleague-positive-stereotypes.html

  7. “Certainly the brightest, cleverest, best educated, eloquent one by far, brilliant comrad,.” Do all of these adjectives qualify him to be accused of rape and that he cannot come to Canada.?? Big laugh, shameeeeee. Jimbo

    1. He was seen with a whole bunch of them in his car Grace, oh! rape you said rape, I thought you said grapes.

      There have been lots of complaints of some type of assault or another, about as many as there are in a bunch of grapes.

      He likes black grapes apparantly, prefers them to the lighter ones, chews them up if they are seedless.

  8. Ben,
    He is also dishonest, dictatorial and exploitative. Cato, Joshua, Mitchell and others were not as brilliant, but we always had fair and honest elections. They never interfered in the independent organs of the State. They respected the people and our institutions. We don’t need articulate and clever Prime Ministers only. We need brilliant, honest and upright people to lead this country. Your hero may be bright but he lacks the morality to lead. You are too smart and articulate yourself to go down that road.

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