Statement on the Change in the Date for Nomination of Candidates
THE HON DR KENNY D ANTHONY
PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER FOR FINANCE, ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, PLANNING & SOCIAL SECURITY
In the light of the concerns raised in some quarters over the change in the date for the nomination of candidates from Friday, 27th May 2016 to Saturday 28th May, 2016 it is necessary that I clarify the circumstances that made this change necessary.
Let me first state unequivocally that no consideration whatsoever was given on my part or any other person’s part, of offending or inconveniencing any candidate’s or person’s religious beliefs or faith.
The sole consideration and motivation to the change of the date of nomination was to ensure adequate time for the nomination of candidates, and to preserve the date for the election as required by law.
As I mention later, the Elections Act does not, except in exceptional circumstances which do not apply, allow the date of an election to be changed by the Executive or Judicial Branches of the Government of Saint Lucia.
On Thursday, 19th May, 2016, prior to my announcement of the date for the General Election on national television, the Office of the Governor General was advised of the date for nominations and General Election.
The writs for the General Election should have been signed on that day but was held up to await the list of Returning Officers from the Electoral Commission.
That list was only made available in the afternoon of the next day allowing publication in the Gazette but not in a local newspaper by way of extraordinary publication because by then, most newspapers had closed for the day.
This resulted in the first publication in a newspaper becoming available on the morning of Saturday, 21st May 2016. That publication date meant that if the original nomination date of Friday, 27th May 2016 had been kept, candidates may not have had the seven (7) days prior to Nomination Day.
Consequently, it became necessary for the Governor General to send to the Chief Elections Officer amending writs to correct the date for nomination day.
It must be noted that the law permits the date for Nomination Day to be changed. But, as I have indicated the law does not permit or allow a change of the date for the General Election except in specific and restricted cases of emergencies.
Therefore, in the circumstances, Saturday, 28th May 2016 became the only fair and available date to hold nominations and Her Excellency the Governor General issued the amending writs accordingly.
I recognize that Saturday, 28th May 2016 is a day of religious worship for many in our society. Indeed, Fridays and Sundays are also religious days of worship for some.
I was, however, mindful that a particular day of worship may be difficult for some candidates. However, I was equally mindful of the fact that the law allows a candidate’s agents to nominate him or her in their absence.
I should add that, two of the candidates of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, Joachim Henry and Jerome Gedeon, belong to denominations which worship on a Saturday.
It is therefore inconceivable that anyone could sensibly believe that I would intentionally or otherwise discriminate against any of the religious beliefs of our candidates, supporters or that of any or all citizens.
I sincerely regret the inconvenience that this change may cause to Saint Lucians for whom Saturday is their Sabbath.
Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier the Elections Act provides authority for the nomination of a candidate who may be unable to attend because of his Sabbath to be nominated in his or her absence by his or her duly authorised representative or agent.
This will allow any candidates affected by the regrettable but, in the circumstances, unavoidable change of date to proceed with their nomination without offending their religious beliefs or sensitivities. Therefore, this change of date does not prevent or affect the nomination of any candidate of any of the Parties intending to contest the General Election on Monday, 6th June 2016.
In closing, I wish to reiterate that it was never my intention or that of my Government to discriminate against or inconvenience any religious group or offend any sensitivities.
The decision that had to be made required that careful consideration be given to the law and the various options in order to preserve the date for the General Election.
In any event, I wish to place on record my apologies for any difficulties or any inconvenience that this unavoidable change may cause, and trust that all will go well on Nomination Day so that we can proceed to elect the new Government for Saint Lucia on the 6th June 2016.
God’s speed and God bless!