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Parliament gives nod to increasing electoral constituencies

While Prime Minister Denzil Douglas was at the moment fighting and failing in the United Kingdom Privy Council to adopt new electoral boundaries just prior to General Elections in St. Kitts-Nevis, due on February 16, 2015, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony was succeeding at increasing the number of electoral constituencies in St. Lucia from 17 to 21. But that, according to an opposition Legislator., “We have not heard the last of this,” Guy Joseph, representative for South east Castries, told CMC after the Parliament meeting.

St. Lucia parliament

St. Lucia parliament

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Feb11, CMC – The St. Lucia parliament Tuesday approved a recommendation to increase the number of electoral constituencies from 17 to 21, despite opposition legislators voicing disagreement with the recommendations made by the Constituency Boundaries Commission (CBC).

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who piloted the measure, told legislators that failure to increase the constituencies to take into consideration the increase in the population could result in the situation being challenged in the court.

“It is simply not fair for one constituency to have 14 per cent of the population when there are constituencies with four per cent. The disparity is simply too extreme.

“Therefore, the alternative would necessarily be to achieve nearly equal seats by increasing the number of constituencies in the northern districts, thereby reducing the national average per constituency and bringing the national average closer to the average population of the southern constituencies. This is indeed what has been recommended by the Commission,” Anthony told law makers.

But former housing minister Richard Frederick urged the authorities to consider giving more autonomy to local government bodies, arguing also that the increases in constituencies were being discussed at a time when the country is facing severe economic difficulties.

“At this point in our finances I would hate to see that we are putting more pressure on the public purse for something that is not of utmost necessity…therefore I cannot stand in support of this proposal,” Frederick said, adding that there will also be a need for additional staffing and space.

Frederick, the Castries Central representative said he favours a “re-education from the crux of good governance as opposed to increasing constituencies” and that local government plays an important role in community development.

He said more emphasis should be placed in improving the work of local government.

“I believe aligning local government to the districts will give them a better opportunity to work. As far as I am concerned we can reduce the constituency to a minimal. Let the politicians deal with the administrative aspect of governance and let the day to day running be handled by persons elected on an open level.

“Expanding constituencies cannot in any way, shape or form, lend to more effective governance… Give the people the authority and let the politicians administer how the policies are executed,” he urged law makers.

Anthony said that the report of the Commission “has been accepted by the consensus of all members of the Commission” that was chaired by House Speaker Peter Foster and included members of both the government and the opposition.

He said with a population of about 165,000, using the 2010 Census, and with 17 constituencies, the national average was determined at about 9,700 persons per constituency.

“From its report we can observe that the Commission considered plus or minus twenty percent (+/- 20%) from the national average as being a reasonable range within which constituency populations should vary.

“In other words, if we were to have 17 constituencies, the populations of those constituencies should ideally fall within a range of 7,800 persons on the lower end and 11,700 persons as a maximum limit.”

But Anthony said that the Commission’s Report noted that based on the 2010 Census figures the average population of a constituency in the northern region, comprising a total of seven constituencies,  is nearly 13,000 and the average population for a constituency in the southern region  with 10 constituencies)is 7,400.

Anthony acknowledged that there would be financial consequences for increasing the constituencies but noted that “the requirements of our Constitution at achieving population parity must also be respected.

“As a country, we can no longer delay on making changes that are necessary in the interest of democracy and the proper functioning of what should be our most sacred of institutions.

“It would appear that whenever the issue of Parliamentarians comes to the fore, the question is: can we afford it? And perhaps rightfully so. But this fear is sometimes extreme and driven by perpetual cynicism of our political institutions to begin with.”

He said parliamentarians in St. Lucia are not the best paid.

“Parliamentarians are not afforded a number of the luxuries those in other larger more developed countries are afforded. Nor do we have a complex system of federal, state or provincial, county and local government that other countries have.

“When we moved from 10 to 17 in 1973, we were a poorer country than we are now, but it was a necessary step. Today, we must step forward in the interest of good governance and ensuring the best fit in terms of representation of our population.

“In the future, it is not unthinkable that another Constituencies Boundaries Commission may find that the population has again been redistributed so that a different solution may be found that is best suited for those times,” he told legislators.

St. Lucia parliament

St. Lucia parliament

While the opposition did not vote at the end of the debate, they argued that their two representatives on the Commission were unfairly treated as unlike the government representatives they were not provided with any resources to undertake their assignment.

“They were expected to source the venture from their pocket while information reaching us suggests that funding was obtained to guide and assist the work of the representatives of the ruling party. We think that was a travesty of justice and sufficient grounds for the entire exercise to be redone,” says Guy Joseph, representative for South east Castries.

“We have not heard the last of this,” he told CMC after the Parliament meeting.

The report will now be debated by the Senate.

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

While Prime Minister Denzil Douglas was at the moment fighting and failing in the United Kingdom Privy Council to adopt new electoral boundaries just prior to General Elections in St. Kitts-Nevis, due on February 16, 2015, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony was succeeding at increasing the number of electoral constituencies in St. Lucia from 17 to 21. But that, according to an opposition Legislator., “We have not heard the last of this,” Guy Joseph, representative for South east Castries, told CMC after the Parliament meeting.

St. Lucia parliament

St. Lucia parliament

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Feb11, CMC – The St. Lucia parliament Tuesday approved a recommendation to increase the number of electoral constituencies from 17 to 21, despite opposition legislators voicing disagreement with the recommendations made by the Constituency Boundaries Commission (CBC).

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Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who piloted the measure, told legislators that failure to increase the constituencies to take into consideration the increase in the population could result in the situation being challenged in the court.

“It is simply not fair for one constituency to have 14 per cent of the population when there are constituencies with four per cent. The disparity is simply too extreme.

“Therefore, the alternative would necessarily be to achieve nearly equal seats by increasing the number of constituencies in the northern districts, thereby reducing the national average per constituency and bringing the national average closer to the average population of the southern constituencies. This is indeed what has been recommended by the Commission,” Anthony told law makers.

But former housing minister Richard Frederick urged the authorities to consider giving more autonomy to local government bodies, arguing also that the increases in constituencies were being discussed at a time when the country is facing severe economic difficulties.

“At this point in our finances I would hate to see that we are putting more pressure on the public purse for something that is not of utmost necessity…therefore I cannot stand in support of this proposal,” Frederick said, adding that there will also be a need for additional staffing and space.

Frederick, the Castries Central representative said he favours a “re-education from the crux of good governance as opposed to increasing constituencies” and that local government plays an important role in community development.

He said more emphasis should be placed in improving the work of local government.

“I believe aligning local government to the districts will give them a better opportunity to work. As far as I am concerned we can reduce the constituency to a minimal. Let the politicians deal with the administrative aspect of governance and let the day to day running be handled by persons elected on an open level.

“Expanding constituencies cannot in any way, shape or form, lend to more effective governance… Give the people the authority and let the politicians administer how the policies are executed,” he urged law makers.

Anthony said that the report of the Commission “has been accepted by the consensus of all members of the Commission” that was chaired by House Speaker Peter Foster and included members of both the government and the opposition.

He said with a population of about 165,000, using the 2010 Census, and with 17 constituencies, the national average was determined at about 9,700 persons per constituency.

“From its report we can observe that the Commission considered plus or minus twenty percent (+/- 20%) from the national average as being a reasonable range within which constituency populations should vary.

“In other words, if we were to have 17 constituencies, the populations of those constituencies should ideally fall within a range of 7,800 persons on the lower end and 11,700 persons as a maximum limit.”

But Anthony said that the Commission’s Report noted that based on the 2010 Census figures the average population of a constituency in the northern region, comprising a total of seven constituencies,  is nearly 13,000 and the average population for a constituency in the southern region  with 10 constituencies)is 7,400.

Anthony acknowledged that there would be financial consequences for increasing the constituencies but noted that “the requirements of our Constitution at achieving population parity must also be respected.

“As a country, we can no longer delay on making changes that are necessary in the interest of democracy and the proper functioning of what should be our most sacred of institutions.

“It would appear that whenever the issue of Parliamentarians comes to the fore, the question is: can we afford it? And perhaps rightfully so. But this fear is sometimes extreme and driven by perpetual cynicism of our political institutions to begin with.”

He said parliamentarians in St. Lucia are not the best paid.

“Parliamentarians are not afforded a number of the luxuries those in other larger more developed countries are afforded. Nor do we have a complex system of federal, state or provincial, county and local government that other countries have.

“When we moved from 10 to 17 in 1973, we were a poorer country than we are now, but it was a necessary step. Today, we must step forward in the interest of good governance and ensuring the best fit in terms of representation of our population.

“In the future, it is not unthinkable that another Constituencies Boundaries Commission may find that the population has again been redistributed so that a different solution may be found that is best suited for those times,” he told legislators.

St. Lucia parliament

St. Lucia parliament

While the opposition did not vote at the end of the debate, they argued that their two representatives on the Commission were unfairly treated as unlike the government representatives they were not provided with any resources to undertake their assignment.

“They were expected to source the venture from their pocket while information reaching us suggests that funding was obtained to guide and assist the work of the representatives of the ruling party. We think that was a travesty of justice and sufficient grounds for the entire exercise to be redone,” says Guy Joseph, representative for South east Castries.

“We have not heard the last of this,” he told CMC after the Parliament meeting.

The report will now be debated by the Senate.