by Linda Straker
- OAS mission recommends amendments to People’s Representation Act to provide for Commonwealth nationals to register on the voting list
- Review of the totality of processes to prepare a final voters list for an election is needed
The Organisation of American States (OAS) electoral expert mission has recommended that Grenada undertake amendments to the section of the People’s Representation Act that provides for Commonwealth nationals to register on the voting list so that they can vote in an election.
Nestor Mendez, Chief of Mission said that the principal concern articulated to the mission in the majority of the meetings with stakeholders regarded the possibility of non-eligible persons particularly from neighbouring Commonwealth countries might have been included in the final list.
At present, the legislation provides for a Commonwealth national to be residing in the island for 12 months to register, while those who cannot show proof are required to take an oath with a Justice of the Peace. If an investigation reveals that fraud was committed, both parties can be imprisoned and fined.
Addressing a news conference after the 13 March General Election in which the ruling New National Party (NNP) was returned to office with a landslide victory, the mission recommended that such oath from a justice of the peace should only be accepted only if it is accompanied by proof of legal entry.
“The Representation of the People Act should be amended to specify that where a Commonwealth citizen wishes to be registered but does not possess the document indicated above, a declaration from a Justice of the Peace can only be accepted if it is accompanied by proof of a legal entry into the country issued by the immigration authorities,” said Mendez. A standard format for the Declaration of Residency to be used by Justices of the Peace should be prepared and circulated by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) was also recommended.
Without showing any proof or evidence during the election campaign, members of the Civil Society Organisations raised concerns about nationals from St Vincent and the Grenadines registering to vote in Carriacou and nationals from other Commonwealth Nations registering in mainland Grenada.
The mission also recommended that an updated Justice of the Peace list be gazetted and published so that the general public will know the persons who are qualified as Justices of the Peace. According to the Magistrate Act, the Governor-General is responsible for appointing any fit and proper person to be a Justice of the Peace for Grenada.
With regards to publishing of a Justices of the Peace list, the law states: “In the month of January in every year there shall be published in the Gazette a list of all Justices of the Peace for the time being holding office, and in the list there shall be stated the profession, occupation or calling and the place of residence, of each Justice.”
The mission also recommends that an amendment be made to the number of days set aside in law for the hearing of claims and objections and appeals and it is done before an election. “The mission acknowledges and accepts that the schedule adopted by the Parliamentary Elections Office adheres to the provisions stipulated in the Representation of the People Act for the preparations of the voters list, including the 7-day period allotted for hearing claims, objections and appeals. The mission, however, considers that the approximately 21 days currently provided is insufficient for the satisfactory conclusion of all necessary steps,” said Mendez.
The mission recommends that the electoral authorities, therefore, review the totality of processes that must be completed to prepare a final voters list for an election, including claims, objections and appeals to calculate the minimum amount of time that is reasonably required to do so. “The mission also recommends that government and electoral authorities thereafter consider amending the Representation of the People Act to incorporate the findings into a new minimum timeline governing the publication of a final voters list for any election.”