The United Progressive Party (UPP) has registered its concern regarding a number of issues that could affect the electoral process ahead of the January 18 polls, including the delayed publication of the Register for Elections.
In a letter addressed to Dame Lorna Simon, Supervisor of Elections, the Party’s General Secretary, Shawn Nicholas, points out that the Register for Elections is mandated to be published 14 days after the Writs of Election have been issued.
Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams issued the Writs on December 20, 2022, and, up to yesterday, January 11, this provision of the 2010 amendment to the Representation of the People Act had not been honoured.
According to Section 44(4) of the Interpretation Act, Cap 224, Sundays and public holidays are not counted in calculating the 14-day period, and this clause has been offered as explanation for the delay in publishing the Register.
However, among its contentions about the late publication, the UPP contends that Saturdays should not have been excluded from the count, and the Register for Elections should have been published by January 9, 2023.
The Electoral Commission apparently relied on its legal counsel’s calculations in deciding when the Register must be published.
But counsel for the UPP, who has had sight of the legal opinion, says otherwise. While the principle is correctly laid out, counsel says, the calculation is incorrect. Therefore, ABEC’s intention of publishing the Register for Elections on January 13, as has been indicated, is not in compliance with the law and is “plain error.”
Accordingly, the UPP has urged that the Register be published without further delay.
Since then, inside sources have told REAL News that a revised Register has, in fact, been prepared and reportedly was distributed to the relevant officer at the Commission on Wednesday night.
In a response to the UPP’s letter, also received Wednesday night, the Supervisor of Elections has defended the Commission’s computation of time.
However, she does not address the Party’s allegations that the Commission’s Registration Officers have failed to process the Claims and Objections filed in various constituencies – and that the Commission is apparently satisfied with the situation.
The UPP’s letter also notes that suspicion about the integrity of the Voters List has deepened, following Tuesday’s reports of mass transfers in Barbuda.
These followed the declaration by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, last year, that transient workers from Antigua would be registering to vote in that constituency.
The Supervisor of Elections has also ignored this reference.
Meanwhile, the Party has copied its correspondence to the groups that will be monitoring the General Election, including the Commonwealth Observer Mission, the CARICOM Observer Mission, and the OAS Secretariat.
A copy of the communication was also sent to the press, so that the UPP’s concerns could be duly registered in all relevant spheres.
During the 2009 General Elections, the Electoral Commission, through the Supervisor of Elections, made several decisions that resulted in legal challenges to several UPP seats.
Many persons are concerned that this election seems to be going down a similar path.