Symister weighs in on ABEC’s flip-flop on re-registration exercise and ALP’s possible influence

The people of Antigua and Barbuda should not accept the position of the
Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) on revalidating, or
extending the life of, the current voter-identification cards, says Leon Chaku
Symister, the United Progressive Party (UPP) spokesperson on legal matters.
In a press statement issued on Tuesday, May 21, ABEC went back on its earlier
decision to have a complete re-registration of voters, starting in October this
Symister and his UPP colleagues have declared that the Voters List is tainted;
therefore, a re-registration exercise would go a long way in cleaning it up.
He says the Party wants to make it very clear to the public that its position
remains the same and will not change.
While the legislation does not decree that there should be re-registration
every 10 years, precedent has already been set; and Symister says it was the
original intention of the Parliament that this exercise should be repeated
every decade. 

On May 13, the Commission met with members of all the political parties and
the single independent member of Parliament, and Symister says the Party
reiterated its position then. Now, it is prepared to take action to stop this
injustice, he says.

Symister notes that ABEC is now making an excuse for backtracking on its
earlier decision to undertake re-registration by claiming that its legal counsel
had not been consulted for a professional opinion. 
However, the Party spokesman says, the UPP believes that ABEC has been
influenced by the prime minister and the Antigua Labour Party in the reversal
of its position.

Meanwhile, Symister says the Gaston Browne Administration continues its
efforts to fool the people.
What he finds interesting, he says, is that the same ALP members who met
with ABEC are now distancing themselves from the earlier Cabinet decision
that a re-registration exercise was better for the sake of transparency.

Leon Chaku Symister, UPP spokesperson on legal matters.

In January 2024, following a meeting with the Cabinet, the Commission had
announced there would be a re-registration of voters – although a date, at the
time, had not been set.

Then, on March 6, a UPP delegation met with ABEC and discussions were held
concerning the expired voter identification cards.

Following this, on March 18, the Commission issued a statement agreeing that
complete re-registration would be best for maintaining the integrity of the
Voters List.

Subsequently, three Labour Party officials, including Prime Minister Gaston
Browne, met with ABEC and informed the Commission of their preference for
a revalidation exercise, instead.

Then came ABEC’s about-face on its earlier decision.
The UPP has referenced comments made by Prime Minister Browne about
unlawful transfers, which gave rise to the widespread belief that the Voters
List is tainted.

Symister is also concerned that the names of persons who are long dead
remain on the voters register – and adds that, with the voter cards now
expired, this is the opportune time to remove such names. 
August 7, 2024, is the date given by ABEC for the commencement of the
revalidation exercise.