Governor General Dame Susan Dougan has written to the Parliamentary Opposition Leader here, Dr. Godwin Friday, informing him of the pending boundaries commission which became due since at least 2 of the 3 conditions that are enshrined in the Vincentian constitution have been flagged.
Dr. Friday, who is also the President of SVG’s largest political opposition force, the New Democratic Party, told social media audiences last Sunday, “I received a letter from the Governor General, Her Ladyship, citing basically 2 of those grounds that I pointed out to you. One being after a census was done because there was a census, so they say, was done – the thing is we haven’t seen a published census.
“And then also 8 years have passed since we’ve had the last boundaries commission so those are the two sections that were cited.”
The third section, although not invoked in Dame Dougan’s missive, speaks to parliamentary prerogative as that august body must act on the constitutional provisions to have the number of established seats or increased or decreased or have individual constituencies realigned.
Although he admitted that his Party’s nominee is already identified, Dr. Friday opted to observe established protocol so that he may first respond to the Governor General in writing before informing the Vincentian public.
Several days before that episode of Asbert News Network and ITFX Digital Solutions’ ‘On D Spot’ aired live on ANN’s Facebook platform, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves took to national radio to announce the genesis of this latest reincarnation of the local boundaries commission.
“On Monday [June 8] I wrote to the Governor General to indicate to her that the circumstances have arisen under Section 33 of the Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for the appointment of a Constituency Boundaries Commission.
In the letter I have named – well under Section 32 of the Constitution the Commission consists of 3 persons: the Chairman who is appointed by the Governor General in her own deliberate judgment; secondly, one person appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister and I named that person – Stephen Williams.
“And I sent a copy of the letter to the Opposition Leader because he has to advise the Governor General on naming someone. I don’t know if there’s going to be any contention in any area. 15 seats, it’s not going to be 17 it’s 15 seats.
“In 2010 you may recall we had passed a resolution in parliament for 17 seats but the 17 seats don’t really come into effect until the report of the Commission is published and it comes into effect after the dissolution of the parliament. But there was no publication and it didn’t come into effect after the dissolution because the Opposition went – they didn’t like how the divisions had been done the boundary changes for the constitution – I mean for the constituencies and they said – they contested this.
“Well election came, it operated under the 15 constituencies and the matter wasn’t determined. They left it there. It’s still there, it wasn’t done by the 2015 elections but I had spoken to the Leader of the Opposition indicate to him that we need to do the Commission because since then the census has been published.”
PM Gonsalves also reminded listeners to his midweekly update that the census which was conducted in 2012 was jeopardized as “the place got burnt down – the room and they had to do it over [but] it was published afterwards.”
He further dated “the last time that a proper Commission was done” as having been conducted since 2005 for that election cycle. Dr. Gonsalves also pointed out what he described as an error that was recorded in the Constitution due to the passage of an unspecified Bill in 2010.
“If you read in the Constitution you’d see 17 seats but that’s because we had passed a law in 2010 but there’s an error where they put 17 there because 17 comes into play only if all the other steps are followed with the Commission and the publication things happen after the dissolution of the House and that’s why the Attorney General had to correct that in the law. And they issued a Statutory Rule and Order, well he is the Chairperson of the Law Revision Commission …
Statutory Rule and Order 18 of 2020 which was issued on May 29.”
Dr. Gonsalves noted that these steps are being taken, even in the face of the coronavirus scare, to facilitate the people’s verdict on his bid to be Prime Minster for an unprecedented 5th term, later this year.