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Grenada’s voter id card: How legal and applicable?

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by JK Roberts

A conspicuous area requiring serious electoral reform, relates to the ‘primary and exclusive’ constitutional use of the Voter Identification card, which is issued to an elector after registration in accordance with section 24 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA, Cap. 286A).

This need comes to the forefront more forcefully and pointedly with the questionable manner by which the 13 March 2018 General Elections were conducted, especially the low merit or the scant respect shown by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) for the card, and with the resulting various concerns and sentiments, including those by overseas Elections Observer teams. Review the pertinent internet-circulated article, “Could Grenada’s 2018 voting be declared Unethical and Illegal?” which highlights some of the shocking revelations of constitutional and legal breaches, adverse to the reasonable expectations of the voting public and incongruent to the universal principles of democracy.

The ‘shaded and shaky’ press conference held by the PEO on Friday, 10 January 2020 for “specifically speaking to the issue of the expiry cards”, does not only bring again into question the extent of the legality and application of the voter card but also, the extent of the role and functioning of the Supervisor of Elections. Is the Supervisor of Elections acting in conflict or acting ultra vires the constitutional appointment? Sub-sections 35(1) and 35(6) of the constitution; “There shall be a Supervisor of Elections whose duty it shall be to exercise general supervision over the registration of voters in elections of the members of the House of Representatives and over the conduct of such elections. In the exercise of his functions under the foregoing provisions of this section, the Supervisor of Elections shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”

The current ‘electronic’ voter card seems to have been introduced without the sufficient thought and analysis, as well as without the proper institutional and legal arrangements. Regrettably; this card has also been allowed to be regarded, used and accepted as a ‘conveniently legal’ National Identification card for the conducting of personal businesses and receiving official services. Moreover, it appears that the pending inconvenience which the 31 January 2020 expiration of this ‘abused’ card would cause, is now set to be resolved with some illegal measures, unconstitutional rationales and improper motives. To rush or to force any amendment to the RPA (Cap. 286A). merely to facilitate, and / or to replace and re-issue voter identification cards in the manner and reason proclaimed in the press conference (https://www.nowgrenada.com/2020/01/new-voter-identification-cards-to-be-issued/ and https://www.facebook.com/NOWGrenada/videos/470151570325610/) would be ridiculous. Definitely; this situation would arouse questions with regard to any political strategy or manipulation being played, and as to whether or not the interest of the people (or some other entity) is being served.

It is difficult to understand why the PEO failed to sensitise the population on the issue of the expiry voter cards before now. This could have been done, at least at the occasion when it releases a public notice in October 2019, informing about the publication of the addendum to the current list of qualified electors for inspections, claims, corrections and objections, consistent with the statutory provisions for the continuous registration of electors and the continuous revision of the list. It would be sad to conclude that the PEO is haphazard in its operations. Interestingly though, irresponsibility is reflected when the PEO also failed to provide a reasonable schedule to accomplish a systematic re-issuance of the cards, without causing much confusion and complaint. Thus, for example, six months could have been anticipated and advised as a workable window to concentrate on administering the issue, on the basis of batches of electors alphabetically. Indeed, with the plans on amending the principal act (RPA, Cap. 286A) to avoid recurrence of this disgusting situation; the workable window follows the proposed six months prior to the date of the expiration of the card, for an elector to apply for its renewal.

The proposed amendments to Cap.286A should also provide for a reasonable time for a qualified elector to receive a voter card when duly registered, and a renewal/re-issuance when duly applied. Despite the principal act is silent on this, on 1 February 2020 every elector should be able to successfully challenge in the law court, the negligence of the PEO to ensure possession of or to present a valid card. As questioned in the referred-to article above: “Is a duly registered elector legally mandated for, or entitled to, the card; and thus can such a person take legal action when the card is not issued to him or her, and/or when the opportunity is not given to honour the issuance of the card for the implied or intended purpose?” The expired Voter Identification Card must not be seen only as a transactional or financial concern, but of having constitutional consequence. Ambiguity, defect or silence in law is always used to perpetuate abuses. Particularly; there are inadequate regulations, if any exist, to the RPA, and this needs to be attended to as an imperative priority, which should also respond to the outrageous act of having the names of deceased persons on the official final list of electors.

It would once again be deceitful and disadvantageous as was the case during the March 2018 elections, for the PEO to cause the people to believe and to comply blindly with the decision for confronting a “secondary challenge” posed by the continued possession of their expired voter cards. Any claim or any signal of having the financial institutions requiring or expecting or calling on the PEO to address the expired card would be hogwash and unbecoming. Advancing that administrative and security reasons matter for an urgent attention to the awkwardness and predicament with the expired cards should also be directed to the moral and statutory need for the PEO to have the enumeration of qualified electors; enumeration would assist to purge, update and verify the list of electors. In fact; in accordance with section 110A of the principal act, “the enumeration period prescribed shall also be used to allow for the establishment of a new registration process, which will facilitate the computerised voter registration system.” Clarity on replacing enumeration with re-registration is necessary.

When was the last enumeration exercise held in Grenada? Wasn’t there a National Identification Card issued and used in the past; but what has caused its replacement or its abandonment? Is the software system developed for the production of the voter card different, or separate and apart, from the computerised voter registration system as is stipulated and regulated by RPA? To what extent must the ‘voter card software system’, and/or the computerised voter registration system be supported or maintained; could the software be changed and any glitch corrected? What are the ‘confidentiality and safety’ regulations established for a private Software System contractor to have access to the database of the voter registration system and other pertinent electoral operations? Moreover; what is the guarantee that the computer system is not exposed to or connected with external agencies such as the ‘renowned’ Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group, formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Analytica) / (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCL_Group)?

Considering that a general election is not constitutionally due until 2023, that Grenada has not experienced an enumeration list of electors in the past many years and considering the cries of the people for addressing the many outstanding recommendations for genuine electoral reform, including an explicit mandate for the presentation of the voter identification card during an election; then it would be a travesty to embark on a procedure to give legal teeth for dealing with the expiry cards, ‘solely as priority’ on the grounds to solve a “secondary challenge” and to meet a “secondary purpose.” The six-month workable window opined for attending to the expiry card could also be used to consult and debate further, all the pertinent areas for electoral reform, including improving the voting process for persons with disabilities, for parliament’s approval.

Every citizen (including social partners, churches and civic organisations) should be keen to ensure that a holistic approach be taken for electoral reform; a piecemeal mode on such a critical case is about ‘buying time and causing more hurt.’ Particularly though; the main opposition political party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) should demonstrate ‘vigilant and proactive’ leadership in raising and upholding the banner for the credibility of the electoral mechanism. The NDC cannot afford to reserve itself, and/or to rely on quietly cooperating with institutional meetings, but it must vigorously agitate for genuine reforms and for the protection of constitutional democratic tenets. In fact; for any party to wait on the verge of elections, or on the announcement for elections in order to start ‘making noise and crying foul’ on governance issues would be foolish. Moreover; it would be futile for the party to contemplate boycotting the elections, or contesting legally the results of the elections.

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Caribbean & World

The country with no army! – Nas Daily

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“One of 31 unique places in the world that doesn’t have a standing Army. How does it feel like to be here? Awesome.”

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In coronavirus, our shared humanity is reiterated

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by JC Jan

We carry within us the wonders we seek without us…(Sir Thomas Browne – Religio Medici, 1645)

John Donne, a poet, once wrote that the death of another diminishes him because he is involved in mankind. This invariably reiterates Sir Thomas Browne’s creed that there is a bit of us in all of us and this coronavirus has become a talking point for the manifestation of that fact.

When the news of this deadly virus broke out, it puts China in the eyes of the world and due to their itinerant nature, we all have reasons to be concerned. Coronavirus is a global health emergency and we cannot afford to fold our arms from a distance and watch China battle for the soul of her republic. Through genetic testing, over 74, 499 victims are now infected in China alone. In about 30 countries and territories, 76,805 cases are confirmed.

For the record, Grenada is not among the 30 countries and we are grateful for that. Though Grenada and her government do not have the resources or the capacity to fight this deadly disease and therefore not ready for such, it is interesting to note that our weather will not make life easier for the cold-loving virus. As our government is assuring us that our citizens studying in China are safe, we believe and pray that they stay so.

True to this calling of our shared humanity, the world has not pretended in their sympathy to China and other unfortunate nations that are now with this virus and are fighting to contain it. Countries like Japan have already recorded two deaths, with 731 cases. South Korea has 204 cases with one death on record. Australia now has 17 cases. The United States of America has about 27 cases. The United Kingdom has 9 cases. The list goes on.

The human response to stimuli overbears the urge to withhold, hence, we are now collectively united in the fight against the continued spread of the disease and it is at tensed times like this that the beauty of the world comes to the open despite how gloomy the situation that prompted it appears.

The issue at stake is not about “race” in the world. All we need to remember is the need to survive. It’s about humanity. With over 2,449 deaths and still counting; with over 76,805 infected and still counting, and with more cases being reported all over the world, we bow down our heads in recognition of the efforts The People’s Republic of China has been making, even as players in the medical field continue to struggle to curtail the spread of this virus.

However, the efforts of experts around the globe should not go unrecognised, especially those experts in China who are working indefatigably. Their hard work is paying off. It seems they have sighted the end to this virus. In Karachi, Pakistan, China’s Consulate General made a statement. “I have seen that according to the experts in China, they are saying the peak of the epidemic has already arrived and it will come down no matter from the epicentre and across the whole of China. This will be coming down this week and next week, and the epidemic may be over by the end of March,” said Li Bijian.

If this virus continues to spread across nations, we are bound to feel every bit of its fang because of the current global system that has reduced the world to a micro-community of humans.

Our heartfelt sincere love goes to the infected and affected persons, and to the dead, our total respect. Long live The People’s Republic of China, and long live humanity.

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Sir Royston Hopkin KCMG has died

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by Linda Straker

  • Sir Royston died early this morning in Trinidad, age 75 years
  • Survived by his wife Lady Betty Hopkin and his three children
  • Awarded Knight Commander of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 2004

Almost 7 months after receiving a lifetime award from Tourism Minister, Claris Modeste, hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin has died. He was the owner of Spice Island Beach Resort, located on the Grand Anse Beach.

“Yes, he died early this morning in Trinidad,” said Brian Hardy, General Manager of the hotel. Hardy promised that a statement will be issued later in the day. Sir Royston was recovering from a medical procedure which occurred a few weeks ago. Sir Royston was 75 years old. He is survived by his wife Lady Betty Hopkin and his three children.

“It is a true honour to be recognised with the Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award. As I accept this prestigious recognition, I reflect on how far we’ve come and the continued growth we are realising today,” Sir Royston said at the award ceremony in mid-2019.

Besides the minister’s award, Sir Royston received many awards. In December 2004, he earned the introduction “Sir” when Queen Elizabeth II deemed him Knight Commander of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) for his contributions to the tourism industry in Grenada and throughout the Caribbean.

Sir Royston held numerous positions within the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), and served on the board of directors. He received the organisation’s 1991 “Hotelier of the Year” award as well as Lifetime Achievement awards from CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). In early 2019, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit in Miami recognised his contributions to the tourism industry in Grenada as well as the luxury services he provides at his resort.

Royston Hopkin began his tourism career when he joined his family business, the Ross Point Inn, in 1965. By age 20, he was appointed to the Grenada Board of Tourism, where he served 18 consecutive years. By age 24, he became the first Grenadian-elected president of the Grenada Hotel Association, a position he held on 14 occasions. By 1987, he had purchased a majority interest in the Spice Island Inn and became the owner and chairman of the property, which he renamed Spice Island Beach Resort. Under his direction, the property expanded from 28 to 66 suites as part of a $6 million renovation in 2000.

Like much of Grenada, Spice Island Beach Resort was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but one year later, and with a $12 million investment, the resort reopened.

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