The Nom­i­na­tion Day Brouhaha

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Is Gover­nor Gen­eral Dame Pear­lette the na­tion’s silent scape­goat?

On Thurs­day 19th May 2016,” said the prime min­is­ter this week in his ad­dress to the na­tion, “prior to my an­nounce­ment of the date for the gen­eral elec­tions on na­tional tele­vi­sion, the Of­fice of the Gover­nor Gen­eral was ad­vised of the date for nom­i­na­tions and gen­eral elec­tions. The writs for the gen­eral elec­tion should have been signed on that day but were held up to await the list of re­turn­ing of­fi­cers from the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion.

“The list was only made avail­able in the af­ter­noon of the next day, al­low­ing pub­li­ca­tion in the Gazette but not in a news­pa­per by way of ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­li­ca­tion be­cause by then most news­pa­pers had closed for the day. This re­sulted in the first pub­li­ca­tion in a news­pa­per be­com­ing avail­able on the morn­ing of Satur­day 21 May 2016. That pub­li­ca­tion date meant that if the orig­i­nal nom­i­na­tion date of Fri­day 27th May 2016 had been kept can­di­dates may not have had the seven days prior to Nom­i­na­tion Day.

“Con­se­quently it be­came nec­es­sary for the Gover­nor Gen­eral to send to the Chief Elec­tions Of­fi­cer amend­ing [sic] writs to cor­rect the date for Nom­i­na­tion Day.”

The prime min­is­ter un­der­scored that “the law per­mits the date for Nom­i­na­tion Day to be changed. But . . . the law does not per­mit or al­low a change of the date for the gen­eral elec­tions ex­cept in spe­cific and re­stricted cases of emer­gen­cies. There­fore in the cir­cum­stances Satur­day 28 May 2016 be­came the only fair and avail­able date to hold nom­i­na­tions and Her Ex­cel­lency the Gover­nor Gen­eral is­sued the amend­ing writs ac­cord­ingly. I rec­og­nize that Satur­day 28 May 2016 is a day of re­li­gious wor­ship for many in our so­ci­ety. In­deed, Fri­days and Sun­days are also re­li­gious days of wor­ship for some.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “I am mind­ful that a par­tic­u­lar day of wor­ship may be dif­fi­cult for some can­di­dates. How­ever, I am also mind­ful of the fact that the law al­lows a can­di­date’s agents to nom­i­nate him or her in their ab­sence . . .”

On Thurs­day’s TALK much of the dis­course cen­tered on the prime min­is­ter record-short na­tional ad­dress. Many call­ers were of the view that in the rush to call elec­tions when the prime min­is­ter imag­ined the nei­ther REDy nor ready op­po­si­tion would be caught with its yel­low pants down, he had ne­glected to en­sure all was in place for his an­nounce­ment.

It also seemed to many that rather than ad­mit he had not sat­is­fied him­self all was in or­der be­fore mak­ing pub­lic his an­nounce­ment of the elec­tion date, the prime min­is­ter had sought to lay blame on the gover­nor gen­eral and on the elec­toral of­fice. At least one caller laid the screw-up squarely on the elec­toral of­fice, al­though he did ac­knowl­edge the prime min­is­ter’s duty to sat­isfy him­self that all pro­ce­dures were go be­fore his all-im­por­tant an­nounce­ment. Af­ter all, the buck stopped at the prime min­is­ter’s desk.

An­other called re­vealed that the gover­nor gen­eral had been off is­land and re­turned mid-week to Saint Lu­cia. Still an­other viewer con­firmed he had trav­eled from Canada aboard the same air­craft with Dame Pear­lette, at the same time she was sup­posed to have been deal­ing with elec­tion writs. As usual, there has been no word in her own de­fense from the GG. As for the prime min­is­ter, not a word, not a word, not a word.

Still the ques­tions swirl: did the PM mis­lead Saint Lu­cians on the eve of an­other elec­tion? Was he re­spon­si­ble for the con­fu­sion-caus­ing screwup? Was the cause his ap­par­ent haste in go­ing to the polls at a time that ap­peared to prom­ise his party a dis­tinct ad­van­tage?

For the record: Dame Pear­lette Louisy was on of­fi­cial busi­ness in Toronto, Canada from May 12 un­til late Thurs­day af­ter­noon May 19. Her Westjet car­rier landed at He­wanorra around 2.45 pm. A few hours af­ter she re­turned to Gov­ern­ment House she, like the rest of Saint Lu­cia, heard the prime min­is­ter an­nounce on TV the day of elec­tions.

Dame Pear­lette was ac­com­pa­nied on her trip by Win­hall Joshua, Mayor of Vieux Fort. Also Gypsy, Bar­bara Cadet, Derede Wil­liams and Morgie who en­ter­tained at an event to ben­e­fit Sick Kids. Over 250 peo­ple at­tended the gala.

As we go to press some have been chal­leng­ing the prime min­is­ter’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law gov­ern­ing Nom­i­na­tion Day pro­ce­dures, in­clud­ing whether the Elec­tions Act “pro­vides author­ity for the nom­i­na­tion of a can­di­date who may be un­able to at­tend be­cause of his/her Sab­bath to be nom­i­nated in his/ her ab­sence by his/her duly autho­rized rep­re­sen­ta­tive or agents.”

In his tele­vised ad­dress to the na­tion this week, the prime min­is­ter said: “In any event I wish to place on record my apolo­gies for any dif­fi­cul­ties or any in­con­ve­nience that this un­avoid­able change may cause and trust that all will go well on Nom­i­na­tion Day so that we can pro­ceed to elect the new Gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia on the 6th June 2016.”

Did the fa­mously punc­tual and metic­u­lous Gover­nor Gen­eral cause the Nom­i­na­tion Day con­tro­versy—or is she be­ing scape­goated yet again?

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