TOWN HALL MEETING HEARS ABOUT ELECTORAL, CONSTITUTIONAL PROGRESS

anguillian
By anguillian January 29, 2018 10:12 Updated

 

 

One of the matters which resulted in a considerable amount of discussion at the town hall meeting at East End, on January 21, was the progress of the constitutional and electoral reform process.

Minister of Home Affairs, Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, who has responsibility for that process, raised the issue at the meeting which attracted a considerable amount of feedback from the audience. One person in particular, who had strong views about the delay, was Mr. Rommel Hughes of Sandy Ground. He noted that it was about thirty years now since successive Governments and Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commissions had been looking at the matter without actually achieving completion and approval.

Mr. Hughes’ concerns were expressed during the question and answer period following the Minister’s explanation about how far the current matter had reached. The Minister said in part:

“In 2016 we engaged the services of a Constitutional Committee which had wide-ranging public consultation with respect to a new Constitution and Electoral Reform. They submitted a report to the Ministers of Government which also preliminarily came to Executive Council. In terms of electoral reform, it included an increase from seven districts to nine. With such a reform, you would have nine electoral districts and four at-large seats. The electoral districts are also assessed based on the population and voting numbers in each district. For instance, District 2 is identified as having the smallest number of voters whereas Districts 3 and 4 have the largest with over 2000 registered persons. The registered voters in District 2, in the last general election, were about 921. So there is a big disparity between the numbers of voters in the districts.

“The other thing is that increasing the numbers would allow for greater democracy. As of right now, the four Ministers of Government have a majority in the Executive Council and also in the House of Assembly. Even though you have the Ministers of Government voting, there will still be a democratic process because of the increased numbers in the House.”
The Minister continued: “The next step is that we need to get it in place this year. If we miss this year, it wouldn’t be appropriate to put it in place for the 2020 general election. We are shooting for mid-year to be able to put the constitutional reform in place. The biggest issue about the Constitution, that people have identified, is that grandchildren are not recognised as belongers of Anguilla. We have more Anguillians living overseas than in Anguilla, but you cannot take away their rights from them because they come home to visit and to vote etc. – and dare we say that they are not going to be entitled vote.
“Those Anguillians living overseas went there to work to be able to send remittances back home. They had children and their children had children born in another country, and even in Anguilla there are people who have children and grandchildren overseas who were also born in another country. Those grandchildren are not recognised to be belongers, but yet we have persons coming to Anguilla every day and are naturalised etc. There is consensus that we need to have our grandchildren, who are just one generation away, recognised because when they come back, and if you have inheritance, like land, to transfer to them, they have to obtain an Alien Landholding Licence in order to own the land.

“It is totally unfair that our grandchildren are excluded, and so the new Constitution would recognise the rights of grandchildren as belongers. That is an important amendment.”

Minister Richardson-Hodge further said: “What I have said to the Governor, in fact, is that if we see that we are unable to get the new Constitution passed, with the UK Government unable to come to an agreement before 2020, I am prepared to amend the existing Constitution to recognise grandchildren. We will then take the fight for a larger Constitution to another day.”
The Minister’s statement, regarding the rights of grandchildren, was well-received and applauded.

anguillian
By anguillian January 29, 2018 10:12 Updated

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