– Response to AFC’s Statement on National Consultation on Amendments to Electoral laws –
As the Minister who hosted the National Consultation on the draft amendments to two electoral laws – the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) and the National Registration Act (NRA), I shall begin by repeating what l said in my seven-minute opening on October 25th although the APNU+AFC representatives were present:
Firstly, on October 29, 2021, the President announced that the draft amendments to the electoral laws would be made publicly available on social media within one week of the announcement. On November 5, 2021, the amendments to the ROPA and draft regulations to the ROPA were posted on the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance’s Facebook page. The public was invited to submit comments, observations, and changes first within six weeks, which then stretched to almost one year.
To the credit of the then General Secretary and Chairperson of the PNC, Ms. Amna Ally and Ms. Volda Lawrence, both asked the Ministry for hard copies of the draft amendments, which were promptly provided to them.
On May 9th and 19th, 2022, the Attorney General met with the respondents to the draft amendments to the ROPA. Neither the APNU+AFC Coalition, the PNC nor the AFC submitted any comments or changes to these drafts prior to or after the May meetings. On September 29th, 2022, the draft amendments to the National Registration Act were also publicly posted on the Ministry’s Facebook page.
These parties were invited to the National Consultation on October 25th and predictably walked out alleging that Minister Nandlall and l had taken two hours out of a three-hour consultation. The AFC forgets that in this electronic age, records of time are captured; first of all, I spoke for seven minutes in my opening; the Attorney General was asked to do an overview of the draft laws and rationale behind the amendments, he spoke for 1 hour and 15 minutes. After this he began the examination of the draft amendments to the acts. We then took a break at 2:50 pm and concluded after 5:00 p.m. The APNU/AFC representatives, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, Mr. Roysdale Forde and Ms. Tabitha Sarabo-Halley walked out only one hour after the consultation began.
For the AFC to assume what were the reasons for Mr. Jonas’ and Mr. Mahadeo’s departure is rather presumptuous particularly as the latter publicly stated why he was leaving, and it was not for the same reasons as the AFC representatives.
More importantly, how does the electorate treat with any political party and its elected Members of Parliament who are so dismissive and uninterested in amendments of these statutes after the punishment and stress that the nation and the citizenry went through during the five-month delay following the March 2nd 2020 Elections? Is this not the height of political irresponsibility?
These very statutes define and protect the electoral process in our country, and guard our fundamental right to elect our representatives to government periodically as enshrined in the constitution. These amendments emerged to ensure that there would no “Mingo-ism” in future elections.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance is pleased to have hosted this consultation which included representatives of faith-based organisations, political parties, private sector, and other civil society organizations and actors. Contrary to response by the AFC, the feedback received from the consultation participants was especially positive as they noted to have found the session informative and enlightening, and they appreciated being invited and included in the ongoing electoral reform process.