IT’S been a week of controversy as we head towards the June 6 general election.
The Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s announcement of a change in Nomination Day from yesterday to today, a move that was intended to facilitate the preparation for the poll, has only sparked a series of controversies after the election date itself had earlier raised questions about its clashing with students doing examinations.
The presence of three candidates whose Sabbath is Saturday has brought religion and politics in contention as never before and even raised questions about the religious convictions of the Prime Minister himself.
Campaigning for the elections continues unabated with public meetings all over the country, interrupted Thursday by the religious holiday of Corpus Christi, observed by Roman Catholics. But in the media and on platforms, the latest issue is the change of Nomination Day.
Guy Joseph, the United Workers Party (UWP) candidate for Castries South East in the June 6 general election wants Nomination Day be either pushed back to Monday or be extended today to allow him to take part in the exercise/
Joseph sent a letter to Electoral Commission Chairperson Cynthia Combie yesterday making the proposal after protesting announcement by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony that the date for nominations had been moved from May 27 to today, May 28.
A Seventh Day Adventist, Joseph is contending that the shift in dates to his sabbath means that he is being prevented from practising his faith.
He told the Commission Chairperson: ”The Constitution of St. Lucia in its very first chapter, ‘Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms’ 9 (1) gives every citizen of Saint Lucia ‘Protection of Freedom of Conscience’ in the following terms: “a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his or her religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his or her religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
He reminded her that there has been a long held recognition in Saint Lucia of the observance of the Sabbath of Seventh-Day Adventist and Church of God congregants as being from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
Joseph said: “This recognition of Saturday Sabbath keepers has historically been observed by employers, commercial entities and the general population. It would therefore be most unfortunate if the State forced any believer in either of these faiths to compromise their spiritual convictions to have to undertake the nomination process for an election on Saturday 28 May 2016”.
Joseph said that as district representative for Castries South-East, he was desirous of being nominated to contest the election and as a Seventh-day Adventist, the State would be imposing a burden on him to break his Sabbath for which he was offered protection under the Constitution.
He added: “Furthermore, in keeping with the tradition of elections in Saint Lucia, my nominees and constituents will be denied the opportunity of accompanying me to the nomination.
I am therefore requesting that the nomination process for the constituency of Castries South-East take place on Monday 30 May in keeping with both the letter and spirit of our Constitution and the required notice period of the Elections Act or alternately that the period for Nominations for Castries South-East be extended to 8.00 p.m. on Saturday 28, 2016. Further, I would have no objection to this arrangement being extended to any constituency where the nomination of a candidate on Saturday would compromise the religious doctrine of that candidate”.