FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
As the people of St. Kitts and Nevis prepare for imminent General Elections, the St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the St. Kitts Evangelical Association and the St. Kitts Christian Council express their constituents’ strongest wishes that the elections will be free, fair, and free from fear. Cognizant of the heightened political campaigning and growing political tensions being exhibited on St. Kitts especially, our Organisations appeal to the general public, political candidates and their supporters to approach the electoral process and the General Elections with a strong sense of decorum, order, self-control and non-violence rather than political emotionalism which, more often than not, can lead to divisiveness, strife, civil unrest and economic instability.
We further admonish the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to exercise political maturity and political tolerance in the name of love for God, man and Country. At this time, our Organisations also call on all citizens and residents on both islands to revisit the Code of Conduct for the Political Process: Ethical Guidelines that was jointly facilitated by the Christian Councils, Evangelical Associations on St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Chamber in June 1995. These ethical guidelines are still very current today, have recently been revised, and our Organisations re-print them here:
A. TO THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
• The Electoral Commission should be transparent and impartial.
• Ensure that any person who is eligible to vote and does so apply is properly registered.
• Any person who is eligible and properly registered to vote should not be denied the right to vote.
• Ensure that the Supervisor of Elections and persons assisting him in any manner perform their duties in accordance with the law.
B. TO CANDIDATES FOR ELECTION, THEIR ASSOCIATES AND SUPPORTERS
• Candidates in any General Election need to justify their suitability by presenting proposals for the betterment of St. Kitts and Nevis, its people and land, and its interaction with the Caribbean region and the world.
• The emphasis must be on issues rather than personalities. Candidates must also avoid defamation of character of their opponents, their families and supporters.
• No abusive attacks or innuendos may be directed to campaigners or their family members for reason of their political affiliation, race, social origins and background, education, gender, religion, or any other reason.
• Candidates must seek to be truthful about the past and present socio-economic state of St. Kitts and Nevis.
• Candidates must avoid raising unfulfillable expectations and making unrealistic promises.
• Care must be taken not to incite sectional hostility or violence.
• To further demonstrate political maturity and foster unity among the people, Parties not forming the Government should appeal to the Nation via the media to respect and acknowledge the Government formed by the due process of the Constitution of the Federation. Likewise, Government ministers must also respect themselves and their opponents, since respect is earned and not an entitlement.
• Campaign slogans and the like, affixed to walls, poles, etcetera, should be such as are easily removable when campaigning ends. Special care should be taken to avoid defacing historic sites.
• No one shall prevent the distribution of leaflets, and the display of posters, of other parties and candidates; and shall not deface or destroy the posters of others.
• Electoral regulations should be observed and not circumvented.
• Every person entitled to vote must be able to do so freely. Victimization of persons, interference with employment rights, intimidation, and the enticement with favours are gravely wrong. Persons are entitled to express their political views without fear of persecution or victimization.
• Avoid language that is abusive, indecent or inflammatory.
• Respect the freedom of the press.
• Refrain from excessive alcohol consumption and making alcoholic beverages available at campaign recruitment drives or public meetings.
• When the election results have been finalised unsuccessful candidates should accept defeat in the true spirit of sportsmanship and successful candidates should celebrate victory gracefully and humbly.
• All citizens have a responsibility to obey the law and to promote the maintenance of law and order throughout the Federation.
C. TO VOTERS
• It is the individual’s fundamental right to vote. A voter should not abstain from voting without good reason.
• All persons eligible to register should seek at all times to be honest with the information they impart.
• Do not sell your vote. You thereby forfeit your freedom of choice and devalue your worth as a person.
• Do not seek to vote more than once.
• Do not seek to vote in anyone else’s name.
• Exercise your responsibility for the well-being of St. Kitts and Nevis by voting for a candidate of ability and integrity. Integrity would include adherence to the ethical guidelines herein.
• Integrity, good character, and sound judgement as manifested in your behaviour as a voter are important to the Political Process, and those whom you seek to elect.
• Vote after serious consideration of all candidates’ policies.
• Each person has a right to his or her views and to support the candidate he or she prefers. Respect must be maintained for the opinion of others.
• Each voter has a responsibility to obey the law and promote the maintenance of law and order throughout the Federation.
D. TO THE MEDIA
• Report the campaigning honestly and impartially.
• Ensure that news stories are accurate.
• Avoid the temptation to sensational reporting
• Independent Candidates and Political Parties should be given equal time on the National Broadcasting Service to present their electoral platform. Such airtime should be paid for, not gratis.
• Election news coverage by state-owned media houses should also be balanced and fair, and not simply reserved for the reporting of the ruling party’s activities. Like their private sector counterparts, state-owned media houses must also distinguish clearly between news and commentary, and should report controversial issues fairly.
• The media must declare conflicts of interest, real or apparent, and safeguard their independence from Government, commercial and other interests seeking to subvert content for their own purposes.
• Media workers must conduct themselves professionally while defending freedom of information and resisting distortion, misrepresentation and censorship.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the St. Kitts Evangelical Association and the St. Kitts Christian Council trust that the foregoing reproduction and revision of The Code of Conduct for the Political Process: Ethical Guidelines will serve as a reminder to all political parties, political candidates, voters, the Electoral Commission, and the media of their need to participate in the electoral process in a manner that is fair, honest, dignified, and becoming of a Country that is truly democratic. It is the Organisations’ expectations that (a) the various political parties and their candidates will endorse the principles outlined in the Code of Conduct; and (b) the political party leaders will demonstrate such endorsement of the Code’s tenets by signing the document. The Organisations also wish all parties and their candidates the best of luck at the polls, and trust that the General Elections and the aftermath will be peaceful.
ST. KITTS-NEVIS CHAMBER OF INDUSTRY & COMMERCE
ST. KITTS CHRISTIAN COUNCIL
ST. KITTS EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION
July 16, 2009