Fred Mitchell MP Responds To Guardian Editorial On Constituency Changes


Hon. Fred Mitchell

Letters to the Editor

I respond to your editorial (The Nassau Guardian) of this morning as follows on the question of the constituency changes now being proposed by the government:

While, I have publicly made the point before that I believe that there is a case for increasing the number of seats in the House of Assembly in the absence of local government in New Providence, I do not believe that now is the time for any major revision in the boundaries upwards or downwards. The facts on the ground and the law do not support the changes proposed by the majority party.

There is in in my view no compelling case for any major changes in the constituency lines both in terms of number of constituencies nor boundary lines. I do not believe that there ought to be an even number of constituencies in the House for the obvious reason of preventing a tied election result.

I do not therefore support any reduction in the number of seats from the present 41. Eliminating the three seats which the majority proposes will not effect substantial savings. I think making changes now will increase the costs. So while I think there is a case for more seats, I believe that in light of the public’s expectations on costs and proportionality, the number of seats should for this election remain the same. This gives the added advantage of allowing the opportunity for electors within existing constituencies to pass judgment on incumbents in their existing constituencies.

Add to this the fact that there is a deep suspicion supported by evidence that the boundary changes are motivated by spite and parochial considerations as opposed to objective thinking. This is precisely why the PLP asked the government during the debate on the amendment to the electoral laws, to allow for challenges to these decisions on constituency boundaries in the courts. The government refused and now we see why.

I also believe that the constitution requires us to look at the census for the numbers of people who are over 18 years old to determine the number of electors in each constituency not just those who are over 18 and registered to vote. The government has not done enough to facilitate people to register. Having failed to do enough, they now want to draw conclusions about the low voter registration in the inner city areas of New Providence and use that as an excuse to eliminate seats which they believe will adversely affect the PLP. I have described it as seeking to balkanize the country with the PLP confined they think to the inner city. It is wrong. It cannot work. It will fail.

I believe that given the numbers advanced by the majority about registered voters, the most that can be said is that there is a need to make minor adjustments in boundaries to reflect the slight shifts in population since the last general election.

My view is that this would be sufficient to accommodate the slightly larger number of registered voters in Elizabeth and Sea Breeze and those in Blue Hills and the seats in the southwest.

I believe that this can be done consistent with the constitutional requirements both in New Providence and in the Family Islands. I believe that if the majority advances the view that there needs to be realignment of island aggregations following a constituencies’ review then those aggregations should be consistent and in alignment with the constitution and it is only in those circumstances that changes in the number of seats should be made. By this I mean changes to add additional seats, provided that New Providence as a proportion of the House continues to have more seats than the islands.

May I add finally, that this is the system that we have to adjust constituency lines. So be it. Whatever lines are drawn, I will work as hard as I possibly can to defeat the FNM. With God being our helper, we will succeed. The country will then be able to breathe a sigh of relief that the national nightmare is over.

Fred Mitchell MP
Fox Hill