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Support the Enumeration Exercise - September 5, 2005

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Support The Enumeration Exercise

 

AVOID A CULTURE OF DISTRUST

Good day again, Saint Lucia. I do hope that everyone has had a very good weekend and you are prepared to meet the challenges of the week ahead.

I guess you are wondering whether I am in Saint Lucia. I am not. Actually, this programme was recorded before I departed on leave, as I did not want another prolonged break in our Conversations.

Today, I want to touch another aspect of the enumeration exercise which I discussed last week. I want to explain why new identification cards have to be issued to voters. Usually, whenever enumeration exercises are undertaken, there is a great deal of suspicion surrounding the activity. It is not uncommon to hear all kinds of rumours about such exercises. In most instances, these rumours give rise to a culture of distrust which serves only to discourage members of the public from cooperating fully with the individuals whose task it is to undertake the exercise.

In this case, the enumeration process will be undertaken by the Electoral Commission, whose Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Monplasir was appointed by the Governor General. The other members are Mr. Stephen Julien appointed by the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Claudius Francis, appointed by the Prime Minister to represent the Government.

NOTHING SINISTER

I can assure you that there is nothing sinister about the enumeration process. It is a simple exercise. The main reason why it will be undertaken is because there is a desperate need to create a new votersí registration list.

As I told you last week, the last time there was a comprehensive review of the votersí registration list was in 1979, some 26 years ago. A lot has happened since then. The population has grown significantly. Likewise, persons have also died and others have migrated. The enumeration process will therefore make available a votersí list which accurately reflects the number of registered voters in Saint Lucia. It will also cause persons to vote in the area or polling division closest to their place of residence. So, no longer will someone who now resides in Gros-Islet but who formerly resided in Dennery North be required to travel to Dennery North to vote on Election Day. Individuals will be made to vote in the constituencies where they reside. The enumeration exercise will also give a clearer indication as to the real size and voter population of the various constituencies.

AN ID CARD WITH DIFFERENT USES

But there are a number of other important benefits which will come about as a result of the enumeration exercise.

To begin with, each registered voter will be issued with a new ID card. Not only will the new ID cards be more secure, but they will also have a variety of uses. The new ID card will also give rise to a standardized identity document, which shall be used not only for the purpose of voting at elections, but also for commercial activities. It can also be used as a travel document to OCES member countries. Most importantly, though, it can be used to access a number of services provided by Government and non-governmental organizations. A case in point will be the Universal Health Care Programme, which will be introduced by the Government in the not too distant future. The new ID cards will therefore give Saint Lucian citizens access to the services being offered under that programme. Given the wide range of activities that new ID cards will be used for, it shall be made available not only to those who have attained the legal voting age of eighteen years, but also to persons as young as sixteen. To avoid confusion, two separate registers will be maintained: a National Register which will contain all national registered citizens and an Electoral Register which will contain the list of all eligible registered voters.

SECURING YOUR IDENTITY

But there is also another reason why the Electoral Commission must issue new Identification Cards. Today, we live in a new security age. The advent of new technology has made it possible for criminals and other individuals to steal the identities of unsuspecting persons. Although we may not be able to eliminate identity fraud altogether, we must do everything possible to minimize such risk and exposure to our nationals. The introduction of the new ID cards will go a long way in offering a greater measure of protection to our nationals who might have otherwise fallen victim to such crimes.

NEW SECURITY FEATURES

The new ID cards will be equipped with certain security features specifically designed to protect and secure the identity of individuals. In other words, the chances of someone having their identity stolen will be greatly minimized. The existing ID cards are more susceptible to being forged, copied and duplicated.

Whereas the Electoral Department has some mechanisms in place to detect impersonation during voting at election time, other persons who use ID cards as a means of identification have no such mechanisms available to them. The introduction of the new ID card is intended to guarantee the integrity of the electoral process, and also to safeguard the identity of all Saint Lucians.

You may be asking how will the introduction of the new ID cards achieve this? Well, for starters, the system that will be used to produce the new ID cards will comprise a fully integrated non-film system based on the computerized image captured. Furthermore, the new ID cards will be encoded with high standard security features including a digital photograph, fingerprints and other general information about the person. Clearly, the implementation of this new modernized ID card will contribute significantly to reducing attempts to produce false ID cards.

When the new ID cards are finally introduced, the process of verification will be made a lot easier. For example, if an individual loses his or her national ID card, it will be easy to compare his or her data with that which is stored in the database according to the corresponding digitally captured image and fingerprint, before a new ID card is issued. What this means is that it will now be a lot more difficult for any individual to steal anotherís identity.

THE ENUMERATION PROCESS

The new national ID cards will be issued during the enumeration process. However, it will cost Saint Lucian nationals absolutely nothing to replace their old ID cards with the new ID cards.

The enumeration process will be carried out through a house-to house campaign. The exercise will take the form of short interviews with the occupant(s) of every single household. The interviews will be done by trained enumerators, who will in turn be accompanied by scrutineers appointed by the Electoral Commission, on the advice of both the Government and the Opposition. During the house-to-house exercise, the enumerators will have in their possession certified copies of the revised lists of electors which will be used in the verification process. Incorrect registrations will be dealt with in accordance with the House of Assembly Elections Act, which provides for specific procedures and processes before corrections and or deletions are effected as the case may be.

The registration process will be an ongoing exercise. During the house-to-house visits, individuals who wish to register will be facilitated, once the relevant documents are submitted. Thereafter, new applicants will be issued verification certificates which they will be expected to present along with their registration documents, at nearby registration centers, in order to complete the registration and to be photographed for the processing of the national identification card.

SUPPORT THE ENUMERATION

This exercise when completed, will undoubtedly give rise to an electoral list which is truly reflective of the number of eligible voters in Saint Lucia. And it will also give rise to a modern and more secure ID card.

I call upon all Saint Lucian citizens to support the enumeration process. Give your full cooperation to the individuals who will be conducting the exercise. There is no need for suspicion and distrust where this process is concerned. The information which you provide will be held in the strictest confidence. So, do not pass up this opportunity to gain a new, more secure Identification Card. We all have a responsibility to enhance the democratic process in our country and society.

Until next week, be of good cheer, take good care of yourselves and God bless!

 

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