All set to vote at last
Professor Eddy Ventose was cool, calm and collected upon learning his arduous journey in registering to vote in a general election in Barbados was finally over.
Now he can place his X in the May 24 poll, as can any Commonwealth citizen who has been living and working in Barbados for the past three years.
Ventose, and what is expected to be around another 6 000 such citizens, were all smiles yesterday when checks with the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) revealed their registration as electors had been processed, making them eligible to vote.
The St Lucian professor at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies delivered a copy of his registration certificate to his attorney, Leslie Haynes QC, just 24 hours after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ordered EBC chief Angela Taylor to register him, or face contempt of court charges.
“I always thought I had satisfied the requirements of the (Representation of the People) Act,” a calm Ventose said yesterday. “Now I’m very much looking forward to voting on May 24. Not for one moment did my hopes fade that this would be the outcome.”
Haynes said: “There was a level of hard work and many hours that we put in. We are very happy. It has drained us of almost all emotion.” Michelle Russell and Sharon Edgecombe-Miller, who were part of the substantive class action lawsuit filed in Barbados and originally heard by Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson before finally being cleared up by the CCJ on Sunday, were much more emotional than Ventose.
“I still can’t believe it. I’m still crying,” Russell said.
“I went on the website and checked and it originally said I was not registered. But I checked again and that’s when it came up. I looked at it in disbelief. I can’t believe it, I’m registered,” she recalled, saying that she wept immediately.
Russell, an attorney, noted that she had been in Barbados since she was 19, and had never been part of the electoral process. “I’m 38, so my whole adult life was here in Barbados. I’ve never voted in any country. I wanted to vote in 2008 and was disappointed, thinking I couldn’t. But then I checked the law and realised I should be allowed to. I just couldn’t understand why I was being denied.”
The Jamaican said there was nothing new about the law, or what they were requesting. “It was heart-wrenching to see how much they fought us on this. We weren’t looking to create our rights. We wanted them to enforce a right that already exists. At first no judge would hear it, and that’s why it eventually had to go to the CCJ,” she suggested. “I never thought it would happen.”
Edgecombe-Miller too was ecstatic, and said their ability to vote was a “huge accomplishment”.
“With each passing day, I knew this would happen. I just wasn’t sure if it was going to happen in time for this election. I feel the CCJ decision was what finally lit a fire under the EBC. It should have never come to this,” the Montserratian said. (BA)