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Last updated: 26 January, 2004 - Published 22:40 GMT
 
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Nevis: 'Reform before independence'

The opposition Nevis Reformation Party wants to see constitutional reform before there is any move towards independence for the island.

The party's leader Joseph Parry believes the current constitution has outlived its usefulness.

His comments come as Nevis Premier Vance Amory steps up a drive for secession from St Kitts.

The Reform Party originally put forward its suggestions for constitutional reform in a Green Paper in 1999.

"We've had a constitution for 20 years, maybe it’s time we revisited it and try to deal with the constitution in terms of our experiences here in St Kitts/Nevis," said Parry.

Under the Reform Party's proposal, there will be a government in Nevis responsible for external affairs and one in St Kitts responsible for external affairs and a federal structure.

The Reform Party has suggested that the election for both governments should take place at the same time and the person who heads the federal structure should alternate between St Kitts and Nevis.

The opposition also suggests a "comfort clause" that enables either island to leave the arrangement, but only based on a successful referendum.

Voting rights

Mr Parry was dissatisfied with the present electoral arrangement which means that Nevisians living in St Kitts are unable to vote, while those in other parts of the world can.

 

 While independence is something we treasure and value, we are an independent country already and any move we make should be made with the consideration of the consequences.

Joseph Parry, Nevis opposition leader

 

"If you are registered in St Kitts, you can't vote in Nevis at this particular time," he said. "Something seems seriously wrong when Nevisians are deprived of having a say in which direction their country should take."

Mr Parry isn't convinced that Nevisians view secession as a priority, and he stressed that it was a process that had to be well thought out, as the consequences are great and not easily reversed.

"If you have a country of 5 million or 20 million, it's quite different to a country of 10,000," he said. "You have no resources, no oil, no gold and no bauxite, nothing really except your dependency on tourism."

"The priorities for Nevisians have not been secession; they've been crime, standard of living and jobs," he said.

Consequences

"While independence is something we treasure and value, we are an independent country already and any move we make should be made with the consideration of the consequences."

While Premier Amory has been suggesting that the Nevis should consider discussing the issue of their independence with the international community at an informal level, the Reform Party has been speaking to its supporters about what it describes as the perilous consequences of secession.

"We are providing information on the financial consequences of secession, the economic conditions in terms of smaller markets and the social impact - because the people of St Kitts/Nevis are closely intertwined."

Nevis last held a referendum on secession from St Kitts in August 1998 which fell short of the required two-thirds majority when 62 per cent of Nevisians voted in favour.

 
 
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