By Sharlene Cartwright Robinson
If you aren’t registered, you have no voice. We are in dire need of voices. For the first time in nearly three years, the people’s voices will count and add up and this time to restore a democratically elected government. The call to register is the first call to answer.
Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, former member of the Consulative Forum and former national chair of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM)
The Ministry of Border Control has extended the date to June 29 but has recently informed the general public that if you need a birth certificate, you must apply by June 22, 2012. This means you will not be allowed to register next week if you had not made a request for birth certificates by June 22, 2012. We must move with a sense of urgency to let our voices be heard.
There are many things we should have boycotted or not participated in over the years but didn't. We cannot not participate as this is the one place where our voice counts and adds up. We must make every effort to ensure we are counted. We have to see it for what it is and can be – it can send a strong message that we are fed up with the status quo and need a return to our own elected government.
The British created their own milestones and were challenged themselves to meet them. We are now happy that the date has been set and that we can look forward to beginning the first step in a long fight to restore our voices collectively to a place of prominence.
Your voice matters
Registering and voting gives us a voice. One of my friends put it best on one of the social network sites, Facebook. “We must all understand that each of our votes holds our leaders responsible for the decisions they make on our behalf… A vote affirms our rights as free citizens to elect our government and take part in our democracy. I know there are... a few of us out there asking ourselves, ‘Does my vote really count?’ Or perhaps, you feel like you can’t really make a difference, so why bother? The truth is, your one vote does count, and you do make a difference every time you vote! The catch is, to be able to vote we need to register! … Some consider it a right, but it may be better explained as your duty as a citizen of this beautiful country!”
A call to civic duty
We must remember that to vote is not just a privilege but a civic duty. I am calling on pastors, civic and political leaders to remind our people of their civic responsibility to register and to vote. The more we register the stronger a voice we give our elected representatives to address the challenges that will come their/our way: A stronger voice will be sent to our Parliament and to other places that we may deem necessary from time to time.
Be vigilant and stay above board
I will caution and encourage us a people on two points. The Governor’s announcement today to replace the three members of the Forum for a period of four months says to us that the Forum will proceed with a serious role and I believe it is incumbent on us all to be vigilant in watching closely its actions. We must continue to hold it to account and to continue to demand transparency from the interim government. Do not let election fever and campaigning distract us from the British agenda for the remaining few months of its regime.
A call for a more mature leadership and electorate
As we go forward, I am calling on the electorate and the leaders to be more mature. After what we have experienced together as a people, we cannot return to base, divisive politics. I am calling on political leaders to debate the issues and not each other, moving away from useless political diatribe. We must unite on common grounds to work in the best interest of our country. This will show that we are not two political tribes, but men and women who are determined to make our country better. The electorate must demand more. The people must remember to hold our candidates to account from day one and raise the standard of expectation and representation.
I am excited about our country’s future and I do believe that we can restore these islands if we all commit to doing our parts individually – first by registering, then voting, and then by ensuring that we carry out our civic responsibilities for the good of our country, whether as an elector or an elected official.
May God bless us these Turks and Caicos Islands.