The Making of a Dominican Dictatorship

dictators in the Caribbean
By Jamber Press Contributor

In full view, the world has witnessed the transformation of the Prime Minister of Dominica (Hon Roosevelt Skerrit) and the Dominican democratic process into a one man operation. An individual who was once a 'cantankerous', nascent minister in the cabinets of the Late Hon Roosevelt Douglas and Hon Pierre Charles Administration, wrenched power from more experienced Politicians in 2004, following death of Hon Pierre Charles to rise to the level of Prime Minister and Leader of the Dominica Labor Party. Through successive elections, the use of treating, cheating and down-right vote buying has transformed Roosevelt Skerrit into an icon in the Labor Party. However, this has come at the expense of the Dominican populace and the country's economy. Dominica has become a crumbling mess, with only a few well-connected individuals and families repeating the benefits of whatever is left to be harnessed from the country's 
resources. Concurrently, Roosevelt Skerrit has become increasingly insecure and has been
transformed into a potentially dangerous autocrat who will stop at nothing to stay in power. Roosevelt Skerrit is manifesting all the features of a Dictator who lashes out at his critics, diminishes other ministers, threatens the press and, more recently has been hurling Lawsuits at opposition members who dare to challenge his actions in governance. Key aspects that has led to aforementioned conclusion will be outlined in the ensuing sections.


Using State Resources to Reward Loyal Constituencies and Buy Votes:

The Labor Administration under Roosevelt Skerrit's leadership and most ardent supporters have no understanding of the implication and execution of proper national governance. They are of the belief that, when elected, an administration should support and promote development only in communities that supported them. Hence, over the past 17 years, communities which have not supported the Labor Party have been entirely neglected. This has lead to disregard and decay of agriculture which is concentrated in areas with opposition support (for example Marigot, Salisbury, Wesley, Woodford Hill). Hence, vindictiveness has led to destruction of an entire industry. Similarly, how does one explain the disastrous management of Marigot Hospital, the Lindo Park debacle (where Internationally-supported efforts for park renewal in Roseau North have been stymied by Labor Administration interference).  A most unfortunate consequence of this short-sighted ignorance has been manifested by interference of the Central Administration in local governing bodies (town and village councils, local improvement committees) that has led to widespread dysfunction of this level of governance and overall poor productivity. While this chaos is harmful to the affected communities, it is beneficial to the Skerrit administration. They can step in, especially at election time, to say here is some money for you to do as you please. Some villages and small communities have benefited from this approach, but several has faltered. Hence, it is no wonder the island's population has declined and the brain-drain has accelerated.



Misuse of the Legal Process / Court

The embattled Administration has become increasingly combative in its approach to dissent. Their approach to the Opposition Party and dissent has been both aggressive and suppressive. One of their preferred approach has been to bring suit against detractors and dissenters. As such, several law suits against members of the Opposition are pending. Leader of the official parliamentary Opposition has been a prime target of their action as he is the biggest threat to their continuance. However, no one is off limit, including vocal members of the public, opposition sympathizers, Dominicans in the diaspora. The legal assault appears to be relentless and without end. The simple message is: 'anyone who dare question Roosevelt Skerrit, his Cabinet or closest confidants will be dealt with'. This has further insulated and emboldened Skerrit to do as he pleases without consequences.


Exploitation of the Police Force to instill Fear and Curtail Constitutionally-Mandated Rights and Freedom

The Prime Minister, who has ongoing challenges with reality, has recently accused supporters of the opposition parties of abusing members the Police Services. Of course, Mr. Skerrit is so blinded by power and control that, in February of the current year, he used the said police services to promote a lie that there was an attempted coup. In fact, he had concocted the whole story. The entire episode was so immature and absurd that it appeared to be the creation of a 2-year old grappling with development of his language skills and understanding of his environment. Leaders of the Freedom Party, United Workers Party and some members of the public were arrested on trump-up charges. The hapless leadership of the Police Services were paraded to support this nonsensical idea, money was wasted on local and foreign investigators as the country and region were led down a rabbit hole. In the end, Dominica looked stupid in the regional and international arena. Similarly, the police have been dragged out to confront any public gathering of opposition, while community policing has declined. Concurrently, many police stations remain in a state of disrepair, police morale is ebbing lower and salaries are stagnated. The police services were established to serve and protect all, not the party in power.


Asymmetric Enforcement of the Law

The pattern of law enforcement on the islands has become progressively worrying.  There appears to be a set of rules for execution of laws that are restricted to the Prime Minister, his Enablers and closest confidants. In contrast, everyone else has to abide by the Laws of Dominica. Roosevelt Skerrit has fragrantly violated the law without consequences, including failure to pay land transfer taxes and failure to declare dual citizenship that would have disqualified him from running as a candidate. In contrast, other individuals have had to face the consequences of similar violations. Indeed, it was recently revealed that the Labor Party (appropriately) barred other individual(s) from running for parliamentary seats at the same time that they knew that Roosevelt Skerrit held dual French and Dominican citizenship. In the past, individuals have been jailed for failure to pay land transfer taxes. Similarly, an Opposition Senator was arrested and charged for uttering inflammatory statement on a political platform on the grounds that he was inciting public violence and promoting murder. Labor parliamentarians used their majority to expel him from Parliament. Though the matter was thrown out of court, it is a manifestation of how the law is enforced. In contrast, Labor Party members, including the Prime Minister and several Labor Parliamentarians, have urged their supporters to 'hunt down and confront members and supporters of the opposition parties', go after opposition members like American seeks out its enemies ecetera without any consequences.
  
Dehumanizing Opposition / Opposing Entities

This is a tactic straight out of 1930s Hitler regime. More recently, it has been successful utilized by Dictators in the Russian Federation, South East Asia, Africa, Central and South America.  The aim to is to incite public hatred of the opposition, its key members and others who challenge the incumbent Administration's position. In the end, if harm comes to the opposition parties, including their Leaders, they will be considered to have deserved it. We are already witnessing this behavior towards the official Leader of the Opposition in Dominica. Whether through ignorance or malice, this is a dangerous trend that should be curtailed before it reaches a point of no return.

Manipulating Electoral Processes and Machinery

Stacking the Electoral Commission with Party Hacks, whose allegiance is to Party rather than Country, has been the most brazen display of the Labor Administration's nefarious behavior. This has been highlighted on numerous occasions by concerned Dominicans, but to no avail. The sole purpose of the Labor Party hacks is to ensure that Labor Party continues to win elections through maintenance of a bloated outdated voters list and manipulation of the electoral machinery. It has worked well for the Labor Party for the past three elections cycle and they are angling to continue this travesty if Dominicans remain reticent. 


Acquisition, Manipulation, Intimidation and Control of the Media

This is a classic, but time-tested mechanism of control. In the case of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit and the Labor Administration has sought to control what Dominicans hear, see and read. The opening broadside occurred several years ago when Roosevelt Skerrit sued a journalist for penning a piece highlighting the PM's burgeoning wealth which was incongruent with his salary. Although Roosevelt Skerrit settled that case, he took taste, as his effort did temper the behavior of others. Over the ensuing years, Labor Party and their deep-pocketed supporters, either directly or indirectly have acquired, manipulated or muted the major means of mass communication on the island. Those that are left standing are currently being sued in court.

So, how did Dominica arrive at this juncture? Several factors have contributed to the current state of affairs in Dominica where we have one person who appears to be omnipotent and omnipresent. The current PM speaks on behalf of every ministry, inserts himself into every aspect of the current Administration, is rude, obnoxious and brash. First of all, those in his immediate circle (Labor Party Stalwarts, the President, Cabinet Members and the Lawyers who support his misbehaviors) have to be admonished.  They have permitted an individual who is predisposed to autocratic and tyrannical tendencies to emerge into a creature unseen in Dominica's history. Secondly, career Civil Servants, the Police Services and the Dominican population have abdicated their responsibility to safeguard their Democracy. Elections will be constitutionally due in a couple of years; there is still time to save Dominica before it cascades into the abyss. In the interim, become involved in your destiny: challenge the politics of your time, shape the future. The time is now or forever be relegated to nonentity and obscurity.

   
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