Constitutional 'Crisis' Looms in Dominica


Yesterday September 15 2018, the world celebrated The United Nations' International Day of Democracy. This date also coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, Dominicans find themselves in the unenviable situation where they are fighting to maintain their rights. 

Many are aware of the events which led up to the Labor Administration's proposed Amendments to the Electoral Act. However, it is the statement released by the Chairman of the Dominica Electoral Commission in which he vowed his total support for those Amendments to Dominica's Electoral Act, that confirms that Labor-Party-dominated Electoral commission under Gerald Burton is being manipulated by the Labor Party machinery.  Without doubt, Dominica Electoral Commission has been hijacked by the Ruling Administration. In other words, a constitutionally-mandated Independent Institution is under the control of another agency in violation of Section 56(11) of the Constitution of Dominica. Section 56(11) specifically states that "In the exercise of its functions, under the Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority". Clearly, an institution that has been established to safeguard Democracy has been ensnared and the fate of Democracy in Dominica hangs in a balance. 

In the face of widespread public acrimony, "vociferous" expression of their disapproval and planned public protest, the proposed amendment appears to be placed on-hold. However, the Dominican public should not be lulled into a slumber. This apparent shelving of the proposed Amendments by the Labor Administration should be taken with 'a grain of salt'. Remember,  about 15 months ago (May 2017), attempts to legitimize 'treating and cheating during elections' for the purpose of 'stealing' elections was also shelved. Except, it has returned as the proposed Amendments to the Electors act with the same goal of 'treating and cheating during elections'. Hence, the fate of Electoral reform as it pertains to Voter ID Cards and a Clean Voters list remains uncertain because the Labor-dominated Electoral Commission may just roll over and play dead. But, Dominicans should not allow this to happen. No! Not this time!

As a constitutionally independent body with extensive powers, the Electoral Commission already has all the tools needed from the Parliament; EC/XCD $6,130, 350.  Is the public aware that, before all the hoopla around the proposed amendments and, Section (31) in particular, the Electoral Commission had already came up with their own Verification Procedures? These were  outlined in a Press release dated June 4th 2018 which can still be viewed on their website. Read here.  The Commission spoke about issuing the Regulations. Why can't the Commission simply revive this plan? Why the Delay? This body has been endured with the powers under Dominica's Constitution. Use them! The problem lies in the malleable Chairman, Gerald Burton, who is susceptible and beholden to every bark from Skerrit or Labor Party henchmen (Levi Peter, Tony Astaphan, others).

The Labor Party Administration has used the issuing of National ID card as its main reason for the planned proposals to Amend the Electoral Act.  Why would the Commission want to issue National ID Cards when it is known that this authority do not exist under the law? Why not issue Voter ID Cards which is covered under Section 19 of the Electors Act?  The problem with National ID Cards is that they include the collection of biometric data which necessitates the consent of Parliament. The issuing of  Voter ID cards by the Electoral Commission does not require granting of new powers by Parliament.  The Commission already collects all necessary  information needed for voter ID Cards.  The bottom line is, if the Card is called a National ID Card for voting, then approval must be sort from Parliament. 

It is puzzling why the Labor Administration wants to call a card that will only be carried by eligible voters a National ID Card. That's strange. Maybe that is the only way they could legally go overseas to reconfirm voters! The Administration has said that a Voter ID card is expensive, because you have to issue it every 5 years. However, if a simple Voter Card is produced, as done in several countries, cost can be contained. In addition, it helps to keep the Voters list updated.  By the way, what is the name of that "reputable international firm" producing the National ID Cards for voting? What's the secret? How do Dominicans know that this is not a fly-by-night company which will go the way of the the Multi-purpose Identification System (MPID)?

It seems that Chairman of the Electoral Commission, the commissioner who is appointed by the Head of state (President) and who has to be neutral, has been bought by the ruling Labor Party and now has no allegiance to Dominica.  The chairman seems to be serving the interest of the party in Power and, for the past 3 elections, have used his position on the Electoral Commission to 'facilitate his masters staying in power'. He is trying to do it again. Chairman Gerald Burton took an oath to serve the people of Dominica, but has been serving the Labor Administration. But the Dominican people must not stand for it and, indeed are getting 'fed up' with Burton's 'coco macaque'. They must demand that the Labor-party-dominated Electoral Commission fix the mess that they created, by purposefully allowing dead and other non-eligible persons to remain on the list, in violation of the Electors Act. They created the problem so they must fix it before the next election. It is unclear why the Labor Party Administration think they can dictate to the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission is a Public institution and the Parliament is obliged to fund it, with the Country's money. The funds belong to neither Dominica Labor Party, their supporters and apologists nor Roosevelt Skerrit; the funds belong to the people of Dominica. Funding the Electoral Commission does not mean that the governing Administration is owed any allegiance; rather than politicians, the Electoral Commission's allegiance is to the People of Dominica. The Labor Party Administration needs to obey Dominica's Constitution and allow the Commission to function Independently.  Otherwise ...... the Administration will continue to fan the flames of a burgeoning constitutional crisis with unpredictable outcome!

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