Updated: January 13, 2019

On January 8, 2019 PM Skerrit held a Year-in-Review / Dinner-and-a-Movie style Press Conference which appeared to turn into something of a Love fest.  The 'star', Roosevelt Skerrit, tried his best to seduce the Journalists, Moderator and the viewing audience with his fake charm.  Did he succeed? That is left to be seen. As usual, the Prime Minister rambled a number of distorted answers to questions prepared by the journalists present. In this article we will deal with the question of Electoral Reform and specifically with Voter ID Cards and deconstruct some of the answers that were given by the Prime Minister on that matter. Skerrit made a number of false statements with regard to the issues surrounding Dominicans' request for Electoral Reform while, at the same time, not offering any new ideas to resolve the sticking points. He totally ignored requests for Campaign Finance Reform and for Equal access to government-owned Media.

Funding for the Election Commission

Anyone could see that Mr. Skerrit came well prepared to answer this one.  He had his documents ready to expound on how many million dollars that the Cabinet allotted to the Electoral Commission. According to him, the Electoral Commission had received almost XCD $6 Million in 2 separate installments.  Mr. Skerrit is famous for telling half truths; he is indeed a stranger to truth.  What he did not say is that Cabinet only approved the money to the Commission when he and his co-conspirators believed that the Electoral Commission would be hoodwinked into issuing National ID cards that would be instituted rather than Voter ID Cards.  He knows that the Commission does not have the authority to issue National ID Cards and that they would need enabling legislation to do so. This is where he could use that opportunity to change the Electoral Act to insert language enabling the registering officer to go overseas to reconfirm voters. This could potentially make the vote of someone living in Dominica useless because the balance of power would be held overseas.

National ID Cards vs Voter ID Card
Dominicans have been requesting  a form of Identification which  is uniform that each voter can take to the polls. One would think that this would be easy because Section 19 of the Electoral Act covers it. Oh no, the genius at the Electoral Commission Gerald Burton decides what the country needs is a National ID card for voting. Really! Why? For heavens sake, voters are the only ones who would be  entitled to use the cards. Why do you need to "Nationalize" the  card? How cost effective is that? This Administration is always complaining about money. So, it's mind boggling that they would choose instituting a National ID Card over a Voters ID card. At this time, it is obvious that the Labor Administration was not thinking about cost. They are willing to do anything to be able to stay in power; money did not matter. Furthermore, if cost was a factor, they would have employed a local company; instead they employed an unknown Company, call Semlex, which is based in Brussels.

Who is Semlex

When Prime Minister stated that he had given the Electoral Commission all the money it needed to purchase equipment to collect bio data for the institution of National ID Cards, he failed to mention whether the Electoral Commission had held public discussion on the the matter.  Was the public given an opportunity to state whether they were in favor of such data being collected?  No! It was just sprung upon them. How disrespectful?  It was only later on that Dominicans would learned that the job was not given to a local company but to Semlex, a small family run company in Brussels headed by Albert Karaziwan, A Syrian Native who resides in Brussels. How is that possible? This Company is one which has made millions selling expensive Biometric Passports to countries in Africa.   They do not bid for contracts; they receive them by greasing the palms of crooked politicians.  How did Mr. Skerrit find that Company? Is this the same Company which has been accused of printing blank Dominican passports for Al-Quaeda in Syria? Are persons in the Administration running their own side hustle with Semlex?

The Denzil Douglas Playbook

Mr. Skerrit was well prepared to answer a question on confirming overseas voters.  He stated that this was done before, but the only example he could give was St. Kitts. As usual, Mr. Skerrit gives half the story. He should have added that the present Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris, tabled a Bill in April 2018  to reinstate a 6-month residency requirements for overseas voters because Harris and his Cabinet realized that those voters could essentially choose a Government without being affected by that government and, basically, could undermine the democratic rights of those on island. They realized that this was the avenue that Denzil Douglas, Opposition Leader, with his millions of dollars  could use to swing the next election. It is a fact that St. Kitts changed their Election Act in 2007 to remove the residency requirement for overseas voters and, yes they were able to confirm voters overseas.  However, the public did not realize how devastating an effect that could have on citizens living on island where their votes could be neutralized. So, when the 2015 Elections came around they were ready for the overseas voters. No one knows why the plane carrying those voters arrived on the island after the polls had already closed and according to Mr. Douglas denied him his majority. Can you believe this?

The Overseas Voter

Who knew that some Caribbean states would have to deal with the phenomena referred to as an "overseas voter". But here it is. Those are citizens of a country who live overseas and who may or may not be eligible to vote in General Elections. Those voters have been central in changing the result of elections in Dominica, and St. Kitts in particular.  Some small states in the Caribbean have a large percentage of their citizens living outside of their country. This situation has enabled unscrupulous politicians, Skerrit in Dominica and Douglas in St. Kitts,  to use those voters as a means of gaining an edge in an election. With such slim voter margins in the islands even a 10% swing could tilt an election. So its no wonder PM Skerrit is so overly concerned about not 'disenfranchising' Dominicans living overseas. They are his trump card.

Possible Solutions 

Having Voter ID Cards in the next General election is a major issue for many Dominicans. So here are three possible ways Voter ID cards could be instituted by the Dominica Electoral Commission.

Use Semlex equipment, minus the bio-data collection.  It should not be that difficult for the company to modify the software so that it becomes a simpler process.  Place a photograph on the Card  and call it a Voter ID Card.  Therefore, no enabling  Legislation would be required. The Electoral Commission already has the legal authority to issue Voter ID Cards.

A second alternative would be to use a local company to produce ID's similar to the ones they use in Banks and other private businesses. One can put whatever data is required on the Card. This can be done quite economically.

Thirdly. Look to other islands. Take the British Virgin Islands for example, they started the process for voter ID cards on January 9th, 2019 for Elections to be held in April 2019. Some residents have reported being able to get their cards within 3 days. The Card looks nothing more than a Driver's license. Why could something like that not be instituted in Dominica?

Four Terms is Enough

It was pathetic listening to PM Skerrit trying to tout his Administration's accomplishments in Dominica. One would need a magnifying glass to find them.  Why would such an Administration  want a 5th term? They don't understand their role in a Democracy. Many of our island neighbors have voiced their puzzlement as to why Dominica is the only OECS state without Voter ID Cards. Why is that? It is obvious that this Administration does not want to strengthen one of the most important democratic functions in a Society? It is probably because they want to stay in power to have access to Dominica's monies and to spend it as they please for their own benefits -  travel benefits, health benefits and all the trappings. How else would you explain US$100 Million from Venezuela spent on behalf of Dominicans, yet 14 months after the debt was forgiven by the Venezuelan Government no word from the Dominica Labor Administration as to how this money was spent. This could have upgraded all 3 major hospitals on the island and support many other projects including agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure.  

Finally,  many people know that the Dominica Labor Party's electoral successes in the past 3 cycles were not achieved fairly. For the past 3 elections, Skerrit has used devious means to steal elections in Dominica with little consequences.  So, he thinks that he can continue to do it. But, just like the game of Russian roulette which is a game of  chance, it is not for the fainthearted. Because you succeed previously, does not mean that the next will be successful.  It could be deadly. Mr. Skerrit, when you pull the Election trigger in 2019, you better hope that the chamber is empty.  If it is not, then all hell could break loose in Dominica. The Dominican people are mad as hell. They have seen little progress under the Labor Party rule for the past 19 years (January 2000 to present day). You must ask yourself, will a country be able have an election if there is no peace? There could be mass disruption.  Maybe, now is the time to to step back and let the Electoral Commission make the best decision for the Dominican people. Your Administration has little credibility because it has been in power for 4 cycles (19 years) and the island has retrogressed in comparison to its other Eastern Caribbean neighbors. Dominicans continue to migrate to seek work and to survive! The Labor Party Administration does not deserve a 5th term.