Roseau, Dominica: Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit outlined various ways to modernize the electoral practices in the country. During the launch ceremony of Fidel Grant from Wesley constituency, he stated that Dominica Labour Party is committed to undertaking a review of current electoral practices and will be guided by the majority view of the various stakeholders.
PM Skerrit, over the weekend, met with officials of the various observer teams on the ground in Dominica, and he has indicated to them all, that as soon as the report of the sole Commissioner is submitted.
“I shall share it with them and enlist their comments before preparing a final draft submission to the Parliament of this country, “said the prime minister.
He noted that there should be no doubt as to the commitment of this Dominica Labour Party to pursue and effect needed changes to the electoral processes in Dominica.
He added, “We are the ones who have been in the vanguard of such changes. The other side is using pretty terms such as electoral reform. We call it modernization of the process.”
PM Skerrit announced that the National Identification Card initiative is a given. All countries in the Caribbean are moving in this direction. Some are more advanced than others. Dominica is certainly not at the back of the line in this regard.
While emphasizing the significance of National Identification Cards, PM Skerrit stressed that they shall introduce national Identification Cards, not only for voting, but for almost every public purpose currently requiring any form of personal identification on the island. There is no need to block roads and burn tyres for this. All of Dominica are one, on the need for this, and we shall do it and do it efficiently when once we are agreed on the national data collection and management service, that will have to be employed.
He further stated that the creation of that data management service will involve and a national population census and voter enumeration exercise. This shall include, but not be limited to, the creation of a new list of eligible voters on Dominica.
“These are initiatives on which there is no national divide. We have been talking about them for years, and we are inching closer and closer each day to the coming on stream and into reality of these needed modern changes. So, this notion of Dominica being divided down the center on issues of electoral process changes is absolute nonsense. We await the report of the sole Commissioner. We await the outcome and input of the various stakeholders. The process will provide for input of resident and non-resident Dominicans, “said the prime minister.
Outlining another aspect, PM Roosevelt Skerrit cited that hese things shall be done in accordance with the recommendations of the sole Commissioner as well as informed opinion and advice from the Commonwealth, the OAS, CARICOM, Carter Centre and all other interest groups.
“But you cannot put the building of a country on hold, because of the need for modernization of processes. There is nothing to suggest that general elections on Dominica over the past 30 years have been anything but free and fair, “said the prime minister.
He outlined that the same system that was used in 1995 to elect the United Workers Party to government is the same system on which this Dominica Labour Party was elected in 2000 and which it has used over the years.
PM Roosevelt Skerrit stressed, “We said in 2019 we would effect far-reaching changes, and that process is underway. But I said on November 6th that the current malaise that impacted the country after the Covid pandemic, and the consequences of the global social, economic and political meltdown, were untenable.”
He added that the National Reset he called for in January would deal with issues such as prioritization of spending. They need modern infrastructure but at the same time, too many of the families are at the mercy of the elements.
He said, “As simple as it might sound, to those of you who have not yet visited the south east of this country, you are talking about an easy $350 million to do the relocation and reinstatement that is required to return a degree of normality to the lives of the people of these communities. 70,000 or less residents and a workforce of just over 20,000 people cannot generate $350 million in the next five years to afford resolution of the problems besetting our brothers and sisters in the east and southeast of this country.”
He noted that they called these elections now because they wanted to turn a new page and to chart a new path. They have reinforced their armor and they are ready for 2023 and for whatever it brings the, as a nation and a region.
Talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, PM Skerrit said, “Remember, Dominica leads and others follow! Dominica was the first country in this region and indeed hemisphere, outside of North America, to have vaccines for the Covid pandemic. We had testing kits when others were still in search of. Dominica leads the Caribbean today in many spheres of social activities.”
He asserted that seniors in this country should be guaranteed a liveable pension. It shall be paid consistently and on time. Come January, they shall even bring forward the date of eligibility.
About salaries, PM Skerrti mentioned,”Our public officers shall be paid a liveable salary and we shall continue to provide them with the security of tenure needed to go about planning their lives. I met three weeks ago with the private sector and we are committed to addressing several of the nagging issues that undermine the efficient function of the system and which will make it easier for local and visitors alike to do business in this country.”
Appreciating Fidel Grant, PM Skerrit stated that they had a candidate lined up for Fidel Grant in this constituency, but when the poor fellow hit the road and started moving around the constituency, he realized Fidel Grant was too established. He realized that the elderly love Grant. The young boys like Grant and the young ladies trust Fidel Grant and his dignified way of handling issues.
“The opponent they had lined up for Wesley threw in his towel, both in the constituency and in the race for leadership of that party. He wants Fidel Grant to be returned to Parliament on Tuesday evening, “said the prime minister.