"The critical features of Sir Byron's final report include the following provisions that will allow Mr Skerrit to conduct elections in the same manner that he has done before, contrary to the caution of the CCJ but without any accusations of illegality or unlawfulness."
That's the assessment of Dominica-born Canadian Judge Dr Irving Andre' in a June 27 statement titled "Citizens Exploring Free and Fair Elections in Dominica."
In the severe critique of Sir Dennis Byron's recommendations for electoral reform in Dominica, Dr Andre' said: "After three years, Sir Byron has delivered, in exchange for over $600,000 silver dollars, reforms that Mr Skerrit has been searching for all over the democratic world, without success.
Dr Andre added: "Sir Byron had to symbolically dive deep and far in an ocean where no electoral expert had gone before, where no light of democracy shines, to surface with a titanic of rusting reforms that will destroy Dominica's democracy and instead create a Skerritocracy with red carpets leading to mansions, banks, shady convicted ambassadors and incomplete or empty hotels".
In June 2023, Sir Dennis Byron, Dominica's sole commissioner on electoral reform, presented his report to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Skerrit first announced at the swearing-in of his new cabinet in December 2019 that Sir Dennis Byron, the retired president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), had been selected as the sole commissioner for electoral reform.
At the beginning of March 2020, the prime minister revealed that the prominent jurist was "to make a first visit to Dominica in March on our information gathering exercise, and once he comes into Dominica, he will be exposed to all the relevant stakeholders, including the media."
However, with Caribbean countries, including Dominica, having had to close their borders due to COVID-19, there was no movement on this until August 25, when the cabinet met and approved his appointment "to examine the electoral process in Dominica", according to the minutes of the meeting signed on September 1 by Steve Ferrol, the cabinet secretary.
The ministers agreed that the scope of work would include a review of existing legislation to propose amendments, a review of electoral and other such reports, proposing recommendations on how to proceed, including legislative reforms to strengthen the electoral process and advice on voter identification cards, and advice on how to update and maintain the electoral register.
Sir Dennis would be paid EC$450,000 for his service, half of which was due at the beginning of the exercise and the remainder at the end, according to the minutes.
However, Dr Andre believes the Byron report needs to be improved in many critical areas.
He listed them as follows:
• Overseas registration of voters.
• No specific indication that paying for the air and sea passage of persons to come to Dominica to vote for the candidate or political party constitutes the offence of bribery.
• No meaningful limitation on electoral expenditure.
Such expenditure can be increased at the whims and fancies of the Commission and Parliament; Limited access to state media by opposition parties and no access to privately owned media; The provision for a National ID card rather than a Voter ID card; No specific indication of the biometric information that the ID cards should contain; Allowing Dominicans residing abroad to vote in Dominica if they visited the island for 90 days over five years; Placing faith in the Chief Electoral Officer and Chairman of the Commission to ensure the financial independence of the Commission or compliance with the proposed reforms; Allowing sellers of Dominican passports who are allied to the government to sit as members of the Electoral Commission at the behest of the president and political directorate.
Dr Andre concluded that "The Byron recommendations amount to nothing more than a recipe to continue holding elections in the same way that concerned the CCJ in July 2022 despite Dominica's leadership's pious invocation of God.
"It normalizes corruption in the holding of elections in Dominica and effectively ensures the catastrophic implosion of Dominica's democracy."