Mixed reaction from the Kalinago Territory as one of their own is nominated to the post of Head of State
One notable figure voicing scepticism over the recent announcement of Mrs Sylvanie Burton as the Government nominee for the post of President of Dominica is a former Kalinago Chief, who believes that Burton's close ties to the government may hinder her ability to bring about unity in the country and the Territory.
The former Chief, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, expressed his reservations, saying, "I had hoped for a President who would rise above partisan politics and work towards uniting our nation. While I respect Ms. Burton's qualifications, her vocal support for the government raises concerns about her impartiality."
While he expressed excitement that the indigenous people of Dominica are finally receiving the much-needed "respect and recognition" they deserve, he notes that the country and the Kalinago Territory need a unifying figure who can bridge the gaps between different political factions and interest groups.
He noted, "Unity is crucial for our nation's progress, and a President should symbolise that unity. Burton's alignment with the government may undermine this important aspect of her role."
Skerrit informs the Leader of the Opposition
Last week, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit disclosed that he had consulted with Opposition Leader Jesma Paul-Victor regarding his chosen nominee who could succeed His Excellency Charles A. Savarin, DAH, whose term concludes on October 1, 2023.
But amidst the historical moment of Burton becoming the nation's first female president and its first indigenous head of state, concerns persist that Mrs. Burton's appointment might further polarise an already divided political landscape. There are fears that her presidency could be perceived as favouring the government's policies, potentially exacerbating existing tensions.
Maureen Valmond, a member of the Kalinago community, openly expressed her reservations about Burton due to what she sees as partisan politics and a lack of compassion towards her people.
"Mrs Burton is not my cup of tea," she stated. "I have been against her partisan politics and rhetoric for five years."
Adding, "I have strongly opposed what I see as her lack of compassion towards her own people. In my claims, I have pointed to cases where the elderly and physically challenged (who live within walking distance of her house) are without electricity, running water and sometimes food."
She opined that as the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Kalinago Upliftment, Burton could have done more to ensure that some socio-economic conditions were better for women and children in the community.
However, despite her reservations, Valmond welcomed Burton's nomination as a crucial step toward equality for women and indigenous people in Dominica. She viewed it as a signal of progress. She urged fellow Kalinagos to join her in congratulating Burton on her nomination.
Cozier Fredrick, the current Minister for Kalinago Upliftment, celebrated Burton's selection and called on the Kalinago community to rejoice in recognising one of their own.
"Kalinago, we are indeed proud," he said.
Another community member emphasised to The Sun the significance of this nomination beyond politics, highlighting that it marks the progress achieved by the Kalinago people in a land where their ancestors were once regarded as second-class citizens.
Attorney Joshua Francis, a Kalinago descendant, supported Burton's nomination as a breaking of barriers, particularly for women and girls. He hoped she would prioritise national interests such as health, education, climate change, and gender equality.
Alexander Stephenson has also expressed excitement about the historic news and the pride felt by the Kalinago people in seeing one of their own nominated for the highest office.
As the nomination process unfolds, Prime Minister Skerrit outlined the procedure. If the nominee receives agreement from the opposition leader, it will follow a straightforward path. However, if a consensus isn't reached, other members of the House of Assembly would have the opportunity to submit their nominees, leading to an election.
A tentative date of September 12 has been set for the parliamentary session to finalise the nomination. Prime Minister Skerrit expressed his hope for a joint nominee but emphasised that the process would proceed regardless.
He went on to declare that Mrs. Burton, 58, from Salybia, Kalinago Territory, who has served as Permanent Secretary in various ministries since 2014, is eminently qualified to hold the position of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica and that she will serve the nation with distinction.
She has served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministries of Community Development, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Youth and Social Services. She is currently a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Rural Modernization, Kalinago Upliftment, and Constituency Empowerment.
She also previously served as a Development Officer in the Ministry of Kalinago Affairs and held the position of District Development Officer (DDO) for an extended period.
The mother of two brings 25 years of experience as a Justice of the Peace. She has dedicated over two decades as a Lay Associate in the Roman Catholic Church. Mrs. Burton's educational background includes a Master's Degree in project management and a Bachelor's Degree in rural development.
-By Ronda Luke