Dominica Christian Council re Electoral Reform: The Church has spoken
The series of consultations to review the electoral reform report submitted by Sir Dennis Byron wrapped up on Monday, 28th August, with a meeting between state officials and Dominicans residing in the Caribbean and other regions.
The consultations, spearheaded by the government, sought the views from a broad cross-section of Dominican society, namely, the legal fraternity, political parties, professionals and academia, groups and associations, community members, and Dominicans living overseas.
Some groups have been more vocal, while others have remained silent. The consultation, which involved local media, representing the people's voice, remained deathly quiet during the hours-long meeting. At the same time, other stakeholders couldn't wait to get to the mic and experience their 15 minutes of fame, even though it involved being tediously repetitious to a fault.
Among the recommendations put forth and persistently disputed by various associations and individuals are:
•A fixed date for general elections.
•Monitoring of campaign financing.
•Allowing Dominicans who live abroad to vote on the island.
•A voter ID card versus a national identification card.
President of the United Workers Party and former Member of Parliament for the Marigot constituency, Lennox Linton, led a march for electoral reform on Wednesday, 23rd August, as he believes the government would not implement the recommendations from stakeholders.
In rare form, the Church voiced its view of Sir Byron's report. Father Nigel Karam, who represented the Dominica Christian Council (DCC), which consists of Methodist, Catholic, and Anglican members, agreed in most parts with the suggestions proposed in the report but expressed concerns over sections of the document.
"Members of the Dominica Christian Council recognize the financial dilemma of whether to issue a multipurpose national ID or specific voter ID for purposes of elections," Karam stated. "The members agree that the option for a specific voter ID card would be more beneficial and better ensure one person one vote."
The DCC also firmly believes the Electoral Commission should have had greater oversight of the consultations and be a more recognizable and effective body during the election season.
"Members further agreed and supported the mechanism suggested to facilitate confirmation of ineligible electors on the register of electors for its cleansing. The Electoral Commission will then enable civil society and Church members to monitor this process more closely," Karam pointed out. "The proposal for the expanded electoral commission will then be able to more closely monitor this process."
The sourcing and expenditure of funds during the election season have consistently been a matter of contention for many. In this regard, Karam shared, "On the issue of campaign financing, the Council agrees there should be monitoring and auditing of the finances used during political campaigns."
The DCC representative clarified. "Limits should be imposed on how much any one donor can give, and there should be no funding from foreign sources. There should be a declaration of sources of funding and campaign expenditure."
Additionally, the Christian Council recommended the retention of a five-year term and the current parliamentary definition of absence from Dominica exceeding five years as a basis for deleting an elector's name from the register.
"This is in keeping with the constitutional position of our country whereby the predominant constitutional criteria for voting is not citizenship but domicile and residence within the Commonwealth of Dominica."
Dominica has often been described as a God-fearing nation. It has steadfastly followed the teachings, practices, and sayings of the many churches on the island. But in this instant, will the recommendation by churches, both traditional and conventional, be considered and implemented by the powers that be? Only time will tell, and only God knows.