Dominica's parliament has always been a monstrous masquerade
Who, except for a raging mad person, or some murderous leader of a crazy cult, would want to "assassinate" members of the opposition in broad daylight in the so-called hallowed halls of parliament? And for what reason?
Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is not such a crazy person that he would be attempting political suicide by ordering armed police to exterminate members of the opposition in parliament who, ad infinitum, have been protesting unjust treatment by the ruling majority.
But last week that was the suggestion of the leadership of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) as it attempted to throw some red meat to its supporters following the latest clash between the Opposition and the Skerrit parliament. Without a doubt, the UWP should know that this suggestion of a contemplated "assassination" is a bridge too far.
However, there's a message in the madness: if we do not curb this raging fire of party political divisiveness, this on-going-year-round development- retarding political campaigning, this hatred of blue by red and red by blue, something nasty will occur, blood will be shed.
But we disagree with Lennox Linton when he opined after the recent debacle that parliament has been assassinated, that parliament is dead. No Sir, you cannot kill or assassinate something that has always been dead.
We have said it before and we will say it again: Dominica does not have a parliament; it has an extension of the Executive Branch of government, an extension of the cabinet, an extension of the absolute power of Prime Minister Skerrit.
As we stated in an earlier editorial "Roosevelt Skerrit is right, he runs things: Our Prime Minister is a king."
That was our conclusion after Prime Minister Skerrit told Thomas Letang, the General Secretary of the Dominica Public Service Union, in a speech that Skerrit delivered at the launching of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) candidate for the Roseau South constituency on Sunday 19 May 2019 at the New Town Savanah that "My Brother, I run things in Dominica". That statement sounded full of arrogance, overflowing with hubris.
Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Skerrit has been ruling with all the pomp and power of a king, an emperor, an emir and some would say with the absolute power of a dictator of a banana republic- he's that big, big fish in that small, small pond called Dominica.
But that's how kings ruled in antiquity. Recall that King Louis XIV of France in the 18th century, for example, proclaimed, "I am the State" and added for good measure: "Salvation belongs to God. Everything else is my affair."
Don't ever forget that the prime minister appoints the President of Dominica and the Speaker of the House of Assembly (we all pretend it is parliament); advises the President on the dissolution of Parliament; decides on the administration and function of all government ministries; chairs the Cabinet and appoints ministers and relieves them of their posts; appoints a majority of senators, ambassadors, high commissioners, and a majority of senior public posts; nominates persons for various honours and awards; advises the President on the appointment of a majority of the public service commission; appoints the Commissioner of Police; negotiates treaties, conventions, and contracts; and effectively serves as the de facto head of state by leading foreign engagements and diplomatic initiatives overseas; decides on agents for the selling of passports; controls state resources including the budget's revenue and expenditure, and so on, and so forth.
And in the prime minister's control over the agenda of parliament, that's where we see the exercise of his real power.
As we said in an earlier editorial "Let's face the truth: Our parliamentary system is broken", Dominica's parliament is a little more than a rubber stamp for Prime Minister Skerrit's policies and programmes. Undoubtedly, the way that today's Parliament operates leaves much to be desired.
The Government appears to believe that parliament, the Speaker included, is merely an extension of the ruling DLP; it behaves as if the opposition's debates and critiques are annoyances that should be minimized and or eliminated.
But, as we argued before, the separation of parliament from the executive is a myth; an ideal that the system fails to support in practice. We are of the view that there is a fundamental contradiction between what is theoretically expected of the House of Assembly in the Westminster system of Government that we inherited from Britain and what exists in practice in Dominica today.
Parliament is brazenly undemocratic. It is our opinion that the Prime Minister is an unacknowledged king or dictator who controls, with an iron fist, not only his Cabinet but also parliament and its agenda.
Attorney-at-law and historian Dr. William Riviere made that point succinctly in an article entitled: "Our Constitution: Democracy or One-man Rule" published in the Sun Newspaper a few years ago.
Dr. Riviere argued that "the intention of the founding fathers of our nation may well have been that the Executive would be collectively responsible to Parliament.
"But, quite apart from nebulously stating so at Section 60(3), the Constitution signally fails to provide any mechanism at all by which such collective responsibility might be achieved.
"The plain truth, as earlier discussed, is that it makes ample provision for the diametrical opposite, namely, that the Executive would dominate Parliament.
"More correctly, it is the Prime Minister as an individual, not the Cabinet as collective that from the standpoint of our Constitution dominates the Legislature. In fact, the power and authority of the Prime Minister go beyond this. It is all-pervasive.
"The Constitution invests the Prime Minister with power, directly and indirectly, to effectively control not only the Legislature but, as well, the Head of State, the Cabinet of Ministers and the institutions of Public Administration, including the Security Forces. And the Prime Minister is equipped with the power to greatly influence the functioning of the Judiciary".
It is, therefore, unquestionable that parliament is being monopolized by the party in power and specifically by the Prime Minister.
So last week's fiasco in parliament was just another sample of the prime minister's doctrine that "might is right", that the opposition is a mosquito that must be swatted.
So, should we continue deluding ourselves that Dominica is a real democracy? Or should we wake up to the fact that we live in a fake reality? Or should we acknowledge that parliament and other major institutions of State are monstrous masquerades?