Prime Minister Skerrit says he wants Electoral reform badly, but the opposition is delaying the process

"I'm going with it. I'm gonna go with it, full blast! Full blast!" proclaimed Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit regarding the eagerly awaited electoral reform, which he pledged would be implemented without reservation in the first quarter of this year.

However, not everyone shares Skerrit's confidence, and former Prime Minister Edison James is among the sceptics.

Speaking at a recent press conference, Skerrit assured the public and media that his government would unveil the recommendations by the second week of April. He emphasized that the Attorney General and a dedicated team had thoroughly scrutinized these proposals.

As revealed, they also carefully examined all comments and suggestions from the expansive national consultation and feedback from international observers. Based on this thorough review, the Attorney General has formulated recommendations for parliament's consideration. These recommendations will be published on the government website, ensuring transparency and informing the public about the proposed electoral reform measures.

Based on Skerrit's statement, there is speculation that the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government plans to propose National Identification Cards instead of ID cards for voting. Other contentious issues are the definition of residency and whether paying political travel tickets for overseas voters constitutes bribery.

According to Skerrit, the government will follow the legal process by submitting the recommendations to the Electoral Commission. Once the Electoral Commission approves them, the government will proceed to parliament to pass the legislation, granting the Commission the legal authority to implement the electoral reform measures.

Observers have noted that the Commission is not independent, and the government holds a 19-2 majority in Dominica's parliament.

In addition, Skerrit assured that adequate budgetary allocations will be made in the upcoming budget to provide the Electoral Commission with the resources needed to implement these measures. He expressed confidence that parliament will address these reforms before the end of the financial year and before the presentation of the 2024-2025 budget to the nation.

In the words of the head of government, "Rest assured in this country that I, Roosevelt Skerrit, as Prime Minister, absolutely want electoral reform, and I absolutely want it to be dealt with once and for all, and I absolutely want it to go before the Budget Address of 2024."

Edison James: Government is deliberately slowing down the process

Not mincing his words, James responded to the PM's statement, "Partner, you were there for 20-something years as Prime Minister. People have been clamouring for electoral reform because you came in and contaminated the process. People have been after you for how many years?"

He firmly believes that the current administration is deliberately prolonging the entire process.

On the other hand, Skerrit believes that opposition members have delayed the process. During the conference, he expressed hope that "those persons who say they want electoral reform, and that they are genuinely interested in electoral reform will understand we have to go, we have to move and move with implementing those things."

Skerrit has expressed reservations regarding the Sir Denis Byron report, particularly concerning its potential impact on the Constitution regarding constitutional amendments.

He maintains that his government's stance on electoral reform aligns with the sentiments expressed by Dominica's citizens. However, he believes there is no necessity to amend the Constitution to achieve the nation's objectives in this regard. "And if we are to interfere with the Constitution at this stage, then there will be a prolonged process because there are provisions that require you to go for a referendum. And do we need any referendum in the constitutional reform, to effect the National ID cards and to do the confirmation of voters on the voter's lists and to allow political parties access to DBS radio during the election campaign?" he questioned.

He further outlined five to six key points that can drive progress, expressing his belief that electoral reform can be accomplished with genuine interest from all stakeholders.

James recognized that several pressing issues must be tackled when the process is presented to parliament, with residency being the foremost concern.

However, the former leader remains sceptical about the feasibility of achieving this reform under the current regime, as he believes they have been deliberately delaying the process.

But in the words of Skerrit, "I want to say to the people of Dominica, nothing's gonna stop me from bringing about electoral reform in Dominica, nothing."

"So when we post it, read it; if you have comments, tell us your comments, but nobody's going to stop us from going to parliament to pass legislation. This foolishness has to stop. This game-playing has to stop in this country, and I will not tolerate it where electoral reform is concerned," he declared.