Lawyers: IPO will continue without the UWP
Unhappy with the amendments to the Integrity in Public Office (IPO) legislation, the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) says Government must take the Act back to Parliament and, in the meantime, the UWP will stay away from the IPO Commission.
"The Leader of the Opposition will not nominate anyone to seat on the Commission of three," Opposition Leader Lennox Linton told a UWP town hall meeting in Mahaut on Thursday evening, 3rd March 2016.
So what? Will that decision hurt the UWP or will it cripple the IPO by holding up the formation and operation of the Commission?
Recall that the new IPO Act states that one member of the Commission must be appointed by the President on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. The IPO Commission is to consist of three persons and the quorum of the Commission is two.
Seeking clarification on the issue, the SUN asked for the opinion of two lawyers.
One senior lawyer, who preferred anonymity, said the issue was "interesting" and argued that since the quorum of the IPO is two "it is in the best interest of the UWP to nominate someone on the IPO as the Act states."
Another lawyer, who also requested anonymity, believes it would be "interesting to get an interpretation of the court on the matter."
"The Act is clear, a quorum is two and so if the Opposition Leader fails to act as is required under Section 4 (c) to appoint someone that is his choice, but once the two persons are appointed in accordance with Section 4 (a) and (b) of the said Act then that is legal," the lawyer said.
In December 2015, Parliament passed amendments to the IPO Act but without the approval of the opposition.
Among the amendments to the original Act was the size of the Commission; it was reduced from seven members to three. The new IPO Commission now consists of one member each from the Government and the opposition; the chairperson is to be appointed by the President of Dominica upon recommendation from the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
That new chairman is Dermot Southwell, the former Dominica Freedom Party's minister without portfolio in the Dame Eugenia Charles administration and currently the deputy chairman of the National Bank of Dominica.
Additionally, the 2015 amendment of the Act stipulates that the new Commission will decide whether it wants to continue with matters that were before the old Commission. Some of these matters involve the President of Dominica, His Excellency Charles Savarin and other officials of the Government of Dominica.
If Linton's UWP has its wish professional bodies, such as the Dominica Bar Association and the Association of Accountants, which were part of the old Commission, would remain.
"We are asking the government to go back to Parliament and to amend the legislation properly, meaning they can take down the numbers from 7 to 5, but the professional bodies must maintain their representation on the Commission because that is where the balance is," Linton told the Mahaut meeting.
Linton also wants the IPO legislation to protect whistle blowers.
"We have to protect the people who are brave enough to see the things going wrong and are willing to come forward and say, I have seen that so that the Commission can go to work in the prevention of corruption," he said. "The commission must be given the authority in law on its own volition to go and investigate breaches of the Act and violations of the court."