Lawyer Elue Charles at a Electoral Reform Group meeting
Lawyer Elue Charles at a Electoral Reform Group meeting

If Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit exercises his constitution-given authority to call the next general election before it is due and before basic electoral reform has been achieved, he will own the chaos that will inevitably ensue, a group of business and civil society has concluded.

"The Prime Minister should display moral responsibility by refraining from exercising his constitutional privilege to dissolve parliament and call the next general election for the next six months or during the period when greater effort by the Electoral Commission is realised in the necessary electoral reform, unless it becomes constitutionally due," said the group in a report it called " Dissolving the Impasse in the Road to Electoral Reform: Interim Report on the Electoral Reform Effort by the Group Comprising Leaders of Church, Business and Civil Society".

Asked about possible implications if the prime minister ignores that warning, Attorney at Law John Elue Charles, the representative of the Bar Association said: "You will suffer the consequences…if you want to do that you do that to your own peril."

Earlier in the report the group said it was formed because "there is chance that civil unrest and disturbances may ensue in the country" if there is the impression that whoever wins the next general election has done so unfairly.

"We recognised that one way to obtain the perception that the election held was fair is to have a sanitised list of eligible electors (that is to say, the people on the electors' lists are generally entitled to be there) and that the electors can be properly identified at the polls", the group said in the report.

The group acknowledges that only these issues could be tackled before the next general election and other concerns such as campaign finance legislation should be attempted in the post-election period. The group believes that ID cards for voting could be issued in four months.

Before the formation of the new group, for many years Government, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) have been at loggerheads over the issue of electoral reform.

The "opposition" says they want the voters list to be cleansed, voter ID cards to be issued and access to state-owned media to be sanctioned if Dominica is to have free and fair elections. The UWP and the CCM held protests and meetings outside parliament in Roseau to force government to delay taking amendments to election laws to parliament.

The group comprises of representatives from the Dominica Christian Council (DCC), Dominica Business Forum (DBF), Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Dominica Bar Association (DBA), Dominica Association Evangelical Churches (DAEC), and Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU).

In a legal opinion requested by the group Charles said that with some level of compromise the voters list can be cleansed and ID cards issued before the next election.

"There must be consensus and compromise among the political parties as regards the proper application of the relevant provisions of the Act, Chap. 2:03 and the Registration Regulations for the benefit of Dominica," Charles argues.