Remember we always get a government we deserve
Day after day, week after week, Dominicans wait anxiously for Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to reveal the date of the next general election. In concert with the majority of the population, we expected Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to disclose that important date at the rally of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) in St Joseph on May Day, May 5, 2014. It did not come.
But Mr. Skerrit's reluctance to announce the date for the next general election should not come as a surprise to the electorate. At almost every opportunity over the past year, he has fueled conjecture by making statements to indicate that there would be an early election. In St. Joseph he continued playing games with the emotions of the people by stating that only he and his six-month old son knew the date for the elections. If that was meant to be a joke we did not get it. In fact, we are of the firm opinion that elections are too serious a matter to make joks about at the Prime Minister's podium.
But whether we condone or condemn Mr. Skerrit's methods, the fact is the Constitution of Dominica gives prime ministers the option to name an election date anytime during a five-year term of parliament. If there's a provision in the constitution that must be changed, it is that one.
As the countdown to general election begins, the mespuis and back-stabbing, which substitutes for political campaigning in Dominica, continue to divide this tiny nation. During this campaign, we pray that politicians will concentrate on the important issues which will provide the basis for discussions on the social and economic development of Dominica. The electorate needs an appreciation of the issues to help them decide the direction Dominica must take during the next five years. They also need guidelines to help them select a team of politicians with the vision, experience, and integrity to take the country on the road to progress and prosperity.
During the campaign, politicians must clarify their plans for reducing un-employment especially among the youth and their strategy for fighting escalating crime. They must also succinctly outline how they will access resources to build the infrastructure that all Dominican communities need so desperately. Soon, the political parties will distribute expensive glossy manifestos containing preposterous promises. But based on the poor success rate of the programmes and projects in these manifestoes, it would be prudent for the electorate to examine these documents carefully.
The electorate also needs to know the political parties' plans for agricultural development in general, and the banana industry in particular. And they need to ask some pertinent questions, such as what strategy is being proposed to assist Dominica compete with the industrial world. What about poverty alleviation and health care and a national health insurance scheme? Which party has a practical plan for building and repairing rural roads?
Apart from these, there are two major outstanding matters that the Dominica population needs to address during the election campaign. These are matters pertaining to campaign financing and the illegal practice of purchasing airline tickets for persons in the Diaspora to travel to Dominica to vote for a particular candidate. It happened in 2005 and in 2009 and there are indications that it is about to happen again in 2014/2015.
Firstly, recall that at the end of the 2005 general election lawyers for the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) argued before Judge Claire Henry-Wason that the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) had cheated and bought their way to victory. The UWP filed five petitions challenging the results of the General Elections in Mahaut, Castle Bruce, St. Joseph, Soufriere and the Carib Territory. The UWP charged that a number of voters who participated in the poll were not qualified and there were also various infringements of the election regulations.
In the Soufriere constituency, where Ian Pinard of the DLP beat Ferdinand Frampton of the UWP 1168 votes to 903, the party claimed that the DLP "caused, procured and or arranged and paid for over 80 persons to be brought to Dominica from diverse foreign countries to vote".
In St. Joseph, the Constituency where Vince Henderson beat the UWP's Dr. Curvin Ferreira by 1112 votes to 991, the UWP also claimed that more than 200 ineligible voters were induced to come to Dominica from overseas to vote.
Similarly, in Castle Bruce 50 ineligible voters from overseas cast their vote for Loreen Bannis-Roberts in the election. The DLP illegally paid for their tickets for Dominican who lived overseas to come to Castle Bruce to vote, the petition charged.
In the Carib Territory, where the DLP's Kelly Graneau beat the UWP's Claudius Sanford by 932 to 844 votes, the Opposition argued that the DLP paid air tickets for approximately 20 persons from overseas to come to the Carib Territory to vote for the DLP. Similarly, in Mahaut 100 ineligible voters from various countries were registered and were allowed to cast their votes.
The point we wish to stress here is that the courts did not have the opportunity to an express an opinion on these charges because the judge threw out the case on technicalities. We experienced a similar situation in 2009. It is most disturbing that the political parties are apparently planning to repeat these gross irregularities during the up-coming elections.
Secondly, there is overwhelming evidence that foreign governments, individuals and institutions are funding political parties and thus are covertly undermining Dominica's fledgling democracy.
The influence of these financiers is obvious. The huge mobilization of supporters that we have observed so far indicates that the two major parties are well-financed. The Dominican public should, therefore, be asking their politicians for candid answers about the origin of apparently huge war chests.
We are of the view that it is absolutely important to know who the prospective purchasers of our politicians are. Are they foreign governments, terrorists, international drug dealers or local businessmen who want more than their fair share of the cake? Unless we ask those critical questions our next government could find itself dancing to the tune of a foreign rouge country, a few rich nefarious individuals or drug lords. The consequences of this could be disastrous for the governance of this small island democracy.