So close yet so far
Prime Minister Skerrit grapples with the composition of his team and the calling of general elections
Roosevelt Skerrit is an unhappy man – well, somewhat unhappy, according to someone close to the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) leader and prime minister.
Somehow, Skerrit seems restless with many of the people whom he has handpicked to help him canter to yet another general election victory and maintain his Putin-like grip on Dominican politics.
Having already replaced Marva Williams - his replacement for Kenneth Darroux in Petite Savanne - with the man he'd previously deemed as unelectable – Darroux himself – the DLP leader is having second thoughts about several of his other choices.
"It's clear that Skerrit is trying to settle on a team, he's unhappy with some people on the team," one DLP insider told The Sun. "The problem is some of the people who he is not happy with haven't been given a chance."
It was only in February that Skerrit announced radical changes to his candidates list, sacking all but eight of those who represented the party in the previous election "in the best interest of the party."
Among the new candidates is his wife, Melissa Poponne-Skerrit, one of several women on the team. However, those being targeted to be replaced are almost exclusively women, according to the source, who suggested that Octavia Alfred, the candidate for Castle Bruce, is an intended casualty, "and…more changes will come".
The reasons for Skerrit's discomfort are not entirely clear. While he may not have an embarrassment of riches, these candidates are not anodyne or an embarrassment either. Among them are educators, executives and the like.
However, party insiders suggest these women do not have the financial support needed to meet the demands of the potential voters in an age of imposed mendicancy by Skerrit. For example, people close to Williams said virtually every constituent who sought her out would request some form of financial assistance from her. Unable to satisfy those demands, Williams often avoided many of them, while complaining often to her confidantes that all these people wanted from her was money.
These candidates' situation is not helped by Skerrit's lavish display of largesse, particularly in response to demands by victims of Hurricane Maria to have their homes repaired, some contend.
While not diving into hagiography, one insider eager to see the party reelected praised the administration's response to the housing situation in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.
Still, this person is concerned about the indiscriminate distribution of homes to all and sundry as an election gimmick.
"If you give me a house, are you going to give me furniture?" the insider asked, suggesting that these homes should be rented at an affordable rate.
With more developmental assistance yet to come and more homes to be built, and with Skerrit still unable to settle on his candidates, the DLP insider suggests that general elections will be delayed for as long as possible.
"I don't think he will call an election in any hurry . . . a lot of these housing projects he wants to bring on stream," the person said.
However, opposition United Workers Party strategist Arthie Martin sees the construction of these homes as nothing more than Potemkin villages designed to deceive Dominicans into thinking he is solving their problems.
Martin points to the houses built in Bellevue Chopin for the people of Petite Savanne following the destruction of their village by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015, charging that those built by the people were of better quality and more resilient than those constructed by government.
The former minister argues that Skerrit's pootling towards an election is influenced by the fact that his 'lies and inconsistencies" and his "inability to manage" are catching up with him.
"Too many lies, too many inconsistencies have been exposed and people are seeing for themselves. And all of this is he is realising the mistake of the wholesale changes of candidates all at one time," Martin told The Sun. "Effectively he has . . . unraveled the constitution of the Labour party and he is running the country like Trump."