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A man holds up a sign at the protest
A man holds up a sign at the protest

This may seem to be self-contradicting but it is absolutely spot-on: if Dominicans want a responsible, effective, less corrupt government they need a solid opposition. By opposition we refer, of course, not only to the official parliamentary opposition but also to the press, the trade unions, the bar association, the religious institutions, the business associations and civil society in general.

Supporting that view is Nigerian Leonard Akaolisa who wrote in a commentary in August 2017 entitled: The Role of Strong Opposition in a Democracy that "The significance of a viable opposition in any democratic system cannot be over emphasized.

He added: "Beyond all these, a strong opposition makes the party at the centre more proactive and susceptible to democratic principles through its pronouncements, views and manifesto".

He continued: "In advanced democracies such as the United States of America, the Democrats and Republicans are always there to take over the reins of power from the other in the event of the ruling party not living up to the expectations of the American populace. The same is obtainable in Britain where the Conservative Party and Labour Party are always at each other's neck, thereby making democracy sweet and the citizenry effectively conscious of political developments in the country. "Absence of viable opposition breeds dictatorship and engenders leadership ineptitude.

"Now that Nigeria is more committed towards entrenching a virile and stable democracy, all hands must be on deck to ensure formidable opposition in Nigeria. This is the only way to correct any anomaly in the system and ensure adequate checks and balances in the country"

In addition, Reverend Dr. William Watty expresses a similar view in his distinctive prose (October 2016, in an article published in the SUN entitled: Open Letter to the Parliamentary Opposition). Dr. Watty believes that though the existence of an opposition is enshrined in our Constitution political parties that form governments have consistently vilified the opposition because simply- they want no opposition. Below, we quote extensively from Dr. Watty's essay because he makes the case so well.

"Gentlemen," Rev Watty wrote "you have a problem; but let no one make you feel that it is you who brought it on yourselves. Had you been the perfect Parliamentary Opposition with the perfect Leader, the problem would still be there, for it is a chronic disease that has afflicted electoral politics in the Commonwealth of Dominica as nowhere else I know.

"The problem is this. Thanks to the framers of our Constitution no "Winner (can) take all" unless all the seats are captured, and the Douglas-Charles International Airstrip can accommodate the plane loads of imported voters to achieve that result.

"Entrenched in our Constitution is the legitimacy of, and necessity for, a Parliamentary Opposition with a Leader who is appointed by the Head of State, without consultation with, or approval by, the Prime Minister.

"That important provision is the first line of defense against a potential and creeping dictatorship. It is the third to last recourse against the uprising of a disgusted people.

"It is noticeable, however, that for the past thirty-eight years of our Independence, every sitting Government has conducted the people's business as though a Parliamentary Opposition was an unnecessary humbug and a mistake.

"The psyche of Government after Government soon becomes infected with a paranoia in its attitude towards those Parliamentarians, also elected by the people, who face them across the aisle. In recent years, however, that alienation has intensified rather than abated. And why? Because, let us face it, participation in politics is no longer just about politics. It is livelihood. It is a gold rush. It is a ladder of escape from that to this, from down there to up here, from back then to now at last, and from what I was to what I have become; and therefore the very appearance of an alternative to them over there, over whom they can have no control, facing and addressing them at every sitting of the Parliament, is simply intolerable to the Ruling Party. It is unnerving. It is too much for them. No nightmare is so dreadful as the likelihood of a removal from Office in a General Election that is fair and free. So it has been in the past, so it is now, and that disease will not go away should you succeed in the next General Election. It will persist. Watch it. Watch it".

The point is the Opposition United Workers Party, the parliamentary opposition, cannot sit back and expect the Roosevelt Skerrit administration to shoot itself in the foot- many people expect that party to do much more than it has been doing so far. But the rest of the "opposition" has also been in a stupor for decades.

Take the press for instance. It is sometimes described as the fourth arm of Government (after the parliament, the executive and the judiciary) in promoting democracy and keeping the elected government accountable and responsible. But it is rather unfortunate that the current situation affecting the press in Dominica is troubling, to say the least, and all citizens must be concerned.

In fact the Commonwealth Observer Mission of December 2014 suggested that the press should be "depoliticized" and that "it is accepted among citizens that certain radio stations are aligned to certain political parties" and significantly "it was (also) alleged that five of the six stations…either direct affiliations with the Government through shareholding schemes, or are owned or managed by agents of the ruling political party".

And, you ask, have the other members of civil society- the trade unions, the churches, the business organizations (such as the DAIC and the DHTA), in words and in action provided a fortification for our democracy? Have they demanded the absolute need for good and accountable government? Absolutely not. And we all know that.


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