Sylvanie Burton to be President
Dominica nominates the first woman and the first Kalinago to be Head of State
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit today announced that his government has named Mrs. Sylvanie Burton as Dominica's first female President and first president from the Kalinago Territory' She will replace His Excellency Charles Savarin who demits office in October 2023.
Speaking at a press conference at Government Headquarters this morning Skerrit said Burton is his nominee and he has held discussions with ooo , the Leader of the Opposition on the presentation of a joint nomination to the Parliament of Dominica.
He said he awaits Ms. Jesma Paul's decision on the nomination, Skerrit said.
However, that may be irrelevant because the ruling Dominica Labour Party holds a 19-2 majority in the House of Assembly.
The Government information Service (GIS) has announced that Mrs. Burton "will become Dominica's first woman and indigenous person to hold the highest office of the land".
GIS added that Mrs. Burton currently the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environmental, Rural Modernization and Kalinago Upliftment, is 58years old, married, mother of two children, a devout Catholic and community oriented person.
Election of the President
The Office of the President has outlined (at https://presidentoffice.gov.dm/presidents-office/2-election-of-president) the procedure for the election of the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica. It states:
"Whenever the office of President is vacant or the term of office of the President is due to expire within not more than ninety days, the Prime Minister shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition as to their joint nomination of a suitable candidate for election as President.
"If the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition submit to the Speaker by writing under their hands a joint nomination of a candidate for election as President to which that candidate has consented, the Speaker shall inform the House of the nomination, and declare that candidate to have been duly elected without putting the question to the vote.
"If the Prime Minister is unable to agree with the Leader of the Opposition as to their joint nomination of a candidate for election as President, he shall notify the Speaker to that effect and the Speaker shall inform the House accordingly.
"The Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition or any three members of the House may, during the period expiring fourteen days after the day on which the House has been so informed, submit to the Speaker by writing under their hands nominations of candidates for election as President and the Speaker shall at the first meeting of the House after the expiration of that period and before the House proceeds to any other business inform the House of the nominations he has received and to which the candidates concerned have consented.
"An election of the President at which the candidates shall be those of whose nomination the House has been informed by the Speaker, shall thereafter be held at the meeting of the House referred to in Paragraph (2) above (of if proceedings under section 22 of the Constitution - determination of questions as to qualifications are pending before the Court of Appeal, at a meeting of the House held as soon as it is practicable after those proceedings) and the Speaker shall declare the candidate who has at that election received the votes of a majority of all the members of the House to have been duly elected.
"Provided that when the question of the election of the President is put to the vote, the votes shall be given by ballot in such a manner as not to disclose how any particular member of the House votes.
"Where the only candidate for election under Paragraph (3) above does not receive the votes of a majority of all the members of the House, the Speaker shall inform the House accordingly and a new election shall be held to which the provisions of Paragraphs (2) and (3) above shall, mutatis mutandis, apply".
Who is Sylvanie Burton?
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environmental, Rural Modernization and Kalinago Upliftment
High School - St. Andrews High School (1979-1984)
Tertiary - St. Francis Xavier University (Canada) 1993
University of Manchester (England) 1999
University for International Cooperation 2013-2014
Certificate in Community Development
Certificate in Adult Education
Diploma in Social Development
Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Poverty Alleviation
Master's Degree in Project management
Project writing, Management and Implementation
Qualitative Research Methods
1985 – 1992 - Clerk, Kalinago Council
1992 to present - Public Service (Government of Dominica)
(Employed as Civil Society Resource Officer with Dominica Social Investment Fund (DSIF) from August 2007 to December 2009, on secondment from Government).
District Development Assistant (Min. of Social services)
District Development Officer (Min. of Social Services)
Kalinago Affairs Development Officer (Ag), Min. of Kalinago Affairs.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services (2014 to 2016)
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016 to 2019)
Justice of Peace (1998 to present)
Lay Associate in Pastoral Care (1998 to present)
Served as a member on the Prerogative of Mercy Committee (2003 – 2005) –
Member of the Student Loans advisory Committee (AID Bank) 2009 to present
Dominica's Representative on the Mechanism to Belem do Para Convention (MESECVI) Committee of the Organization of American States.
Secretary Waitukubuli Karifuna Development Agency (WAIKADA)
Secretary North- East Multi-purpose Co-operative (NEM COOP)
Member Kalinago Territory Community Radio Station Committee.
What is the role of President and why the Government controls who sits in that seat
As the Sun stated in Apri 2023, Dominica begun searching for a new president because the incumbent, His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin, leaves the post in October 2023 after two successive five-year terms, the maximum the Dominica Constitution will allow. The constitution created the post of President when Dominica became a republic after independence from Britain in 1978.
Dominica has a president with little or no independent power or authority. Instead, we have a President who "acts on the advice of the Prime Minister" in almost all major decisions.
The President of Dominica is like the Queen of England (now King), whom we, the people, supply with palace-like accommodation, manicured lawns, free utilities, police guards and servants, and staff added to a very lucrative monthly salary and pension.
Like the King of England, the President of Dominica, in other words-our local sovereign- has no executive authority. He merely assents to documents sent to him for signature from parliament or the Prime Minister's office; he meets with the PM at prearranged times to receive, not give, instructions from the prime minister.
"With the greatest respect to the Office of the Presidency, the truth is…the presidency of our country is a mere ceremonial office clothed in the appearance, rather than the reality of political power," wrote the late Dr William "Para" Riviere on page 23 of the book "Our Constitution: Democracy or one-man rule?"
Riviere added: "The holder of the office represents a mere figurehead of State. He or she is invested with no meaningful power of discretion, therefore, independent action. Further, he or she is essentially subject to the "advice", that is to say, the orders and dictates of the Prime Minister directly or to the wishes of organs of government that are largely appointed and controlled by the Prime Minister."
Dr Riviere contended that the Dominica Constitution had created a dictatorship clothed in the clothes of democracy.
In other words, the prime minister selects, appoints, and controls the President through his all-pervasive power.
"More correctly, it is the Prime Minister as individual, not the Cabinet as collective that from the standpoint of our Constitution dominates the Legislature. In fact, the power and authority of the Prime Minister go beyond this. It is all-pervasive. The Constitution invests the Prime Minister with power, directly and indirectly, to effectively control not only the Legislature but, as well, the Head of State, the Cabinet of Ministers and the institutions of Public Administration, including the Security Forces. And the Prime Minister is equipped with power to greatly influence the functioning of the Judiciary," wrote lawyer and historian, the late Dr William "Para" Riviere in an article published in the SUN in November 2014 entitled: "Our Constitution-Democracy or One-man Rule".
The point is that if the President of Dominica is to be a unifier, a President to all Dominicans, he or she cannot be a party politician of any colour. Otherwise, that role of the President is "dead on arrival".