Your Excellency, I make bold to state
Open Letter to H.E. the President of Dominica
Open Letter to H.E. the President of Dominica
Electoral Reform: The Way Forward – Politics or Principle – Which is it to be?
Arthur R. Smith
P.O. Box 2255
Commonwealth of Dominica
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2019
His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin
President of the Commonwealth of Dominica
Office of the President
The Commonwealth of Dominica
Electoral Reform: The Way Forward – Politics or Principle – Which is it to be?
Greetings to you, your dear wife and the rest of your entire family in the most Blessed Name of Our Risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
I write the following lines to you – Your Excellency, with respect to the captioned subject, on the very basis of the convictions, the patriotic zeal and fervour which impelled and committed us – you and me – as well as, the many other Dominican patriots in the sixties and seventies to publicly stand in the name of country and countrymen against the social, economic, political and constitutional and human rights offences, injustices and other atrocities which were perpetrated by the State apparatus on a defenseless citizenry – the People – of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
This open letter is, therefore, an appeal to that same spirit of patriotic brotherhood and esprit de corps with which we were all imbued as we all stood up, fearlessly and defiantly, in a united and cohesive front, to the might of the powers that be (including, among other measures, their unjustified declarations of 'State of Emergency' with its attendant restraining measures of curfews and detentions under 'House Arrests'; their dismissal of the trade union leadership from employment in 'the Public Interest'; their abuse of the privilege of Legislative Authority in Parliament; their undue influence over the Dominica Defense Force; their unlimited and unrestrained access to and use of guns and bullets; their vehement threats of jailed sentences threatening to use unconventional forms of incarceration; their politically inspired and motivated punitive transfers and suspensions of public officers; their infiltration of the Public and Police Services Commissions by the appointment of lackeys and known activists on these Commissions to enable their desire for wanton victimization and nepotism in treating with public and police officers) in that era of our history, as we, undeterred and undaunted by all their maneuverings, resolutely fought for and valiantly, without force of arms, defended the soul of our country, our democratic way of life. I am sure that you will agree with me, Your Excellency that it was a long, arduous and very formidable struggle in which our just objectives were achieved or attained; notwithstanding the machinations and denigrating antics of the then Labour Party Administration which, coincidentally, was at that material point in time [that is, exactly forty (40) years ago] in its fourth (4th) term of elected office of Governance.
Unfortunately, and from all accounts, our cherished democratic way of life is, once again under threat from, yet, another Labour Party regime; again, in its fourth (4th) term of elected office, as well. Yes, your Excellency, in our own lifetime (i.e. yours and mine) before our very eyes, history is indeed repeating itself. Consider the number of times, in the recent past, that members of the Parliamentary Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, have been arrested and/or brought and kept before the Court, on the basis of some frivolous or trumped-up charges.
This current threat to our cherished democratic way of life is manifestly evident by this Labour Party Government's undue penetration and the unconstitutional exercise of its influence and interference in the administration and operations of the Electoral Commission in its determination to resist and to frustrate the legitimate extensive hue and cry from every quarter of community life demanding Electoral Reform prior to General Elections, constitutionally due by May, 2020.
For almost two (2) decades now there has been, in Dominica, a plethora of resounding cries and calls for Electoral Reform by the various political interest groups, as well as, externally constituted international and regional election observer missions and agencies, assigned to specifically observe the 2005, 2009 and 2014 General Elections held on the island of Dominica. The views and assessments, including the specific recommendations with respect to the conduct of these elections, can be gleaned from the respective reports of each of these "General Elections Observer Missions".
In the absence of any objective and positive response from the relevant authorities, the now five (5) year old Concerned Citizens Movement of Dominica (CCMD), in an obvious bid to neutralize and/or obviate any further chances of these efforts being tainted by self-serving allegations of partisan interests and/or considerations, rightfully took hold of the momentum of these impassioned national calls for electoral reform and instantaneously become the major and lead proponent in the legitimate national quest for free and fair elections; this very fundamental and critical component of every democracy, the world over.
It is note-worthy, that even the duly appointed Electoral Commissioners, severally and collectively, are on public record, over an extended period, advocating and indicating that there is dire need for electoral reform in Dominica. You may recall that the Electoral Commission detailed, in its official Report on as early as the General Elections of January, 2000 its proposed programme of reform measures for improving the electoral process in Dominica. This was further reiterated in such succeeding reports on subsequent General Elections in Dominica.
As a matter of fact, it is widely known that in the month of March, 2008 the Electoral Commission was about to implement its then eight (8) year old promised programme of Electoral Reform measures when, at the behest of a well known Government operative and activist but, more specifically, the main spokesperson of the Prime Minister, the Government initiated and/or caused the hasty and unceremonious withdrawal of one of its two (2) nominees on the Electoral Commission; and, even pretence-less, as some kind of replacement, unannounced subjugated the Commission by planting on the Commission one (1) of its very prominent passport selling agents under the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme. Therefore, ipso facto, since 2008 all aspects of the Electoral Commission's proposed Electoral Reform programme, promised to and expected by the general public, have been and remain derailed. Needless to state, that from there on the Electoral Commission has ceased to function in keeping with the spirit and intendment of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Even with the expanding amplification and boundlessness of the clarion call from the ever increasing vociferous proponents for Electoral Reform in Dominica, the situation has deteriorated to the point where, two (2) of the five (5) Commissioners, appointed on the Electoral Commission, find it necessary to resort to the public media for purposes of venting the frustrations visited upon them by the machinations and antics of the Dominica Labour Party led Government as it seeks to impose its self-serving partisan political will on the Electoral Commission, using its advantage of incumbency.
It is of great significance, too, that within the very first hour of the New Year – 2019 – that the Head of the Catholic Church community (by far, the single largest religious body) in Dominica, in his delivery of thee homily at the 12:00 mid-night Solemn Mass on New Year's Day, 2019, found it necessary to add his voice to the national call for Electoral Reform in Dominica. The Bishop of the Diocese of Roseau pointed out that "Of concern to many here in Dominica, during the past days, is the issue of electoral reform. It's a long standing issue which is impacting and affecting our society." The Bishop expounded further that "It is imperative therefore, that those responsible move with some alacrity to see that all is put in place for the appearance of free and fair general elections which is due this year."
His Lordship continued, "Brothers and sisters, we are duty bound to do all in our power to maintain a just and peaceful society. We must seek as a people, to transcend party political interests and work for the good of all citizens in our beloved country. We must allow ourselves to be guided by truth and seek justice for all."
Still further, the Bishop declared that, "All the parties involved are duty bound to present a viable proposal for good governance for the sake of the common good in our country. Today is no doubt a good day to make appropriate resolutions in that regard."
It is, indeed, very unfortunate that this declaration from this prominent national religious luminary and, given, the significance of the occasion when this, now ten (10) month old, declaration was made, has, to date, gone wholly unheeded by those in authority with specific responsibility to the nation, for Electoral Reform.
Towards the end of the month of January, 2019 the obviously untenable and unreasonably intransigent position of the appropriate authorities in Dominica summoned the creation of a more apolitical and broad-based pro Electoral Reform Group of Representatives of Civil Society. This new civic Group comprises of representatives from the Dominica Christian Council of Churches (DCCC); the Dominica Business Forum Inc. (DBF) [that is, an umbrella body comprising all the various Private Sector organizations, locally]; the Waterfront and Allied Workers' Union (WAWU); the Dominica Bar Association (DBA); the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) and the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU).
This most welcomed and desirably non-partisan new front-runner – The Electoral Reform Group of Civil Society – to the Electoral Reform campaign has, in very quick time been working assiduously and is actively participating in the public debate in favour of the absolute necessity for Electoral Reform prior to the holding of the pending House of Assembly General Elections in Dominica.
It was the expectation of everyone that this new vanguard and the greater validity and authenticity that it represents and brings to the fore, would evoke a more reasoned, enlightened and sound response from the relevant authorities in this all-important Electoral Reform matter of national significance. But, alas, even after eight (8) months of its visibly active existence and, given the extensive nature of this broad-based group of civil society organizations, all strenuous efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears, while the relevant authority conveniently continues to remain unmoved, callously insensitive, mute and dumb.
During that period, The Electoral Reform Group convened and coordinated a series of town-hall meetings throughout the country, conducted a number of sample surveys, published statements in the local media and dispatched preliminary reports to the relevant authorities. On August 8, 2019 The Electoral Reform Group submitted its final report to the election authorities with substantial recommendations for the way forward on the question of Electoral Reform prior to the holding of the pending House of Assembly General Elections. But alas, over two (2) months later, these authorities have maintained a deafening silence and evidently immutable posture.
At this stage, the general consensus among all the groups, political and non-political, alike, is for electoral reform, at the very least, in the forms of (1) the Cleansing and Sanitization of the Electoral List of Voters, and (2) the issuing of Voter Identification Cards prior to the holding of the General Elections constitutionally due by May, 2020. Both of these measures are anticipated and adequately provided for in the Registration of Electors Act, Chapter 2:03 of the Laws of Dominica.
Yet, regrettably, this unprecedented series of vehement calls for Electoral Reform in Dominica repeated over an inordinately long period of time encompassing and involving all sectors of the wider Dominican community, has not, to date, evoked the desired response and/or reaction that the critical subject of electoral reform deserves and requires in the Commonwealth of Dominica, a democratic country.
On the contrary, these largely popular well-meaning and well-intentioned national calls have been met with an obstinate posture of belligerent resistance. A resistance characterized by a high-handed recalcitrant and refractory response over these past years. More so, in recent days involving what is now obviously the military arm of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Service. Their high-handed and unconscionable tactics included the alleged use of the Chemical Weaponry stored from the arsenal of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Service which was indiscriminately discharged on Saturday, December 15, 2018 upon unarmed citizens of all ages and from all walks of community life in peaceful public demonstration of their call for Electoral Reform in Dominica.
In the face of the unrelenting broad-based nation-wide campaign for electoral reform, involving all the various sections, including the Religious and Business Sectors of the Dominican community, and given the apparent and obvious inability and/or refusal to act by the Electoral Commission, coupled with the unmistakably intransigent and immovable position adopted by the Government, the Country found itself progressively adopting an irresistible mood in favour of escalation of its just campaign for Electoral Reform. The Government therefore found it necessary to invite the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC) and the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) to send a Special International Joint Mission to Dominica in order to make recommendations on the best way to implement reforms for the introduction of Voter ID Cards and the revision of the Register of Electors.
This Special International Joint Mission comprising eight (8) Election Specialists and Experts arrived in Dominica and held consultations with the wide range of stakeholders and various community organizations from August 6, to August 9, 2019, in order to ensure a substantive analysis of the issues and concerns with respect to the widespread National Call for Electoral Reform.
Unfortunately, the Government's uncompromising stance in every respect to the matter of Electoral Reform – an approach which from the very beginning has ruled out any possibility at achieving common ground in this matter – was heightened by the hasty, unilateral out-of-hand rejection and dismissal of the more significant and objectively pertinent recommendations contained in the report from this Special International Joint Mission commissioned and put together by CARICOM, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to a direct request from the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
It is now very clear, that the authorities will only consider the interests of the Labour Party.
I wish to refer Your Excellency to a new ISO International Standard on Electoral Reform [ISO/TS54001:2019 Quality management systems – Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001: 2015 for electoral organizations at all levels of government]. Further, I have enclosed a copy of the press statement (appendix 1) accompanying and promoting the release of said ISO International Standard.
It is certainly not by chance that the framers of the Constitution of Dominica in their wisdom deliberately ensured that the pivotal subject of Elections was not placed in the hands and control of active politicians and, more particularly so, the ruling party which ever happens to be in office, at any given point in time.
When by virtue of its Section 56 (CHAPTER III, PART 4) the Constitution of Dominica, very clearly and unambiguously, insulated the process of holding, of conducting and the exercise of the general administration of Elections in this country from the vagaries, the unseemly considerations and influence of partisan politics, the framers of the Dominica Constitution very evidently established the 'sacrosanct' principle of the inviolable and untouchable nature of Elections relative and specific to the uncanny ramifications of partisan politics in this, the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Hence, this open letter is also predicated upon the unmistakable premise that in Dominica the authority for the Electoral process, including the responsibility for, the oversight and administration of that very process must absolutely and unconditionally be far removed from the "throes and reaches" – the whims and fancies, the fickle and capricious nature and inclination of political operatives and functionaries of partisan politics. This inviolable and untouchable insulation provided and guaranteed by the Constitution of Dominica is to be unmistakably and visibly, very evidently demonstrated and exercised by the Electoral Commission headed and led by its Chairman.
It is, indeed, very disappointing and unfortunate that at the national public forum held on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 on the theme "The Electoral Process: The Way Forward" and, in respect of which, it was publicly claimed to have been under the sponsorship of the Electoral Commission in collaboration with the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Dominica State College (DSC) that the Chairman of the Electoral Commission in his presentation and contributions left the Dominican people stunned with the clear perception and indefensible conclusion that, individually and personally, he was then singing from the same hymn-sheet as the Government of the day. I am of the view that the publicly expressed position and posture adopted by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission is an affront to the Dominican People and the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Strangely, the unorthodox manner with which this event was stage-managed coupled with the extremely restricted access by the general public [accorded only by invitation, which was enforced by armed Police, dressed in military fatigue, stationed at the entrances and on the entire compound of the venue] and only written questions dropped in a container were to be entertained – totally devoid of any meaningful dialogue, exchange and interaction between the selected audience and the presenters – clearly demonstrated to all and sundry that this so-called "Public Forum" was calculating and arranged for the sole purpose of giving a semblance of sanction to the intransigent self-serving partisan position held by the Government all along, in this matter.
To the amazement of all who heard, both members of the Electoral Commission appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition gave public confession to the effect that neither of them had any knowledge of this so-called "Public Forum" prior to its mention in the mass media.
Section 56 (3) of the Constitution of Dominica places all matters pertaining to the question of the conduct of Elections within the purview and exclusive control of a fully independent and autonomous constitutional machinery called an Electoral Commission which shall consist of –
A chairman appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgment; Two members appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister; and
Two members appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition:
Provided that for the purposes of paragraph (b) or (c) of this subsection (and without prejudice to the provisions of section 63(2) of this Constitution), the President shall act in his own deliberate judgment and without the advice of the Prime Minister or, as the case may be, the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, if, having requested that advice, he does not receive it within thirty days.
It stands to reason, therefore, that both by the letter and spirit of its Section 56 that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica in respect to the Electoral Commission places both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on an equal footing. Under this provision, unlike any other in this Constitution, neither of these two functionaries are given or allowed an edge or advantage over the other; nor is either of these two officials allowed to hold or exercise any caveat over the constitutional process of constituting the Electoral Commission. [Kindly read, for yet a second time, the proviso to section 56 (3) of the Dominica Constitution, quoted above]
Very importantly and significantly therefore, by virtue of the proviso of section 56 (3) of the Constitution , one can reasonably infer that the Dominica Constitution makes ample provision clearly obviating any and all probabilities of the process of constituting the Electoral Commission being frustrated by the vagaries of either of these two politicians; and, once again, in view of this likelihood, the Dominica Constitution, unlike the case in many other areas of State governance, empowers the President to act in his own deliberate judgment; the partisan political views and/or posturing and/or machinations, notwithstanding, of either of these two (2) major political figures namely: the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition.
Upon further analysis of the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica respecting the powers of the President it becomes unmistakably clear that the Office of the Presidency is "to be the obvious neutral, symbolically representing a unifying focus in the State, above the cut and thrust of party politics."
Moreover, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica protects members of the Electoral Commission against removal from office on arbitrary grounds. Sections 56(6) and (7) provide that –
"(6) A member of (the) Commission who has been appointed may be removed from office but only for inability to discharge the functions thereof ( whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misbehavior, and he shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(7) A member of (the) Commission who has been appointed shall be removed from office by the President if the question of his removal from office has been referred to a tribunal appointed under subsection (8) of this section and the tribunal has recommended to the President that he ought to be removed from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehavior."
Further, the Constitution of Dominica empowers the Electoral Commission to formulate and adopt regulations for the conduct of its own proceedings. Section 56 (9) provides that –
"(9) (The) Commission may regulate its own procedure, and, with the consent of the Prime Minister, confer powers and impose duties on any public officer or any authority of the Government for the purpose of the discharge of its functions."
Furthermore, and, most importantly at sub-section 56 (11) the constitution stipulates that -
"(11) In the exercise of its functions under this Constitution (the) Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority."
On the premise of all of the foregoing, therefore, lies the basis for the assertion that Electoral Reform, though political in outcome, is certainly, never intended to be a partisan matter. The process of Electoral reform is, and must always remain, a non-partisan process from start to finish; and through the Chairman of the Electoral Commission [once properly appointed] is, indirectly, under the purview and oversight, as it were, of His Excellency the President who, alone, by stipulation of the Dominica Constitution is permitted the exercise of "His own deliberate judgment" in conferring that appointment.
The claim by the Government and, to some extent, by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, to the effect that electoral reform is not possible at this time is not only notional, but fallacious, because the evidence presently available indicates otherwise. Your Excellency, don't you think that given the vastness of the wide-spread electoral experience of the members of the Special International Joint Mission that their recommendations would inevitably have taken this so-called "insufficient time, excuse" into account?
Your Excellency, as previously alluded else-where in this open letter, the Dominica Constitution, as well as, the existing legislation both anticipate and make ample provision for Electoral Reform of the kind normally envisioned and undertaken in such circumstances, that is excluding the abnormal extended overseas excursions being proposed by the Government for its unprecedented and novel idea of "confirming the existing registration of Dominicans resident overseas." The existing legislative frame-work makes absolutely no provision for such an undertaking since it was never anticipated that an extensive enterprise such as this would ever be envisaged or become necessary; and that, and only that, is the reason for the Government wanting to introduce its proposed amendments to the existing legislation. The Government's obvious, but unexpressed position is '… no proposed amendments, no reform …' because the reform measures being demanded by civil society would restrict their determined, unlawful, intention to import, sponsor and facilitate unidentified overseas electors into the country.
Such excursions, the Government contends, must be undertaken simply to protect and preserve the enfranchisement of the comparatively speaking, several pockets of Dominicans resident overseas. To date, however, in view of the fact that that objective was not anticipated there is absolutely no legal basis for such an undertaking. Yet, the Prime Minister is on public record, more than a year ago, of having publicly given his partisan political commitment to maintain the enfranchisement of Dominicans resident in the Diaspora.
Undoubtedly, this self-serving ambitious and, until now, untried politically sensitive and controversial proposal warrants and necessitates a greater amount of time, administrative acumen, coordination and monitoring than the current capacity of the country can support at this time, not to mention any thing about the financial resources inevitably required to bring this novel project to a satisfactory but, above all else, a transparent and mutually acceptable conclusion.
Besides, in the normal scheme of events, Electoral Reform is expected to be an on-going continuous activity in any democracy, let alone in a fledgling experience such as Dominica's, now in its fortieth (40th) year of independence. Therefore, what kind of infrastructure would be required and, of necessity, be put in place to, at the very least, guarantee the spirit and provisions of the Dominica Constitution and the legislative instruments relative to Electoral matters? Further, how frequently would it be necessary to sustain that ambitious overseas exercise? Or is it to be undertaken just for the purposes of the pending House of Assembly Elections?
If this 'pipe-dream' of the Government is to be implemented, clearly this would require a greater in depth study and analysis of its pros and cons, ramifications and implications before it can be clandestinely rushed through all three stages in the legislative process in the Parliament as intended by the Government in its previous perfidious attempt at putting through its proposed amendments to the existing legislation. While the Government holds firmly to its need for legislative amendments for reasons known only to the Government no efforts have been taken by the Government to educate or enlighten the general public as to the wording, objectives, substance and/or benefits to be derived from or of the said proposed amendments.
All one ever hears from the Government activists is the allegation to the effect that the same amendments the Opposition is blocking and objecting to, are the same amendments which are intended to provide for the very Electoral Reform measures being demanded by Civil Society. To date, there has been no serious or substantive attempt by the Government or any of its operatives to establish or expose the veracity of such an allegation. This is being simply glossed over or merely mentioned for propaganda effect, that's all.
One of the several questions which arise is, "…Why are the authorities in Dominica – inclusive of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, so very preoccupied with this assumed and self imposed responsibility to keep the Dominicans resident overseas enfranchised to the extent that they have become so unyielding and callously insensitive to the clarion call and vociferous cries of "no Election before Electoral Reform" emanating from every nook and cranny in this country for such an inordinately long period of time now?
Similarly, "Why is the Government so intransigent and unyielding in its perceived need to ensure that the non-resident Dominicans remain on the List of Election Voters at the expense of the legitimate right of resident Dominicans to Electoral Reform?" And further, "Why is the Government so determined to deny the People their right to Electoral Reform in favour of overseas excursions which they know to be merely notional, impractical and certainly not feasible, at this time?"
Given the current dismal state and low-spirited condition of the national economy, when the unemployed and under-employed masses are reduced to having to depend on mendicancy, which is, begging for very basic survival needs, a question that follows is whether this preoccupation with the registration of non-resident citizens which, from any perspective, is an extensive undertaking, be a priority for us as a People, at this time? One would think that Government's primary responsibility would be in respect of the well-being of the people currently resident within the Commonwealth of Dominica. Why is the Government by its obvious insensitivity and posturing, in this matter, prepared to pursue the risks of provoking civil disobedience and social unrest in the country at this time? Isn't this the same Government which on 26th September, 2019 through the Attorney General, in its unilateral rejection of recommendations of the Special International Joint Mission, among other things, claimed that "… the recommended house-to-house re-verification exercise, if adopted, will result in the State unduly and unnecessarily incurring substantial increased expenditure of financial, human and other resources for an exercise which will bring no discernible improvement in the Register or electoral system."?
From the foregoing, it is patently obvious that the proposal for institutionalizing the participation of non-resident Dominicans in the electoral process is a very complex issue that requires detailed analysis, consultation and discussion; and ought not to be approached in the manner that the Labour Party intends. By virtue of the spirit and intendment of the Constitution of Dominica the question of Electoral Reform cannot be a partisan matter. Is this a case of the Labour Party versus the rest of Dominicans? The part can never be equal to, nor greater than the whole!!
This unreasonable and unexplained commitment from the authorities in Dominica to the, as yet, unexpressed and unrepresented interests of non-tax paying and non-resident Dominicans over the manifestly evident vociferous and extensively represented and demonstrated interests and concerns of the masses of tax-paying resident Dominicans is, putting it very mildly, mind-boggling.
It is now certainly clearer and more obvious what precisely was meant when in March, 2008 the now much talked about warning to the Prime Minister (via e-mail dated March 27, 2008) that "….. madness is taking place at the Commission; those fellows are talking Electoral Reform; …… you will lose your election winning legacy ……" if the Electoral Commission is allowed to proceed with the repeatedly promised Electoral Reform measures, in keeping with their Constitutional and statutorily provided mandate.
It has been alleged, and is now common knowledge that the Government, by virtue of its privilege of incumbency, allegedly developed and mastered the craft and, over the years, set up an allegedly informal network of personnel and machinery for the specific purpose of transporting and importing into this country by chartered flights plane-loads of pre-paid individuals resident overseas to participate in, at least, the 2009 and 2014, House of Assembly Elections by utilizing the existing bloated List of Electors and the absence of any requirement for one to be positively identified by the use of Voter I.D. Cards or any such instrument for the purposes of establishing one's true identity.
A reasonable person may properly ask whether any attempt to sanitize the List of Electors and to introduce Voter I.D. Cards as is currently adequately provided for and required by the existing legislative instruments on the Statute Books is more likely than not to result in the Prime Minister "…losing his Election Winning Legacy…"? The answer to this question is likely to be in the affirmative having regard to the alacrity - the frenzied haste – with which the Prime Minister reacted and responded to that warning call in March, 2008 from learned Senior Counsel and hastily secured the unceremonious withdrawal of a member of the Commission without any apparent conflict of interest and had him replaced with the greatest of dispatch by a CBI-Passport-Selling-Agent of the Government who, presently, completes the membership of the Electoral Commission.
In the absence of these two (2) fundamental and essential Electoral Reform measures namely; (1) The Cleansing and Sanitization of the List of Electors and (2) The issuance and use of Voter I.D. Cards, the Government may then be enabled, through its machinations, to effectively derail and thereby nullify the natural outcome of these Elections by facilitating the manipulation of the electoral process with the illegal imposition of unidentified ineligible electors imported and imposed into specially targeted unsuspecting constituencies in predetermined numbers, strategically calculated to achieve desired outcomes and intentionally off-setting the natural outcomes of the process, as was allegedly executed and carried out in the immediate past House of Assembly General Elections in 2009 and 2014.
I hasten to ask why does the Government have and hold a greater need or thirst for the approval and endorsement of the non-resident citizen over that of the resident citizen? If after twenty (20) years, that is, four (4) terms of holding elected office of governance in this country, the Government has a great report card [as the Government would have everyone to believe] why aren't the Government and its supporters confident that, at the very least, the majority of the resident citizens will judge the Government on the basis of this great report-card?
It must be cause for concern when a Government behaves in a manner which suggests that the Government would be short-changed or disadvantaged without the participation of its citizens permanently resident overseas in a pending House of Assembly General Elections.
It does appear that even at this stage, the relevant authorities are determined to sacrifice the – constitutionally and statutorily – well established and settled principles in matters such as Electoral Reform upon the altar of partisan politics. Once again, Your Excellency, as was the case towards the end of the decade of the seventies, under your well documented indefatigable and resolute leadership then, the fears of the political implications are at a level which, undoubtedly, strengthens the resolve of and impels the body of concerned citizens to confidently pursue any conviction which may be held with respect to the Principles involved in such matters of national import.
Even to the uninitiated and the untutored in our midst, it must now be distinctly obvious that the Government of the day, in an apparent frenzied approach, is determined to utilize its majority position in the Parliament to insidiously legitimize the nefarious desire of the Prime Minister to broaden the scope of the Electoral process and to have that national process undertaken and conducted in an expanded and extra-territorial setting, that is, internationally, contrary to the existing Laws, the Settled Norms and Practice, and the Constitution of Dominica, only to maintain his "… Election winning Legacy…" and, thereby, his personal ego.
It is now clearly obvious that for the past two decades, virtually, that the constitutionally established independent and autonomous Electoral Commission has been effectively politically subjugated by political partisanship and/or interests and is, therefore, unable to conduct and/or fulfill its constitutional functions and obligations/responsibilities as mandated, required and envisioned by the very provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The whole of the Government's currently oversized machinery has yet to publicly justify this wholly unprecedented and unwholesome ambitious desire of the Prime Minister in this matter of Electoral Reform. If the Government cannot demonstrate that it is able to ensure that the home-front, as far as Electoral Justice is concerned, is duly regularized and in order, how is the Government going to instill any measure of confidence with the citizenry that it will possess even the inclination to maintain any element of Electoral Justice in the distant extra-territorial locations?
Noting that Electoral Reform is an issue which is at the very heart and soul of "Free and Fair Elections" in any democracy and mindful of the foregoing illustration and explanation of both the spirit and provision of the Constitution of Dominica and the prevailing circumstances, manifested by the Authority's unnatural and unmitigated non-response to and total disregard of the call from several quarters of society, including the Special International Joint Mission, touching upon the all-important question of Electoral Reform as well as, the urgent need to free the Electoral Commission from the unwholesome stranglehold and vagaries of active politicians, I am emboldened to approach Your Excellency through this open letter.
I consider such an approach as being absolutely necessary if we are to avert any escalation of this on-going conflict by the potential use and abuse of brute force as evidenced in the very recent past in response to the just and peaceful pursuit, by the citizenry, of such a legitimate necessity and essential component of our democratic way of life – Electoral Reform.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, this current state of affairs respecting electoral reform in Dominica is certainly not something that the Charles Angelo Savarin of the sixties and seventies (especially the seventies) and with whom I had the distinct privilege to work as his Assistant, as well as, to associate with socially, would have countenanced and remained silent and inactive.
Your Excellency, I make bold to state that at this juncture, in your position as Head of State and even as Titular Head of the Dominica Parliament you are singularly well placed to be audibly and visibly heard and seen, in this obvious travesty of the intendment and legitimate expectations of Your Excellency in your appointment of Mr Gerald Burton – as Chairman of the Electoral Commission on the basis of your "… own deliberate judgment …" as envisioned and envisaged by the provision of the Constitution of Dominica.
Further, with all the humility available to me, I do respectfully call on Your Excellency to take the appropriate and necessary initiatives to rightfully relieve the current Chairman of the Electoral Commission of the duties with which he was charged and has evidently, to date, failed to execute by virtue of his self-inflicted-malaise – the condition of indisposition and morbidity – characterized by the symptoms of conflict of interest and its inherent malady of ineffectiveness.
I hasten to assert that I am certain that you would agree that the People of Dominica deserve better.
As I reflect on those years of heightened struggle in the era of the pre-eighties, without [myself] being presumptuous, I do come away with the view that I may very well be the only person still alive who can claim the privilege, if not a right, to appeal to your sense of right judgment, as I do now, via this medium, in this matter at caption. Very fortunately, by virtue of the provision of the Constitution of Dominica this is not a matter of partisan political interest; but rather, undoubtedly this is a matter crying out for the preservation of both the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, which you have publicly sworn, on oath, to protect and to preserve.
Your Excellency, I also wish – respectfully – to remind you of an expression I learnt from you during my association with you in the decade of the seventies; this expression states in words to the effect that: As a matter of course, History – not you or I – will be looking back at your Presidency because from time-to-time she will be required and called upon – even posthumously – to make pronouncements or judgment calls as to how you, as Head of State, lived up to your Oath of Office and by your word, posturing and/or silence gave counsel and guidance and tangibly assisted in the protection and preservation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
There are those among us who hold the view that the current electoral process has been with us and has served the country well for the past fifty (50) or more years; that over these many years, major political parties, such as, the Dominica United Peoples' Party (DUPP), the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) and the United Workers' Party (UWP) have all contested, won and lost elections by means of that very same electoral process.
But, the most salient concern being manifestly remonstrated and very unequivocally unanimously expressed by the wide spectrum of public opinion being represented by the numerous groupings of civil society is that: based on experiences in the recent past that beyond any shadow of doubt, the current electoral process, as exists today (certainly not fifty nor forty nor thirty nor twenty years ago) Your Excellency, I crave your indulgence, for emphasis, I respectfully wish to repeat "… the electoral process as exists today…" (that is, without the minimum reform measures being sought by Civil Society) is seriously flawed and, consequently, remains vulnerable and very open to manipulation and abuse.
By the extensive hue and cry from the wider populace – certainly, the broader population – for Electoral Reform before the holding of the General Elections constitutionally due by May, 2020 it is now manifestly evident that the masses have absolutely no confidence in the Electoral Process as exists at this time. At this stage, I wish to posit that viewed from any angle or any perspective, the process of Electoral Reform must always be undertaken in the interest of the Country only and not the Party. It is a true saying that: "The part can never be equal to, or greater than the whole."
Besides, and most importantly, the subject of Electoral Reform is not within the purview or jurisdiction of any political party, whether in or out of Government/Governance; therefore, Electoral Reform is not the property of any political party, that they may wish to grant to or withhold from Civil Society, as they think fit. Certainly, they have neither been given such a mandate or authority or responsibility under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Finally, I would like to point out that I do pray and fervently hope that the current state of affairs, relative to the captioned matter, would not be allowed, as occurred in the past, to fester and degenerate to the stage where, in your capacity and station of "His Excellency, the President" you may neither have the need to take to flight nor having to conduct yourself in the characterization of an earlier predecessor appointed to that high office – His Excellency Fred Degazon. May God forbid, I do pray!
I do firmly believe in the responsible roles and positions we adopted in our response to the many ills, the high-handed and untenable practices and posturing being perpetrated upon the society by the powers that be in the decades of the sixties and the seventies. Further, I do certainly believe, also, that Your Excellency, the role and position you adopt in this current fundamental issue, which is highly critical to the survival of our democratic way of life, will serve to testify to the integrity and creditableness of the firm positions we took in the sixties and seventies.
Your Excellency, at this juncture, the fundamental question which I venture to ask is whether you are prepared to put the Office of the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica, as acknowledged constitutionally neutral, to its proper and rightful use, in the furtherance of the interest and well-being of the State – the Commonwealth of Dominica – and nothing else, (I crave your indulgence, Your Excellency, to add) not even your own personal interest; and, most definitely, that that would fulfill the Duty and Purpose of "Head of State" as envisaged and envisioned by both the 'spirit and letter' of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
I sincerely trust that I may count on you and your patriotic spirit with which you inspired us all in the decades of the sixties and seventies in our national efforts at the preservation and furtherance of our democratic way of life in our beloved Dominica – our island home.
May the Heavenly Father – the Divine Creator, whoever you perceive him to be, at this moment, when this country is, once again, on the edge of something really dangerous and therefore calls on her sons and daughters, find you ready and willing to facilitate the current national quest for Electoral Justice and Peace in the Commonwealth of Dominica – the Nature Isle of the World – our island home. This is an open invitation for Your Excellency to join hands with these sons and daughters of Dominica as we take a firm stand on Principle, as opposed to Political Expediency.
The fundamental and indispensable principles pertinent to and treating with the subject of the House of Assembly Elections in this country are unambiguously and substantially prescribed, established and enshrined in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, as well as, the relevant principal and subsidiary legislative instruments on the Statutes of the Dominica Parliament.
Political Expediency and its attendant partisan interests, concerns and considerations are neither anticipated nor provided for or reflected within the ambit or constituency of the existing Election Laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Therefore, Your Excellency, be of great courage; be of good cheer and live up to your oath of office to protect and to preserve the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the land of the Lord.
May the One Eternal God bless you, your wife and family, the Dominican People and the Commonwealth of Dominica!!!
Yours most respectfully
Arthur R. Smith
Human Resource/Industrial Relations Specialist;
Former Administrative, Training and Technical Officer – Dominica Employers' Federation;
Retired Labour Commissioner – Government of Dominica;
Former President and Former General Secretary – Dominica Public Service Union; and
Former Primary School Teacher – Government of Dominica.
cc The Members of Parliament
cc Members of the Electoral Commission
cc His Lordship, the Bishop of Roseau
cc Members of the Committee of Concerned Citizens
cc Members of the Electoral Reform Group
ISO/TS 54001:2019 Quality management systems -- Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001:2015 for electoral organizations at all levels of government
Free and fair elections thanks to well defined and managed electoral services are at the heart of a democratic political system, and casting a vote is a basic political right. Having robust systems in place is essential for this to run smoothly. Newly revised international guidance for electoral organizations will help them do just that, by applying the principles of ISO's most widely known standard for quality, ISO 9001.
The technical specification ISO/TS 54001, Quality management systems – Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001:2015 for electoral organizations at all levels of government creates the framework for a quality management system that helps electoral bodies provide more reliable and transparent electoral services. It is based on ISO 9001 Quality management systems with specific sector requirements. It has been recently updated to reflect updates to ISO 9001 to keep it more in line with market needs.
"By outlining international best practice when it comes to the quality management of an election and an electoral organization, it enables them to improve their processes to strengthen citizen confidence, reduce risks and continually improve", says Katie Altoft, chair of the ISO technical committee responsible for its development
This document specifies requirements for a quality management system where an electoral organization:
— needs to demonstrate its ability to manage elections by secret ballot, to provide reliable, transparent, free and fair results that comply with electoral requirements;
— within the established legal framework, aims to enhance the trust and confidence of citizens, candidates, political organizations and other electoral interested parties through the effective implementation of the electoral quality management system, including processes for continual improvement.
--- covers all aspects of a successful election such as registration of candidates and voters, vote casting and counting, declaration of results and resolution of electoral disputes.
One of the key organizations behind the proposal for the TS was the Organization of American States (OAS), whose purpose includes promoting peace and democracy.