Loftus Durand
Loftus Durand

February 14, 2019

Dr. Hon. Timothy Harris

Current Chairman, Conference of Heads of Government

CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana, South America

Dear Chairman,

Re: - Insight into Dominica's pending political situation

The Concern Citizens Movement (CCM), a Civil Society Organization in Dominica continues to watch in dismay as the untenable situation in Venezuela deteriorates further. The CCM is disturbed because of the close relationship that Dominica enjoys with Venezuela. So, it was troubling to learn that when the Caribbean Heads of Government (The Conference) met on January 24th, 2019 to discuss the problem in

Venezuela that the Conference seemed incapable of putting out a substantive statement on the matter. As is usual, the Conference reverted to its same 'boilerplate' response. Many have heard the familiar "guiding principles of noninterference," from the Conference before. However, that kind of response seemed inappropriate for the potential disastrous problem in Venezuela. It is unclear, why an integral part of that same statement the "adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy "seems to be ignored by the Conference? Does the Conference of Heads of Government believe that President Maduro is following the rule of law and upholding Democracy in Venezuela?

One could say that the Conference is not concerned with protecting human rights and democracy in Venezuela. If it did, then this crisis may not have risen to such a level. The fact is, President Maduro has been eroding the rights of the Venezuelan people for years. They have been under severe curtailment of their Democratic rights. The same can be said for Dominica. This country has seen an erosion of their Democratic rights as it pertains to free and fair elections. For example, after the 2014 the OAS Election Observer Mission stated that the election was free but not necessarily fair and stipulated that certain measures be put in place prior to the next election. None of those recommendations have been implemented by the Electoral Commission. The Dominican people are now fighting to get such electoral reform. This situation has been brought to the attention of CARICOM Heads by the CCM. Unfortunately, only One Head of State had the courage to respond. The other Heads of Government did not acknowledge receipt of the letter. Not even when the CCM informed them of the indiscriminate teargassing of a peaceful demonstration. It seems that the Heads of Government have no problem turning a blind eye as it pertains to erosion of democratic rights in the region. Because the Conference can always resort to its mantra of "nonintervention" when conditions deteriorate to the potential catastrophe now visible in Venezuela today.

The CCM's previous letter to the CARICOM Heads dated November 20th, 2018 is clear. Many Dominicans are not willing to go to the next election without electoral reform. They regard elections as being the fundamental avenue for strengthening democratic principles and values. Hence, the only way that this can be achieved is with free and fair elections. The question of electoral reform in Dominica is very serious. So much so, that the Roman Catholic Bishop felt the need to address the matter in his Homily on New Year's Eve. He recognized the fact that electoral reform was a long-standing issue which needed to be addressed by all parties in an expedient manner. The Bishop's observation was in keeping with Pope Francis' Message on World Peace Day. The Pope addressed the importance of good politics as it related to human rights and peace. Presently, many in Dominica do not feel peaceful because the question of electoral reform is still not settled.

As a result, the CCM believes that Dominica is at a tipping point. In other words, timing is everything. Therefore, we believe that now is the time for the Conference to use its powers of persuasion to impress upon the Electoral Commission to follow the recommendations of the OAS Election Observers put forward in their 2014 Report. Furthermore, the current Administration must fulfill its role in Funding the Commission, in order to facilitate free and fair elections in Dominica. Just as you stated in your pronouncement on Venezuela, "the adherence of the rule of law and Democracy'' is very important to the Conference. Hence, the present situation in Dominica offers the perfect opportunity to put this tenet into practice. As stated previously, many Dominicans will not accept another general election without some form of electoral reform. For that reason, the CCM would like to encourage the Conference to help the Dominican people in that regard. Or else, the region may well be facing another situation just like what is taking place in Venezuela today.

cc. All CARICOM Heads; The Chief Justice; The CCJ; The US Ambassador to the OECS; The British Ambassador to the OECS; The Venezuela Ambassador; The Chinese Ambassador; The Bishop of Roseau; The Dominica Opposition Leader; The Dominica Freedom Party Leader; The Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce; The Dominica Employers Federation; All local Labour Unions