As the consultation on electoral reform continued, Dominicans received an indication of the thinking of religious leaders on the issue currently dividing Dominica further apart.

At a consultation held at the State House Conference Room on 25 August, Pastor Randy Rodney, Monsignor William John Lewis, Father Nigel Karam and Father Eustace Thomas provided their positions and the stands of their denominations on electoral reform.

The Government of Dominica is undertaking a series of consultations to discuss a two-part report issued by Sir Dennis Byron, Government's consultant on electoral reform. The issue of electoral reform has been debated in Dominica for about 18 years.

Firstly, Pastor Randy Rodney of the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) lamented that the electoral reform process had been long and arduous.

Pastor Randy Rodney

Pastor Rodney said people vote to elect politicians to represent them "within the boundaries of Dominica," and issues of birth certificates and "where you pay taxes" were not the main issues.

Rodney hoped that the consultations would not be "an argument to win or lose" and that "there will be compromise" in the final analysis.

"We must all go beyond our personal views and look at what is best for the people of the Commonwealth," he said.

He added, "The people who live here are the people who have a right to decide who governs them".

Rodney said the DAEC supported issuing Voter ID cards rather than national ID cards. His organisation suggests that there should be legal instruments to monitor and control how much political parties spend during election campaigns.

Positions of Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists

Secondly, Monsignor John Lewis, representing the Dominica Christian Council (DCC) and the Catholic Church, spoke on the issue of "Human Dignity".

"Respectful dialogue then becomes the primary means of maintaining human dignity, authentic human development and the core of love and justice when addressing differences and seeking consensus," Monsignor John Lewis said.

Adding to Monsignor John Lewis's statement, Catholic priest Father Nigel Karam outlined the specific aspects of the Byron report on electoral reform. The DCC is made up of Catholic, Anglican and Methodist clergy.

Father Karam reported that the DCC "recognises the need for a more prominent role for the Electoral Commission in guiding the entire consultation process. However, after having understood that the proceeds of the rounds of consultations will be delivered to the Electoral Commission and perhaps other members of civil society for their consideration and appropriate action, the Dominica Christian Council believes that this could (lead to) a more transparent or independent outcome."

He added that the DCC supports the revised and expansion of the Electoral Commission and any mechanism that will allow the Commission to be independently financed to allow more efficient and autonomous functioning.

Recognise the financial dilemma of whether to issue a national lD card or a specific voter lD for elections, Karam said the DCC agree that a specific voter ID card would be more beneficial and better ensure one-person-one-vote.

On the voting rights of persons absent from Dominica for more than five years, Karam said the DCC agrees that the law should reflect the position of the Constitution of Dominica. Voting is not citizenship, but domicile and the existing law supports residence within the Commonwealth of Dominica.

Karam added that the DCC supported the view that financial control and monitoring should be imposed on political parties.

Father Eustace speaks

Finally, Father Eustace Thomas addressed the audience on what appeared to be his position on the electoral reform issue, contradicting his colleagues who had just spoken.

According to Father Thomas, he was "in spiritual and emotional pain because Sir Dennis Byron was vilified, which throws a bad light on our country because there is some mischievous set of people who don't love our country.

Thomas continued: "I thank the present administration for being committed to electoral reform and thank the thousands who are participating in this process.

"For the many years that we have been going to the polls, general elections ran smoothly, until recently a small group of people asked for electoral reform which though in process is being impeded by some unpatriotic individuals who want to create mayhem in our own quiet country and are determined to destabilise and attain power by whatever means possible.

"Not out of love for Dominica but because they hate a particular individual who is loved here and abroad. I make no apologies for speaking the truth.

"I am a member of the clergy, but I do not represent them. I speak as a person with the welfare of my country at heart. I am in total agreement with electoral reform.

"Once registered in Dominica, you should be able to vote at any time. This question of five years should be totally abolished.

"The question of dead people voting makes no sense, and this matter can be solved by a proper dialogue within the village councils where the dead are registered and the Electoral Office.

"I don't think that government should finance election campaigns; each party should fend for itself.

"I am not happy with people who call themselves patriots. They are hatters of Dominica."