Alex Bruno delivering the results of an election poll which he conducted in 2017

Joseph Isaac, a Dominican politician and entrepreneur, switched his allegiance from the opposition Dominica United Workers Party (UWP) and has taken a position in the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Dominica.

The Honourable Minister took the oath of office as Minister for the Environment, Climate Resilience, Disaster Management and Urban Renewal on April 13, 2018 following an appointment which was made by the leader of parliament and head of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), the Honourable Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, a couple days before.

While on the face of things, Isaac’s action is well within the statutes of the state, the new minister’s pathway to government provides the opportunity for a healthy political debate; a conversation which must be had in order to better understanding the concept of governance and power in democratic regimes. In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state that I have apriori knowledge of the issue, as I have had a healthy rapport with Isaac. We actually spoke, by phone, a day or two before he announced his resignation from the UWP – to my greatest surprise of course.

Mr. Isaac and I routinely spoke about, among other things, electability of candidates especially in the Roseau Central Constituency and his legacy as a parliamentarian. It is the sort of discussion which I have had with several politicians, especially since the release of my latest electoral poll on May 29, 2017 with both opposition and governing MPs and their support base.

Seeing that Isaac’s case has arisen to the level of national significance, I believe that it is my duty to share some views on the issue. I do so to offer this and future generations of Dominica a different perspective when making reference to Dominica’s electoral politics because we are living through history and it is the spoken and written along with other literary and artistic forms of expression which document our actions. That is why I decided to write.

When Mr. Isaac announced his resignation from the UWP on April 10, he indicated that he was an independent member of the Dominica’s House of Representatives, and this could not have been the case as the parliamentary structure of the state does not allow for this. If Isaac had contested as an independent, he would have had to be seated as an independent, but he entered parliament on a party ticket so the parliament had no duty to seat him as an independent. Isaac consequently crossed the floor when he announced his resignation. Even before his crossing was confirmed with the appointment to government ministry, I had informed Isaac that he had essentially aligned himself with the governing party, the DLP.

The second and probably the most important point is what seems like Isaac’s failure to properly inform or consult with or convince his constituents of his intention to switch party allegiance and his placement in parliament. This is considered the # 1 political sin within the power structure of a democracy. Representatives simply cannot (or shall not) do anything with the people’s power, other than what it was requested for in the first instance. This is how it works in a democracy and Dominica is a democracy and this is how it should have happened this time and the times past and in the times to come; and there will be other political crossings.

The people should always be told the truth and those who hold the truth should share the truth with the people. My responsibility is to the people, and the people include politicians who may not themselves be aware of certain fundamental political truths, or I should probably say – democratic truths. It is left to the Roseau Constituency of the UWP and its national body of support to attempt to consolidate the party’s support in that area. But the nation at large is should recognize that such matters are not sectoral (or they should not be). The Joseph crossing is a symptom of a much wider national concern that could hurt the nation if the slide towards the consolidation of power by one group continues.

The UWP may need to reflect and make some much needed introspection, and the hurting UWP faithful supporters aught not be antagonized as the climate in Dominica could easily be inflamed. Isaac’s move must also be understood in the context of the times. It speaks to Dominica’s changing (or changed) political culture over the last two decades. Dominica’s governing majority is built on the strength of a coalition which was hammered out by the now President, His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin (former DFP Party Leader), ably supported by the deceased Dame Eugenia (former Prime Minister of Dominica) and the membership of the DFP. And yes, Dominica’s government is a bonafide coalition between the Labour, Freedom and Workers party. The UWP’s contribution to the coalition can be seen as a de facto arrangement, as the party did not officially participate in the agreement.

The majority of people of the Roseau North and Castle Bruce Constituencies have experienced a similar activity when Loreen Bannis and Julius Timothy, respectively, moved from UWP to the DLP / DFP coalition in the immediate aftermath of the 2000 Dominica general elections. At that time the government became a three-party coalition and this accounted for its oversized cabinet. It is a standard norm that all members of a governing coalition be rewarded for their cooperation with the blessings of state revenue and professional prestige.

On a point of note, the UWP has since reclaimed the Roseau North seat, and based on the results of my national opinion survey of electors in the Castle Bruce constituency just under a year ago, the UWP has the support to reclaim that Caste Bruce parliamentary seat in a fair election. But dynamics may have since changed and one never knows what the picture is unless the area is scientifically polled.

Isaac is just the latest – and some say the weakest – link in the dismantling of the opposition. Such undoing rests on the conscience of those elected political players who cannot be said to be operating, or have operated in the interest of the country’s democracy nor for the good of constituents and the nation. There is little evidence, especially in Castle Bruce and Roseau North to support such a claim that crossing of the floor had indeed assisted the people. The jury is still out on the Roseau move, although I have received unsubstantiated claims which suggest the underlining and undisclosed reason(s) for Isaac’s decision, but what these sorts of action do is to degrade people’s confidence in politicians and the system.

My confidence in Isaac has not waded. Peoples’ actions very seldom surprise me at juncture of my life. However he provides several clues for political analysis which questions his forthrightness. Isaac’s personal denial to me of his intention, his public remarks and swift sequence of political activities which propelled him to the post of government minister after being vilified by the very member of the governing entity, suggest that all may not be well with the move.

Isaac (and his representatives) who publicly and privately stated that he had never spoken with Skerrit about his decision, seem to have fit in so neatly into the picture. Isaac announced his resignation from UWP on April 04, Skerrit announced a Cabinet reshuffle which included Isaac on April 10, and Isaac was sworn in as minister on April 13. This could hardly be coincidental knowing all bureaucratic machinations which drive the machinery of state. Or probably it is so, but if it is, this hints to political desperation somewhere.

Dominica’s (DLP – DFP – UWP) Coalition Government has been made stronger with the inclusion Joseph Isaac. The opposition struggles on. The nation must now take stock and determine whether they wish to exist in a one-party state because this is where we are heading, rapidly, if the status quo remains. The matters of national or sovereign rights are much more significant than matters of state players’ interest, and/or legacy. So the people should not let the state regime pitch one against the other because at the end of the day, we only have each other upon whom to depend.

The state is powerless without the people and the people must know that and act accordingly to adjust and rotate state powers. It is never a good a thing to have one set of people in power for lengthy periods at a time – nothing about this is healthy in and for any democracy.

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