The Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has taken down an article published on its website on Dominica because of ‘flaws’ and ‘lack of sufficient evidence’.
Director of the Washington DC-based organization, Larry Birns, told DNO on Thursday that COHA felt the article was not adequately researched.
“We’ve taken down the controversial piece off our web spot because we felt there was reasonable doubt that there were flaws in the research analysis,” he stated. “We basically felt that we were accepting the opposition’s position without adequately researching the issue.”
The article named “Democratic integrity in Dominica” was published on August 6, 2014. It was authored by Ryan Eustace Research Associate at COHA and it alleges violation of election laws, describes the island Electoral Commission as ‘nominally independent,’ and also alleges the ‘stifling of reforms’ in Dominica, among others.
Interviews were done with Dr. Clayton Shillingford and leader of the United Workers Party, Lennox Linton.
On August 20, the government responded to COHA describing the article as one-sided, biased, and littered with grave misinterpretation of the facts.
It also asked COHA to withdraw the article with an appropriate retraction and apology.
Birns told DNO that COHA had doubts whether “the investigation took place in an entirely independent way.”
“When I started peeling over the observations (of the government), I just felt that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bear the claims that we were making and that we have to go back and start all over again,” he stated. “I don’t think the the opposition particularly tried to manipulate us, if they did, they were particularly successful.”
He noted that the author of the article is not a highly regarded research fellow.
“He just had limited experience and probably found himself over his head and I felt part of the mistake was that he felt because the opposition sounds good, that their position has to be credible,” he noted.
When asked whether an apology, as demanded by the government, was coming, Birns said the taking down of the article is in itself “a de facto apology so far in terms of the fact that we are doing this has raised reasonable doubt on the part of our own conduct.”
Birns defended COHA’s reputation.
“We take our own reputation seriously, we are not used to this sort of controversy,” he said. “We are an organization with an extremely lofty reputation for accurate research. I myself would go to the world to protect that reputation.”
He said COHA is in “no one’s pocket” and he doesn’t want it to appear that he is showing favoritism to the opposition in Dominica.
“I have no particular reasons to show favoritism,” Birns said.