Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, and his deputy Reginald Austrie have blamed the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) for the lack of progress in implementing electoral reform in Dominica.

Earlier this week the Concerned Citizens Movement held a national consultation on the need for electoral reform. The Dominica Labour Party (DLP) was a no-show.

Commenting on the matter on a recent radio program, Austrie said that calls for electoral reform in Dominica “is a call in the wilderness” since the ruling DLP is already moving forward on the matter.

“It is unjustified, it is unnecessary because the process is already moving,” he said. “So if the process is already moving, then what are you calling for? If you want to say it will be split up, it’s another matter. If you want to say it is going too slow, it’s another matter but you are the one holding up the process. You are the ones who went to stone parliament during the passage of the legislation to move the process of electoral reform forward.”

In May 2017, protests were held near Parliament in opposition to matters that were being tabled by the government including amendments to the House of Assembly (Election) Act. The protesters said the amendments would legalize treating and bribery, which are electoral offenses in Dominica. Debate on the matter was subsequently adjourned without further considerations.

Protesters near parliament in May 2017

Austrie blamed the UWP for the protest and said it should have been condemned by unions such as Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU), which also has been calling for electoral reform.

“I am not sure if Thomas Letang (General Secretary of the DPSU) has ever commented or condemned the action of the UWP supporters on that day when we were going to begin the process of passing legislation,” he stated. “It seems to me that the government is and more proactive in the process of electoral reform than the UWP. But you know what the problem is? Every time the UWP makes a roadblock, everytime they try to move against the government with some foolishness and they have nothing else to say or do, they are falling back and beating up on this dead horse called electoral reform.”

Austrie said the government has agreed to proceed with electoral reform.

“And to say that electoral reform will prevent dead people from voting, it further demonstrates the laziness of the UWP and the fact they don’t want to do no work, not even for the protection of their political selves,” he stated.

Skerrit has similar sentiments when he spoke on state-owned DBS Radio on Friday morning.

“In respect to electoral reform, the citizens of Dominica will recall that this government took a bill to parliament to do just what the opposition and others have been calling for,” he stated. “What happened in the parliament? The parliament was stoned. The police were stoned by the opposition.”

The parliament and the police were actually not stoned, although protesters did at one point try to storm barricades around the building, prompting the police to fire a warning shot.

According to Skerrit, the UWP under the leadership of Lennox Linton “is not interested in anything constructive.”

“They call for something when it is given to them, they do not want it,” he said.

He pointed out that the UWP is only talking about electoral reform and not about people wanting roofs over their heads.

“They are not talking about the reconstruction of this country,” he remarked. “They say they want to be consulted and when they are invited to sit with the citizens of Dominica and the international community who are assisting us in rebuilding, they turn down the invitations. We would have dealt with the legal aspect of the electoral reform long before the hurricane. So these people are just looking for ways to undermine the security of the country and the economic prosperity of the citizens of this country.”