Political leader of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), Michael Astaphan, is demanding answers from the Electoral Commission regarding its authority to print national multi purpose ID cards to be distributed on the island.
This, after a meeting was called by the Commission on Monday (today), which according to Astaphan, was to discuss the printing and issuing national multi purpose ID cards.
The meeting was postponed to next week but Astaphan said the DFP’s main concern remains and he intends to quiz the commission on the matter when the meeting is held.
Astaphan pointed out that the Election Act gives the Electoral Commission the sole responsibility of printing and issuing voter’s ID cards and not national multi purpose ID cards.
“our concern is what Act give the commission the authority to print a multi purpose ID card,” he told DNO on Monday.
He noted that the government has the authority to print whatever cards it wants but it must follow the rule of law. “I have asked some lawyers and none of them are aware that the Electoral Commission has the responsibility for the administration of the multi purpose identification system or (that) the law allows them to take a contract to do that,” he said.
DNO attemped to contact the Electoral Commissioner on Monday but we were told that he is not feeling well.
The issue of voter ID cards versus national ID cards has been a long running contention between the government and opposition parties in Dominica.
The United Workers Party is adamant that voter ID cards are necessary since it was recommended both by the Chief Elections Officer in a report in 2009 and an OAS observer mission to Dominica. Furthermore, according to the the party, voter ID cards will help “clean up the voter’s list” and make “voters of this country independent.”
On the other hand, the government has held its ground that a national ID card is the way to go, arguing that voter ID cards will be too expensive for the country.
Speaking on the radio talk show ‘The Heng’, in 2011, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he believes that the initial cost of issuing voter ID cards would be US$2.089-million, not accounting for the management and implementation of the system.
Thus he argued that it would be better to issue national ID cards instead of the voter ID cards, which would only serve a single purpose.
He further argued that at “the OECS level, there is talk of the introduction of an OECS wide-card and one would be able to use one’s National ID card [to travel between OECS countries].”
At a Labour Party rally on March 12, Health Minister,Julius Timothy, revealed that 100,000 national ID cards could be made available to Dominicans by the end of 2013.
He said Cabinet had given the commitment to provide US$96,000 for the issuance of the first 100,000 cards.
This was in addition to a US$3.14 million contract awarded to 3M Innovative Properties to provide multipurpose ID cards to Dominicans.
“Based on the project plan, the electoral commission will begin to issue identification cards before the end of this year. So our national ID cards will be ready and issued,” he said.
Astaphan said that all he wants is to make sure the laws of Dominica are followed concerning the issuing of the cards by the Electoral Commission. “The position of the Freedom Party is that at all times the government must function under the rule of law,” he said.
Dominica News Online is seeking the views of readers on the matter, in a new poll.
Should Dominica introduce voter ID cards or national ID cards?
- National ID cards (46%, 476 Votes)
- Voter ID cards (42%, 433 Votes)
- It really doesn't matter (11%, 116 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,025