Today, given the fact Dominica has become a ‘wild west political jungle’ with democracy and the rights or privileges of citizens under serious threat, the mobilization and formation of the Concerned Lawyers Committee is timely and is an important milestone. It is also high time that the Medical and Health Care community (White coats) form a committee with the same goals as the Concerned Lawyers. Observers and opposition groups are sounding the alarm warning bell that there is a decline in the quality of democracy, weakening of political and public institutions and good public policy.
Conversely, the alleged repressive aspects and tactics of the current regime will be accelerated with impunity if it is not checked by the Parliamentary Opposition with the help of civil society including the media and the Ecumenical community, especially the Catholic Church. It is documented globally that where and when honest, fair and balanced media shines a light on important news without fear or favour, and the religious community speaks truth to power, there is less torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions, abuse and disappearances.
Conversely, countries where this practice is absent (usually become) are hell holes. Fair-minded Dominicans were taken aback that the state-run Radio station DBS did not seek an interview with UWP Roseau North Representative Hon. Lugay for the alleged incident which occurred in his constituency on August 15, 2020. Instead, DBS aired the emotional, loud, uninformed and ill-advised opinions from government ministers and operatives from Roseau to NYC who are beholding to the occupant of the PM’s office instead of country.
It is reported that heavily armed Police in the affluent suburb of Morne Daniel accosted Opposition leaderHon. Linton and dragged Mr. Lugay out of his car on the main public road and placed him an unmarked (unofficial) car and sped away to Police HQ in Roseau. The security detail indicated that the Opposition MPs breached the security zone around the new and highly controversial resident of the current PM.
If that was the case, why were no charges filed on Mr. Lugay after his lawyer arrived at Police HQ? An investigation into the matter should be launched immediately. If the police officers who arrested the Parliamentarian are found culpable, they should be punished and also indictments should come down swiftly. If these accounts are accurate, then our island home has entered a very dark, frightening and dangerous intersection and development.
Given these facts, the medical and health practitioner community in Dominica should organize and take a page from the Concerned Lawyers and form a committee of their own with similar goals and objectives and work closely with that group. The core focus of this group will be to work at the intersection of medicine, science, and law to secure human rights and justice for all.
The essential components of democracy and its apparent blatant backsliding are classic and can occur and have gone to the next level today in Dominica. A couple poignant and disturbing examples are: Highly legally questionable and gross irregularities in General and Local election practices, the debilitation and increase politicization of democratic institutions and the role and behaviour of the police as a partisan agency instead of a law enforcement one.
These are especially dangerous when they are legitimized through the very institutions that ought to protect democratic values. Backsliding is often led by democratically elected leaders that use tactics that are incremental rather than revolutionary and rapid. Because this process involves democracy breaking down slowly, in barely visible steps, it is difficult to pinpoint a single specific moment at which a government is no longer democratic.
Constitutional law Professor Ozan Varol of Lewis & Clark Law School in Oregon, best known for his best-seller book, The Democratic Coup d’État, published in 2017, contents that as a matter of practice of an authoritarian leader (or a would-be authoritarian leader), he/she “seemingly legitimate legal mechanisms for anti-democratic ends … concealing anti-democratic practices under the mask of law”. Professor Varol points out that type of leader employs the manipulation of libel, electoral and/or terrorism decrees and laws as tools to target or discredit political opponents, and the employment of democratic rhetoric as a distraction from anti-democratic practices, as manifestations of authoritarianism.
The Medical and Health Practitionercommittee (physicians, dentists, nurses, mental health counsellors, physical therapists and others) in Dominica should be built on the noble idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations, such as physical abuse and psychological terror and work to prevent and stop them altogether.
When crimes and human rights violations are committed by law enforcement personnel, their surrogates, and agents, this professional health care committee working with their legal counterparts will be able to investigate and document human rights violations. It will be able to give voice to survivors and witnesses, seek justice and plant seeds of reconciliation by ensuring that perpetrators can and will be held accountable for their crimes.
The Hippocratic Oath and medical ethics are deeply bound to the protection of human rights.This means that health care professionals are uniquely positioned and have a special responsibility to prevent and curtail serious human rights abuses. This movement alone can have a tremendous impact on the real possibility of changing the police, courts and government’s behaviour.
The health practitioners are intimately aware of how politics and economic repression and the agony caused by state-sponsored violence affect health and well-being. The work of such an organization coupled with that of the Concerned Lawyers’ and Concern Citizen Movement (CCM) advocacy work, could be a mighty force for protecting and promoting human dignity in Dominica as the situation deteriorates and if the government gets more repressive.
As the political and economic conditions situation in Dominican continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate and more pressure is placed on the government, some observers believe that the regime will undoubtedly employ more draconian measures to silence its enemies and try to hang on to power by any means necessary. The same observers are of the opinion that we don’t have anyone in the Police High Command who has any real authority or can push back and/ or understand the intersectionality of public policy and police behaviour and practices and the law. Given this ominous warning, the need for more organized civic and professional watchdog groups is of utmost urgency.
A Health Profession and Human Rightsmoment has breadth, depth and range worldwide and is a critical and highly respected movement. It’s for the simple reason that itis high time that Dominica has such as committee. Health Practitioners should have no fear in organizing such a group for the simple reason it’s the right thing to do and the Concerned Lawyers have blazed the trail. Also, there is plenty of support outside the island with entities such The U.S based Physicians for Human Rights, WHO, British Institute for Human Rights, U.S State Department and various other NGOs. These groups regulatory testify before the U.N on atrocities that are occurring in trouble spots in the world.
Working with the Concerned LawyersCommittee and this proposed Medical group are not only patriots but visionaries and dedicated health professionals who share the dream and reality of a better Dominica to live, work, retire and enjoy life. Through meticulous documentation, advocacy and reporting, they will demand accountability for the most serious human rights and anti-democratic violations that we all fear will continue to occur more frequent, brutal and draconian.
Opinions expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Dominica News Online or its advertisers.