The process of choosing the next president of the Commonwealth of Dominica moved a step closer to completion on Friday.
A special sitting of parliament was held on Friday morning to officially inform members that the office of the president is to become vacant.
The Dominica constitution states that if the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agree on a joint nominee for the Presidency, then the Speaker will be advised in writing and the individual will be elected without putting the question to a vote.
However, if they do not agree, the Speaker will be advised and the House of Assembly will be informed accordingly. Then, within 14 days, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition or any three members of the House may submit to the Speaker “by writing under their hands, nominations of candidates for election as President.
The Speaker advised the house Friday morning that the prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition had not agreed on a joint nomination, “I now have to let you know that 14 days from today, I will effectively close the period during which I will accept nominations for the candidate for the election of president and you are so advised” she told parliament.
UWP Parliamentarian and member for the Marigot constituency, Edison James then submitted that based on his interpretation of the constitution there must be a vacancy regarding the office of the president and that the president was expected to submit his resignation in writing.
Referring to section 119 of the constitution, James said “our concern as we want to facilitate the process is, is there a vacancy? Now, section 119 of the constitution provides for the Presiden to submit a resignation by writing to the Speaker. I have not heard you indicate such letter of resignation has been received by you which as we understand it is what would create a vacancy. So how then do we proceed under 19-1 if there is not a vacancy?
James was of the view that all the actions which are necessary to the nomination and election process of the president in should be done in writing and in this case, a letter of resignation by the President to the Speaker was required.
Prime Minister Skerrit in responding to Mr. james’ query admitted that the constitution does not directly address this particular issue and pointed out that it makes provision for a letter of resignation from the President to take effect on the day that the letter reaches the speaker of the House.
“As Prime Minister I could write to the President to say I shall resign on December 2014, you understand, but in the case of the President you do not have the luxury to have a future date for resignation.It is at the date and the time the Speaker receives the letter of resignation”
The Prime Minister said that the Presesident had formally written to him indicating that because of the state of his health he would like to demit office before the end of his term.
Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition Hector John said the United Workers Party is concerned about what he described as a “grey area” in the process of electing a new President. “one grey area we had and continues to be a concern is the letter of intent to vacate the seat by the president,” John said.
John pointed out that it is important that the letter is in the hands of the opposition, and all members of the house, to confirm the president is in fact vacating his seat.
“I am very disappointed that this letter is very critical and it was not made available to the opposition and every member of the house,” John pointed out.
John stressed that he is not trying to stall the process but he just wants to make sure that it is transparent, open and executed properly. “Transparency is critical, it is crucial right now,” he noted.
The leader of the opposition made it clear that he will be writing to the prime minister formally, requesting that the document be made available to him and every member of the house.
He said the opposition is waiting for the letter to take the next step in the process.
The deadline for submission of candidates for post of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica is September 7.