The Dominican electorate and most specifically, those legitimately qualified to vote in the upcoming general elections constitutionally due by May 2020, and by extension every Dominican citizen, irrespective of their political party affiliation, race, religion, social background or other persuasions, should be disgusted with the blatant disrespect demonstrated towards them by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Gerald Burton, as appointed by the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica and mandated under section 56(3)(a) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
Mr. Burton has served as chairman of the Electoral Commission since 2006 and under his stewardship, the basic requirements for guaranteeing free and fair elections with a cleansed voters list and the issuance of voter identification cards, have been ignored.
Since the last general elections of 8th December 2014, the Dominican electorate has been advocating for electoral reform before the next general elections, Mr. Burton has ignored all requests and has failed to convene public education fora to inform the population on issues related to the electoral process. When the Electoral Commission finally convened a public forum on February 22nd, 2019, the public was prevented from entering the venue at the Goodwill Parish Hall, with the deployment of heavily armed police officers dressed in combat gear.
Opposition political parties, church, business, trade unions and civil society organizations and even his Lordship, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, appear to have exhausted all efforts to achieve electoral reform and a bare minimum requirement of cleansing the voters list and issuance of voter identification cards, which is within the purview and sole responsibility of the electoral commission.
The Electoral Commission has publicly revealed that it has all the necessary technological and human resources available to execute the process and announced that a reverification of voters would have commenced on July 1st, 2018.
In an effort to arrive at an amicable solution to the matter, the Honourable Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, made a request for assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat, CARICOM and the Organization of American States (OAS), to help resolve the electoral crisis in Dominica.
The reputable regional and international organizations, all of which the Commonwealth of Dominica is a member, dispatched a joint mission to Dominica from August 6th to 9th, 2019, to meet with stakeholders including the government, the opposition and civil society organizations, and they submitted a report to the Government of Dominica on September 17th, 2019, with practical and reasonable recommendations which would guarantee a clean voters list, voter identification cards and for all qualified Dominicans to exercise their franchise.
The report of the Joint Mission has been ignored by the Electoral Commission and it appears that the Chairman of the Electoral Commission is deliberately delaying and frustrating the efforts of the commission and the Chief Elections officer to allow the Dominican people a cleansed voter’s list and voter identification cards.
The members of the joint mission of the OAS, CARICOM and the Commonwealth Secretariat, are all experts in the electoral process in democratic countries throughout the world and their report received approval by their respective organizations. Therefore, the decision by the chairman of the Electoral Commission to ignore and apparently reject the Joint Commission’s report and recommendations must be considered an insult to the Dominican electorate, the organizations which commissioned the report and the international community.
The determination of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission to facilitate the next general elections without the recommended cleansing of the electors list and issuance of voter identification cards will plunge the Commonwealth of Dominica into unfortunate consequences, as hinted by the Joint Mission and must be considered a blatant attack on Dominica’s democracy.
His Excellency the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica has the constitutional responsibility to protect the rights of the Dominican people, to allow the Dominican people to enjoy there indomitable right to free and fair elections and must therefore intervene and implement the procedure of replacing the Chairman of the Electoral Commission as provided for in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica. There is no doubt that the conduct of Gerald Burton as chairman of the Electoral Commission is bad behaviour and sufficient grounds for his removal.
All Dominicans will be severely affected by fraudulent elections precipitated by the failure of the Electoral Commission and more specifically, the Chairman who holds the deciding vote on the Commission. Citizens and all Dominicans of conscience, the church, business, trade unions, women, youth, Labourites, Freedomites, and UWPites, are therefore encouraged to endorse a petition to the President of Dominica demanding the removal of Gerald Burton as Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the appointment of a replacement who will be prepared to implement the recommendations of the Joint Mission with alacrity before the next general elections. The petition will be delivered at the office of the President at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 1st, 2019. All Dominicans are invited to participate in the process of achieving free and fair elections.