The introduction of a Bill to amend the House of Assembly (Elections) Act when Parliament meets on Tuesday, May 23, is causing controversy and is generating much discussion on the airwaves and social media.
On one hand, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) is saying that certain aspects of the Bill are encouraging bribery or treating, which is illegal in Dominica, but on the other hand the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government is saying this is not the case.
Of particular concern is Section 57B of the amendments which reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, the transportation of electors or the facilitation of the transportation of electors to or within Dominica for the purpose of an election does not constitute an offence unless the transportation is provided or facilitated with the intention to corruptly induce an elector to vote for a particular candidate for whom or party for which the elector would not otherwise vote.”
“It is not right for the government to be sneaking in this draconian piece of legislation that will effectively legitimize the electoral offenses of bribery/treating,” political leader of the UWP, Lennox Linton, said in relation to the amendment.
Linton believes that more time needs to be taken to address aspects of the Bill because there is concern over things that will “injure the public’s interest.”
“There are segments of the amendment that needs to be revisited and there needs to be a white paper on this very important matter circulated for public education and to facilitate public consultation before this matter is dealt with in the Parliament,” he stated.
But Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit said the UWP is misrepresenting the facts of Section 57B.
“They went to the Bill and they selected a clause, 57B, and what they did was that they selected a part of 57B and put a full stop, a period in it and left out the second half,” he said at a town hall meeting in Goodwill on Thursday. “The Bill says ‘For the avoidance of doubt, the transportation of electors or the facilitation of the transportation of electors to or within Dominica for the purposes of an election does not constitute an offense,’ and they end the clause there. They put a full stop there.”
He added, “The clause goes on to say unless it has a proviso, unless the transportation is provided facilitated with the intention to corruptly induce an elector to vote for a particular candidate for whom or party for which the elector would not otherwise vote.”
According to Skerrit, if one stops at the word ‘offense’ in the Bill, the meaning will be different.
“But if you end it at offense, it will have a different meaning,” he stated. “But the clause goes on to have a proviso, unless, and it tells you what the unless is. But they leave that out and they go on Q95 and they go on the internet and some of the waste of time people in the diaspora and some of the people that they are using in Dominica are taking this and running with it without reading for themselves and informing themselves.”
Meanwhile, Linton has called on all “patriotic Dominicans” to go down to the Parliament building and let it be known that the people are not accepting amendments.
The UWP has also planned a series of town hall meeting that, according to Linton, will “educate persons on what is going on” and to seek the support of the people in demonstrating to the government in a “massive way” on the day Parliament meets for the postponing of the amendments.
The meetings will be held in Mahaut, Coulibistrie, Wesley, and Marigot, and Linton has urged all Dominicans to show out in large numbers on the day of Parliament to let their voices be heard.