Both political parties contesting the December 8 general election in Dominica have committed to adhere to an electoral code to oversee the running of the highly charged political campaign leading up to the election.
However, there was tension in the conference room of the Bishop Arnold Boghart center on Turkey Lane as the two groups met to agree and sign the document.
The Dominica Labour Party (DLP) was represented by parliamentary representative for the Roseau South constituency, Ambrose George and DLP’s campaign manager, Vince Henderson. Political leader Lennox Linton and opposition leader Hector John represented The United Workers Party (UWP) .
Proponents of the electoral code, The Dominica Christian Council, say it is meant to provide moral and spiritual guidance to both parties on a free and fair election and one that’s free from fear.
“On behalf of the DLP, I wanted to commend you once again to taking on your responsibilities very seriously,” Henderson said on behalf of the DLP.
“We pledge this commitment to honoring the code. We believe that we should all be committed to the values and virtues of high standards that you would have set in the code which in my view really reflects the people of Dominica and the people in which we live,” he said.
On the issue of policing, he said that no member of the DLP will be on the monitoring committee. He said he thinks that “the people of Dominica would be the judge and it would all culminate in their actions on December 8th.”
Henderson also added that while the DLP leadership cannot control all members of their party, they can control what will come out of their own public pronouncements at events, and appeal to all supporters of the DLP to refrain from violence, to respect public property and other people’s property.
“My Prime Minister again said it last night,” he added.
Meanwhile Linton pointed out that his party is committed to defeating the “politics of maypwe, the politics of hate, and the politics of prejudice.”
“And the reason we are enthusiastic about this, and the reason we are happy to come on board, is because a lot of what the code contains is about behaviors that we ourselves work very hard to adhere to in the face of grave difficulty in the past year.”
According to Linton the code is asking them as a party, to address issues and to avoid character assassination and or mud-slinging about their opponents; avoid half-truths, and misrepresentation which confuse issues and the misleading and bribery of the electorate.
“So Henderson just spoke and he was the one who made reference to the DLP meeting last night,” he noted. “The DLP meeting last night did not only feature the prime minister calling people to stay away from violence, it also featured the prime minister indulging in blatant misrepresentation of our party’s position regarding our manifesto.”
He said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit broke the proceedings to announce breaking news, that the UWP was not going to be issuing a manifesto, “and to go on to refer to me as a political fraud, totally and absolutely uncalled for in the circumstances.”
He is also questioning what will happen in a few weeks’ time “when something similar occurs when we have signed this document, and agreed, and what will the position of the Christian Council be if the evidence is presented.”
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire responded that there were no reprimands per se but that the code was a guideline for the political parties and a great deal is dependent on good will.
The policing of the code will be done by a member of the media and members of both parties if they so desire.
The two parties did not shake hands at the end of the signing ceremony.