Despite the United Workers Party (UWP) abstaining from the Grand Bay by-election which is currently underway, the leader of the party and Dominica’s Parliamentary Opposition, Lennox Linton, is threatening legal action to validate the legality of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) nominee, Dr. Vince Henderson.
This comes following a response by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Duncan Stowe to a November 12, letter which Linton wrote to him.
In Linton’s letter, he claimed that Henderson appeared to be in breach of the qualifying criteria for contesting an election for membership in the House of Assembly since, as of nomination day, November 9, he had not been recalled nor had he resigned as Dominica’s Ambassador to the United States of America and Permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), positions which he has held since 2016.
Despites Linton’s request to the Chairman appealing to him to act with a level of urgency, in Stowe’s response which was sent on the eve of the by-election ( November 24), he informed the Opposition Leader that his letter was brought before a meeting of the Commission on November 15, 2021, where the matter “was discussed extensively, but it was not decided to accede to your request.”
The Chairman also responded to a letter by four “concerned citizens” who on November 22, 2021, appealed to him to use his authority to launch an investigation of all candidates in the Grand Bay by-election.
Dr. Irving Pascal, Judith Pestaina, Artherton Martin and Loftus Durand, in their joint letter to Stowe, said they are concerned about what appeared to be a violation of some of the laws and regulations as it pertains to the proper registration of candidates for participation in the by-election.
Their plea for a response to their letter from the Chairman via email no later than 12.noon on November 23, in light of the established date of the election, went unheeded.
However on November 24, 24 hours past their given deadline, Stowe informed the “concerned citizens” that pursuant to the House of Assembly (Elections) Act, Chapter 2:01, Laws of the Commonwealth of Dominica, “all three candidates in the Grand Bay bye-election were validly nominated.”
The Electoral Commission Chairman further averred that under the ambit of the law, the Commision holds no legal authority that empowers them to investigate a candidate who has been validly nominated prior to a by-election.
“The law is quite clear, that where the process has already started, as is the case with the Grand Bay bye-election, any claim against the legitimacy of a candidate has to be brought to the Court by way of petition,” Stowe’s letter stataed.
Stowe concluded his response by informing the citizens that the Chief Elections Officer was not a witness to the declaration signed by Dr. Henderson, as a candidate for the Grand Bay bye-election.
Though he did not state such in his letter, Dominica News Online (DNO) has since been informed by reliable sources that a vote was recently held by the Electoral Commission with regard to the complaints filed against Dr. Henderson’s candidacy and two of the commissioners were in support of his removal while three voted against.
Clearly unsatisfied with the Chairman’s response and his denial of any legal obligation to investigate Dr Henderson’s nomination, Linton again wrote to Stowe today, November 25, stating, “where the Electoral Commission refuses to honor this obligation to act against corrupt manipulation of the electoral process, the Commission reduces itself to a farcical instrument of the “No Law; No Constitution” modus operandi of the Roosevelt Skerrit regime, unwilling and unable to conduct free and fair elections with integrity in the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
He said the meeting held by the Commission on November 15, 2021 where “it was not decided to accede” to the request to bar Dr Henderson from contesting the Grand Bay by-election confirms a most unfortunate “dereliction of duty and a squalid betrayal of the public trust.”
According to the Opposition Leader, The Electoral Commision appears to be acting on behalf of Dr Henderson and the Dominica Labour Party, by allowing the electoral process in the Grandbay bye-election to be compromised by “blatant violations of the Constitution and the rule of law.”
“Accordingly, the Courts must be petitioned to declare the participation of Vince Henderson in the Grandbay Bye-Election unlawful, invalid, null and void,” Linton declared.
Duncan Stowe’s letters to the Opposition Leader and to the group of concerned citizens and Linton’s latest response are posted below.