Opposition Leader, Lennox Linton, has outlined three issues which he said are of concern to the Parliamentary Opposition which Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has described as a ‘total surprise.’
At a press conference which was held at the Prevost Cinemal on Friday 11th September 2015, Linton, pointed to three matters of concern with the Parliamentary Advisory Group, which if addressed, he said, would make the advisory body more effective. The group, which consists of all 21 elected members of Parliament, was formed after the passage of Tropical Storm Grace.
The issues include the need for the group to be brought under the authority of parliament and immediate parliamentary approval should be sought for the formation of a standing committee of the whole house on national reconstruction with clear terms of reference.
The second matter has to do with the public’s perception of the sincerity of the collaboration between the two sides of parliament being negatively affected by the failure to entertain advice of the opposition on critical matters of relief, recovery and reconstruction. Linton pointed to the appointment of Baroness Patricia Scotland as the International Relief Coordinator as well as the formation of a National Reconstruction Task Force without the advice of the opposition.
“Government cannot claim to be serving the public interest with elected members of parliament advising on national reconstruction and then act unilaterally in critical decision-making,” he argued.
The third has to do with lack of access by the opposition to broadcast media, particularly radio, with the exception of Q95 FM radio.
“It is unfair, we believe, and unjust that the Prime Minster is able to broadcast all of his national reconstruction messages live on all radio stations at the same time, whatever the time may be, while the Parliamentary Opposition cannot even pay DBS Radio, the people’s station, for live coverage of a press conference of national reconstruction,” Linton stated.
But Skerrit has responded saying Linton, in his official capacity of Leader of the Opposition, wrote to him in his official capacity as Prime Minister and should have given him the opportunity to first receive and respond to his correspondence.
According to Skerrit, at 12.20 pm he was in the process of drafting a response to a letter from Linton “in which he made the identical points.”
“News of the focus and content of Mr. Linton’s press conference came to me as a major surprise,” he said. “Had Mr. Linton ascribed to me that basic courtesy, he would have discovered, that I am in very much agreement with the spirit of much of what he is suggesting and would like for us to meet at the earliest opportunity so we can elaborate with a view of us agreeing on a formula for implementation.”
He said he has made it clear that the crisis confronting Dominica at this time demands a cessation of the culture of adversarial politics and the adoption of a more conciliatory and collaborative approach.
“In this regard, I will request an audience with Mr. Linton early next week to discuss and itemize the list of his concerns. Now is not the time and this is certainly not the environment, in which the leadership of the country should be seen to be shouting across the airwaves at this time,” he noted.
He said he is open to discussion and he proposed to sit with the leader of the Opposition no later than Wednesday next week to discuss issues of concern.
He insisted that these are not issues that warrant a “public shouting match.”
“Therefore I am confident that as leaders with the best interest of Dominica at heart, we can sit across the table and arrive at an acceptable formula going forward,” Skerrit noted.
DNO contacted Linton on the Prime Minister’s reaction and he said “bringing to public the concerns of the parliamentary Opposition about the integrity and effective functioning of the Parliamentary Advisory group on National Reconstruction is not a shouting match.”
“It is honest disclosure for transparency and accountability in the unity of purpose initiative embraced by both sides of parliament to ensure the success of national reconstruction endeavors,” he noted.
He said he looks forward to the meeting with the Prime Minister next week to discuss and “hopefully resolve the matters of concern in the interest of the people we are sworn to serve ‘without fear or favor, affection or ill-will’.”