Attorney John Elue Charles is offering what he considers to be a lawful solution to the dispute on the constitutionality of the procedure for the election of a new president for Dominica.
Dominica News Online (DNO), has obtained a copy of a document containing solicited advice from Mr. Charles in which he recommends that President Nicholas Liverpool communicate orally, to the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Leader of the opposition, his intention to resign his office.
At a special sitting of the House of Assembly on August 24, the Speaker, based on communication which she received from the Prime Minister, informed members of parliament of the President’s intention to resign his office . She said the Prime Minister had informed her that he and the Leader of the Opposition had held consultation but there was no agreement between them on a choice of president, thus prompting the special sitting. When questioned by UWP Opposition parliamentarians, Prime Minister Skerrit confirmed that he had received a letter from the President stating his intention to resign his office for reason of illness.
Leader of the Opposition, Hector John raised concerns about the procedure and requested that the Prime Minister or the Speaker of the House produce a copy of the letter indicating that the President intends to resign his office.
Despite the objections of the Opposition United Workers Party and their contention that the procedure followed so far is “null and void,” Prime Minister Skerrit has announced that Parliament will meet on Monday to elect a new president and has reiterated that his choice will be retired public servant, Eluid Williams. Mr. Skerrit says there’s nothing constitutionally wrong with the process which has been employed and the “Doctrine of Necessity” is being used based on the advice of his Attorney General.
In his advice document, Elue Charles states that having regard to the issues of integrity, transparency and good governance, “it is my considered view that the ideal approach would be for the President to communicate (in a form other than writing that is to say, orally) simultaneously and directly with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker respecting the intention of the President to resign his office”. He continues “Moreover, I’m of the view that the oral communication would be sufficient to permit the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker and, by extension, the House of Assembly, to make the requisite preparation to facilitate the expeditious election of a successor President”
Stating that he does not intend to set out the provisions of these sections in full, , Charles refers in the document, to sections 19, 23(2), 29, 58(1) & (2) and 119 which he considers to be the relevant sections of the constitution in the matter.
In keeping with section 119 of the constitution, Charles emphasizes in his advice that “the office of the President becomes vacant when the Speaker receives a writing respecting the resignation of the President under his hand addressed to the Speaker. “ In these circumstances” Charles states, “the action of the Speaker informing the House of Assembly of the intention of the President to resign his office cannot bring section 19 of the Constitution into operation, without more.”
However, he goes on to say “but nothing in the Constitution prevents the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, and by extension the House of Assembly, from agreeing to take actions preparatory to the President resigning his office if the President has communicated to the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, his intention to resign.”
Charles says as a result, the Leader of the Opposition is likely to be disadvantaged as regards making the necessary preparation for the election of a successor to a President who intends to resign his office, “if the President fails to furnish the Leader of the Opposition credible information respecting the intention of the President to resign his office simultaneously as such information is furnished to the Prime Minister and the Speaker.”
Charles advises that “every action ought to be taken” to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from being so disadvantaged.
Charles also maintains that while the actions of the Prime Minister and the Speaker in dealing with the intention of the President to resign and the nomination of a candidate for election as President “appear in the circumstances to be seemingly unusual and unorthodox, these actions in my view do not amount to unconstitutional acts but must be viewed as actions only preparatory to the election of a successor President where the current President has communicated his intention to resign his office.”
However, a number of other voices, including those of former Ag. Chief Justice Sir Brian Alleyne and attorney Gildon Richards differ with Mr. Charles in their interpretation of this part Constitution, and consider the process being pursued by the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House to be unconstitutional.