“The Skerrit-led government is uncomfortable about participating in Caribbean and International forums dealing with the burning problems of corruption in government.”
This is an accusation being laid against the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government by the opposition United Workers Party (UWP).
At a press conference on Tuesday, opposition leader, Hector John and senator Danny Lugay, said the government’s failure to send a representative to the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC) summit in Trinidad, is a clear indication that it is skirting around issues of corruption.
The summit is to be held on December 5 to 6.
“Government’s failure to send a representative to the GOPAC Meeting sends a telling signal from Dominica and is something that the opposition and all Dominicans must be concerned about,” Lugay said.
They said Dominica’s non representation was announced by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Alix Boyd-Knights, who, Lugay said, has been frustrating plans to attend the conference.
According to Lugay, on October 14th, 2013, the leader of the opposition received correspondence from the secretary of GOPAC addressed to the Clerk of the Parliament of Dominica.
The letter stated,“On behalf of the GOPAC Executive Committee, I wish to invite, through you, the Hon. Speaker and Hon. Leader of the Opposition of Dominica to recommend nominee(s) to attend the first meeting of GOPAC to be held within the Caribbean region on December 5th in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament.”
He pointed out that three members of the opposition were nominated to attend and their names were forwarded to the Clerk of the House. He said the clerk was also contacted via telephone on several occasions to inquire about Dominica’s participation.
Lugay went on to say that John received a phone call from the Clerk on November 20th informing him of the Speaker’s decision that Dominica would not be attending because “the Speaker did not have time to inform the Prime Minister of the meeting …..also if the Parliamentary Opposition would like to attend they will have to meet their expenses.”
Lugay said John requested a response in writing from the Spaeaker, however, none was forthcoming.
“The UWP sees this meeting as being very important as we continue calls for transparent, accountable and open governance of our country,” Lugay noted. “This will be an excellent platform to speak openly and boldly to our regional colleagues about all the issues of corruption in Dominica. We will also listen and learn from them on how we can effectively address this grave issue as a region.”
Opposition leader Hector John described the Speaker’s actions as deliberate.
“We see the Speaker as a facilitator to ensure that members of Parliament are given the opportunity to represent their country at any forum and this deliberate attempt by the Speaker is uncalled for and should not be accepted,” he said. “The correspondence from GOPAC made it very clear that the speaker and the leader of the opposition should come together to submit nominees.”
John added that this is not the first time that the Government of Dominica deliberately refused to attend meetings of that nature.
“We see it as a pattern. Recently there was a conference in Barbados on strengthening political parties and campaign financing reform in the region and Mr James represented the United Workers Party. Correspondence was sent to the government and no one represented them,” he said.
He indicated that the Opposition will be raising various issues of corruption at the meeting.
“We will be going to Trinidad and raising every issue of corruption from the Bin Bobol, to the Villas, electoral reform, even the role of the Speaker in blocking and preventing us from getting information out, for example, the questions that we ask in Parliament. Also the pace at which we get our audit reports,” he stated.
DNO’s attempts to contact with Boyd-Knights on the matter on Tuesday were unsuccessful.