Dominica speaker withdraws from Presidential race

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Alix Boyd-KnightsROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Wednesday confirmed that the Speaker of Parliament Alix Boyd-Knights has asked that she no longer be considered as a candidate to become the first female head of state in Dominica.

Instead, Skerrit said that former senior public servant Jennifer Wallace La Fond had agreed to the nomination and she would most likely become the first women ever to be elected President of Dominica, given the government’s significant majority in the Parliament, where the election will take place.

The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) had planned a march against the nomination of Boyd-Knights on Friday with newly elected party leader Lennox Linton saying Dominicans had a “moral obligation to make sure that they register with the government their absolute abhorrence to this brutal assault on their legitimate expectations of higher decency and civility in our public affairs”.

Prime Minister Skerrit, who last week had indicated that Boyd-Knights was the government’s choice for the largely ceremonial post to replace President Eluid Williams, told the state-owned DBS radio that the Speaker had asked for her name to be withdrawn because she feared for the safety of her family.

Williams had been elected last year to complete the term of office of then President Nicholas Liverpool, who resigned because of ill-health. The UWP had also opposed William’s nomination.

“I have been in touch with Mrs. Boyd-Knights for a couple of days. A few days ago she came to me with her intention to withdraw her nomination…and yesterday again she called me and insisted that she wanted to step down and decline her nomination.

“She has since written to me on the matter, citing a number of reasons, one of which being her concern about the safety of her family because of the inflammatory statements and comments made by elements within the opposition party here in Dominica.”

Skerrit said that the intention of the Speaker had always been to serve Dominica as she has done exceptionally well for the past 14 years.

“We still hold that Madam Speaker was an ideal candidate, that she has necessary qualifications to be president and ….somebody who has championed the rights of women for several decades”.

Skerrit described the Speaker as “a very bold articulator of issues, some of which sometimes are not consistent with views of a few” adding that she is “well respected regionally and internationally”.

Linton had argued that the head of state was the chief custodian of Constitution and “we expect the president to be functioning above the political fray.

“One who warns the government, the parliamentarians, one who resolves conflict and who gives wise counsel to the people who are given day to day responsibility for the stewardship of the country. That person cannot be Alix Boyd-Knight,” Linton added.

Prime Minister Skerrit told radio listeners that he could not force the presidency on anyone.

“She accepted it initially and in listening to the very inflammatory comments of the day and concerns about the safety of her children in particular, she has indicated her decision to decline the nomination of the government.

“In that regard the government had to consider other individuals who we figure would be worthy to hold the office of president and we have put forward the name of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Jennifer Wallace La Fond…who will serve the people of Dominica exceptionally in this new position”.

Skerrit said the former public servant had accepted the nomination and when Parliament meets on Thursday legislators would be informed of the vacancy and “the fact also there is no agreement between the government and the opposition.

“After this you have 14 days within which nominations can be put forward following the provisions of the Constitution. It is a simple announcement,” he said, noting that he had written to the opposition on the situation.

The UWP has not yet named its candidate for the post.

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