Opposition wants peaceful protest during election of new head of state

ROSEAU, Dominica, Sept 11, CMC – The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) is urging Dominicans “to come out in defence of the Dominica Constitution” as controversy rages here over a replacement for outgoing President Nicholas Liverpool.

Speaking at a public meeting here on Monday night, UWP leader Edison James also called on Eluid Williams, the government’s nominee for the post of head of state to reject the nomination.

“Mr. Williams you must know that what is going on there is unconstitutional … they (government) have 18 we have 3 (In Parliament), so have no fear, when the process is done properly it will be smooth sailing for you. We are urging you to say to Mr. (Roosevelt) Skerrit that this system is flawed and you will not take part in this system until it is fixed. Speak to him as a father and a son,” James told supporters.

Last month, Prime Minister Skerrit blanked a request from the UWP to make public a letter sent to him by the outgoing head of state and instead named Williams, a retired public servant to replace the respected Caribbean jurist.

Liverpool, 78, has been the sixth head of state here in 2003 and the deadline for receiving nominations was on September 7 and Speaker Alix Boyd Knights said “my understanding of this is that the Prime Minister can nominate, the Leader of the Opposition can nominate and three members together can also nominate”

She told legislators that “as soon as these nominations are in they will be placed before you at the next sitting of the House after those 14 days”.

But as he spoke of the public meeting, James, a former prime minister made reference to the shutdown of the country in 1979 that forced the then Patrick John government out of office.

“Enough is enough … in 1979 the people armed with the Constitution did what they had to do to protect the Constitution and I say in 2012, the same applies so we expect the same action,” James said, calling on Dominicans to stop Prime Minister Skerrit from “violating the constitution.

“We will not take part in that wrong process but I suggest that on the day that Parliament is meeting we the people should all come out and assemble in a peaceful manner outside the parliament,” James stated.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament has responded to a letter sent by Opposition Leader Hector John indicating that the process to select a new head of state is flawed.

She said that the process that led to the special sitting to discuss the situation was valid since John and Prime Minister Skerrit had met in consultation, as mandated by the Constitution and could not agree on a common nominee.

“With reference to paragraph 2 of your letter, I wish to point out that I, like the rest of Dominica was made aware through the media that you did in fact meet with the Hon. Prime Minister in consultation,” Boyd-Knights wrote.

“I therefore accepted the Hon. Prime Minister’s letter to me which I read in the House, as confirmation that such a consultation had taken place and which had resulted in your rejection of the Hon. Prime Ministers’ nominee for the Office of President.”

In his letter to the Speaker, the Opposition Leader said “we believed then, as we do now, that the so-called consultation was in effect an attempt with the assistance of your good office, to deviate from the clear and unambiguous prescription of the constitution regarding the termination of the tenure of the current President and the election of a successor”.

He said that since the meeting the opposition has not been made aware that a vacancy has been created in the office of the President and is requesting evidence of that.

John said from the advice he has received on the matter, the opposition strongly believes that the process for the resignation of the President or for his removal “has not been initiated or properly initiated in accordance with sections 119 and 24 of the Constitution and has no basis in law.

“In the circumstance we respectfully urge you, Madam Speaker, to halt any and all further proceedings in Parliament, concerning the election of a successor to His Excellency Dr. Nicholas Liverpool, until you transmit to us, for our verification, the documentary evidence required by the constitution, pursuant to and upon which the matter must proceed.” John wrote.

But Boyd-Knights said the letter from the Prime Minister was enough to convene the special sitting.

“The said letter was sufficient to initiate the invocation of the proviso of Standing Order 11 in order to inform the House with dispatch and invite nominations as per Section 19 (3) and (4) of the Constitution,” she wrote, adding “you will recall at the start of the House on 24 August 2012, I explained fully how and why proceedings were taking place in the manner in which they had and the Hon. Attorney General further explained why the Doctrine of Necessity was being invoked.

“I can add nothing further, save to reiterate the overriding consideration at all times has been to ensure that our beloved country is not left without a President as envisioned by Section 18 of our Constitution.”

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