ROSEAU, Dominica — There was turmoil in Roseau, Dominica on Monday night as police clash with protesters who have been calling for electoral reform on the island. (SEE VIDEO BELOW STORY)
The protesters have been gathering peacefully for days now near the official residence of President Charles Savarin, saying they want a meeting with him on the matter. Some even slept in the area but were kept at bay by police barricades.
It is unknown what was the tipping point which led to the unrest, however videos began circulating on social media of groups of people in Roseau burning debris, uprooting plants, breaking bottles and spreading garbage on the streets. Explosions were heard, which people said was the result of gunfire.
Near the presidential house itself, the barricade was taken down by protesters as they clashed with the police.
The police responded with a volley of tear gas.
The protesters dispersed but the country remains on edge. Many Dominicans have taken to social media, wondering what is going to happen next.
Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, is expected to address the nation at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Recently Skerrit announced that general election will be held in Dominica on December 6, 2019.
However, the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and several groups on the island believe the polls will not be fair without electoral reform.
They have been calling on the Skerrit-led Dominica Labour Party (DLP) administration to clean up the voters’ list, issue voter identification cards, regulate campaign finance and grant equal access to state media resources to all political parties.
To compound the situation, a Commonwealth Observer Mission to Dominica for the 2014 general election stated, “the election was not necessarily fair, due to: the lack of balance, and in some cases lack of professionalism of the media; the absence of campaign finance regulations and the resultant lack of transparency on financing, coupled with the exponentially increased expense associated with campaigning”.
The Observer Mission proposed a laundry list of recommendations, among them a house to house re-verification exercise of voters.
However, the government said it was unable to accept such a recommendation saying it is “unworkable and if implemented will cause confusion and disruption contrary to best practice and importantly will not result in the required updating of the list”.
“It will not result in the mandatory use of the photo ID and will not be properly updated and cleansed. The recommendation of the house to house is not supported by Dominica’s laws and even if it was, it could not properly update or cleanse the voters’ list as proposed,” Attorney General Levi Peter said.