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(CMC) – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Thursday said he would defend the rights of Dominicans residing overseas to vote in general elections in the country.
“As long as I am prime minister of this country and from what some people are telling me, it will be for a very long time to come, we shall defend your right under the constitution of Dominica, to vote in Dominica’s election,” Prime Minister Skerrit visiting Dominicans who have arrived here to celebrate the island’s 40th anniversary political independence from Britain on Saturday.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has in the past been very critical of the decision to allow Dominicans residing abroad to come here days before the polls to cast ballots and has accused the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) of being the main actor behind the move.
But Skerrit told the overseas nationals “we will defend your right because it is a right and there is no institution in this country that has any legal or constitutional authority to remove your name on the voters list unless you are a dead person in Dominica because voting is too much of an important, fundamental right.
“People die to vote, people shed blood to vote and we want to go back to the days when only land own
“We making progress and we have to be progressive in our thinking and we cannot go back to old days. Those who want to go back to the old days, will stay where they are and we’ll continue to move forward,” Skerrit said.
While the two political parties generally agree that there is a need for electoral reform in Dominica, they disagree on major points on how to implement such reforms.
Political observers note that the proposed amendments by the DLP government, for confirmation or registration of Dominicans living overseas, in the Registration of Electors Act have become a sticking point
The amendments of the Act reads, “In order to facilitate confirmation in accordance with this part of persons residing overseas, the office of any mission or embassy of the State or any other place approved by the Commission may be designated as a registration office and the registering, enrolment officer and assistant registering officer shall be appointed under the direction of the Chief Registering Officer for that purpose.”
But the UWP has said it is “uncompromisingly opposed” to the proposed amendments which will allow specially designated voter registration offices overseas.
“The United Workers Party is uncompromisingly opposed to the proposed Amendments to the Registration of Elector’s Act seeking to authorize confirmation of persons on the list of eligible voters at specially designated registration offices overseas,” UWP leader Lennox Linton told a news conference in September.
“The explanation we have heard from a government that such action is necessary to protect the right to vote and thereby prevent this infringement of voters living overseas is seriously flawed and absolutely without merit.”