ON November 19, The Commonwealth of Dominica, the Caribbean’s Nature Isle, made international headlines for all the wrong reasons: a small opposition group had forcibly removed police barricades at the entrance to the official residence of the island’s President to demand implementation of electoral reforms ahead of General Elections due in 18 days.
The brief encounter and resulting use of teargas by the police to disperse the group was live-streamed to the world, resulting in the choreographed march being seen more abroad than even known of at home.
But what Dominicans thought was a mere overnight skirmish turned out to be the beginning of what has since unfolded to be an evident wider plot – and with external involvement.
Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) Leader Lennox Lewis is basically demanding the impossible from Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) — and preparing to blame the government for the consequences of failing to deliver.
Lewis has even called for non-intervention by Caribbean security forces in any violence that could result.
The script is familiar.
Less than a week after Bolivia’s three times re-elected President Evo Morales was forced out of office through allegations of electoral fraud, similar charges were loudly leveled by the UWP against three times re-elected Prime Minister Skerrit.
Like in Bolivia: The Head of State’s home was targeted; the democratically elected Head of Government is being accused of being ‘in office for too long’, even though there are no term limits in Dominica; the opposition has resorted to scorched earth tactics mere days ahead of a poll in which it is participating; the UWP is also supporting a pre-election strike by public servants demanding salary increases; and the US Embassy issued a widely-publicized Travel Advisory that most islanders mistakenly dismissed as a hurricane alert for a storm in a teacup.
Now, the Organization of American States (OAS) — whose election intervention in Bolivia scrubbed the local count and gave the army and Morales’ political opponents a fig leaf to hound him out of office after winning the most votes in a national poll for a fourth consecutive time — is virtually demanding to be invited to play a similar role in the upcoming Dominica poll.
First, Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a Twitter appeal on November 20 saying: ‘The people of #Dominica deserve democratic, fair, inclusive and transparent elections.’ He also posited that ‘An OAS observer Mission would be essential to provide assurance and suggest improvements to the system.’
Mere hours later, the US representative at the OAS backed Almagro’s virtual demand for an invitation for an OAS observer Mission to Dominica and urged all member-states to support it.
The US-based OAS also accused Dominica of not implementing reforms recommended two months earlier by a joint OAS-CARICOM-Commonwealth team.
Yesterday (November 22), the Dominica representative addressed her OAS colleagues at the Permanent Council meeting in Washington, outlining her government’s case.
But, by then, it was crystal clear that the dice was already loaded.
Emboldened by the intervention in Bolivia, those at the OAS accused of being in complicit cahoots and hasty pursuit of regime change in specific countries are now zealous to enforce on Caribbean states their perceived role as enforcers of the ‘gold standard’ for ‘democratic, fair, inclusive and transparent elections’ in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Almagro is being increasingly accused of leading the OAS astray, decidedly more in direct pursuit of Washington’s political agenda in the wider region — particularly its regime change intentions for pro-socialist regimes.
Dominica is not a socialist state. Instead, it’s rebuilding from scratch after repeated battering from successive hurricanes, with new determination and vigor.
But Dominica is also one of the very few CARICOM member-states that have simply refused to toe Washington’s line on Venezuela — and as the next to hold elections.
That also makes it the natural next target for the neoconservatives emboldened by the Bolivian electoral debacle, which has already led to nationwide protests and increasing deaths, particularly among the majority indigenous population.
However, the same election rules have applied since independence in 1980 and there’s no official record of any allegation or complaint of electoral fraud by the UWP or the DLP before or after the last four general elections in 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2014.
Dominica is a member of the OAS. But it is always ultimately up to the sovereign government to invite international observer teams. (The Nicaraguan government respectfully declined a similar OAS’ request for an invitation to observe the last elections held there…)
In the absence of an invitation, efforts are clearly under way to virtually extract one by crating the psychological impression that without an OAS observer team, Skerrit and the UWP can steal a win.
The problem with this narrative, however, is that – like in Bolivia — it devalues, disrespects and undermines the role and function of the national electoral body.
Besides, a CARICOM observer team will be in Dominica for the December 6 poll and the regional body, which also has long experience in successfully monitoring Caribbean elections, is still also equally capable of doing likewise.
The OAS, European Union (EU) and other like-minded entities have for two decades been pressing reluctant Caribbean governments to enact legislation favoring everything from term limits to declaration of elections financing.
Unwilling to accept the unwillingness of the majority of CARICOM states to change their electoral systems as fast as being told, the powerful proposing entities always grab all efforts to force governments to move faster.
Dominica is not likely to bow to the impossible OAS dmands being made after parliament has been prorogued and just days away from the elections.
It’s more likely to appeal to CARICOM to observe and certify the December 6 poll — whatever the results.
After all, CARICOM better understands Caribbean elections and the very different polling traditions that prevail in the British Commonwealth vis-à-vis Latin America.
Like with those still pressing the colonial argument that distant British Privy Council judges are better able to rule on Caribbean matters than the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the proponents of external interference and intervention in Dominica’s next national elections will also argue that the OAS can do a better job in Dominica in December.
It doesn’t take rocket science or artificial intelligence to figure out that anything any OAS observer team can do to observe elections in any member-state of the Caribbean Community, a CARICOM team can and will do it better.
That’ll be simply natural for the Nature Isle. But left to others bent on abrogating its people’s right to choose their own leader on their own, Violence for Christmas could become Dominica’s new normal.
That costly price must be avoided — at all costs!