“The inordinate delay bug which has infected our justice system is biting hard in Dominica,” lamented a caller on a local radio talk show- essentially echoing the sentiments of many frustrated Dominicans over the unreasonable delay in dealing with matters brought before the High Court of Dominica. It is approaching ten months since an election petition was filed and one month since the strike-out application against the said petition was heard by Grenada-based, Guyanese Judge Raulston Glasgow, who was the 3rd judge to whom the matter was assigned after one qualified judge was bypassed and two judges asked to be recused. While we await the outcome of this protracted matter, it may be useful to re-examine the pleading in case that the DLP is so determined to strike-out from the court system with a focus on the Roseau Central (RC) constituency.
The petition was filed pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution and the electoral laws of Dominica against the defendants, Ms. Melissa Skerrit, Mr. Ian Anthony, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Ms. Josephine Lewis, the Returning Officer (RO), Mr. Gerald Burton, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), all the members of the Electoral Commission (i.e., Mr. Kondwani Williams, Mr. Alick Lawrence, Mr. Wayne James and Mr. Hillary Shillingford), the Attorney-General of the Dominica, DBS radio and Mr.Carbon, the Commissioner of Police.
As persons whose names were subscribed on the register of voters in the RC, who had a right to vote and who actually voted in the elections of 6 December 2019, the Petitioners joined proceedings pursuant to the provisions of the State Proceedings Act insofar as they alleged breaches of their constitutional rights and several breaches of electoral laws of Dominica including, but not limited to, the following;
Incorrect gazette date for nomination:
The CEO, who is the public official tasked with the responsibility of publishing the day and place fixed for the nomination of candidates pursuant to Section 13 of the House of Assembly Election Act in the Official Gazette, published a notice in the said Gazette, which stated, “the date fixed to receive the nomination of candidates is Wednesday the 19 November 2019.” This was an erroneous publication, the result of which many persons including the Petitioners believed that nomination day was on the Wednesday during the week of the 17 of November 2019. In fact, the Nomination was actually on Wednesday, 20 November 2019. Consequently, the statutory period for at least ten days of notice was breached by the CEO and therefore rendered the nomination unlawful, ultra vires, null and void.
The candidate of the Roseau Central constituency is a citizen of Canada and a holder of a Canadian passport. There is sufficient and relevant documentary evidence to prove that she travelled to the United States and Canada using her Canadian passport and by virtue of her own act as an adult, was under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience and adherence to a foreign power or the state of Canada in violation of our Constitution and electoral laws.
Objections filed and ignored
Prior to the 19 Nov. 2019, approximately 1,544 objections were filed by various persons to names published in the preliminary and quarterly registers. A total of 404 names were objected to in the RC constituency during the period January 2019 to Nov. 2019. However, the RO and the CEO failed to hear and determine these objections as is mandatory provided for under Section 35(1) (d) of the Registration of Electors Regulations Chap 2:03. The RO failed to send notice in Form 8 to the objectors stating the date, time and place when the objections would be heard and giving the objector at least three days’ notice. All the names objected to in the RC constituency were included in the List of Electors used by polling clerks on polling day. At least fifty one (51) names of persons, who were objected to in the RC constituency were allowed to vote.
On 26 Nov. 2019, the Electoral Office published a press statement indicating the publication of a public list, as required by law. The Polling Clerks and ROs were mandated by law to use the revised annual list and supplementary list on polling day. Therefore, by failing to use the revised annual list, as the register of electors, the Polling Clerks, RO and CEO acted unlawfully thus rendering the elections null and void. The purported register of electors used by the Presiding Officer and Poll Clerks on polling day was different from the register of electors printed by the Electoral Office on 19 Nov. 2019 and handed to the candidates contesting the elections. The CEO permitted sixty eight (68) persons to be registered as electors in the RC constituency. The refusal of the CEO and electoral staff to disclose the names of newly registered persons to members of the public made it impossible to file objections to the newly registered persons within five days after the election writ was issued as prescribed in law. This policy of the Electoral Office was deemed unlawful and rendered the purported supplementary list untested and unsafe.
Personation of voters
It is alleged in the pleadings contained in the filed documents that on polling day, several persons falsely and fraudulently presented themselves to the polling clerks claiming to be named in the Register of Electors and claiming a right to vote. The agents present at the polling station objected to the persons who voted on the names listed on the basis of inter alia:
(ii) elector not residing in the constituency;
(iii) elector not qualified for registration; and
(iv) elector not being physically impaired but requesting assistance from a third person while voting.
The Electoral laws of Dominica disallow campaigning on polling day within 100 yards of the polling station. However, during the hours from 12 am to 7:30 am on Election Day, the DLP candidate for RC and her agents allowed an LCD billboard located near the entrance of the Windsor Park Stadium polling station to advertise political propaganda. This included a huge picture of the DLP candidate for RC and slogans such as “It is safer with Labour” with an “X” by a shoe. The said billboard was within 100 yards of the said polling station. This unduly influenced hundreds of voters to vote for the DLP candidate, which constitutes an electoral offence, where the candidate gained an unfair advantage thus rendering her return undue, null and void.
During the months prior to polling day, the Candidate and her agents and several members of the DLP committed the electoral offence of treating when they provided and paid for entertainment to thousands of electors in Dominica and within the RC constituency for the purpose of corruptly influencing those electors to vote for the DLP candidate and to refrain from voting for the UWP candidate at the election. Particulars of treating included DLP Antigua Rally, paid international Reggae artist Tarrus Riley at a the launching of Ms. Skerrit in RC- at which event she solicited the votes of electors, the paid international Reggae artist Popcaan to perform at a DLP youth rally in Bath Estate, and the free concerts by Donnie Mc Clurkin and Yolanda Adams. Thousands of electors attended these events without being required to pay and thus received ‘free entertainment’. All the above were for the purpose of corruptly influencing the electors to vote for the DLP candidate. The electors, who attended these events and who watched via television and via internet were treated and corruptly influenced to vote for the DLP
Importation of voters
The DLP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars providing free transportation for electors who reside overseas to travel to Dominica and corruptly influenced them to vote for the DLP candidates. DLP agents at home and in the diaspora solicited only supporters of the DLP for the purpose of offering and providing free transportation, which afforded an unfair and unlawful advantage to the DLP candidate by providing this treating of free transportation ONLY to supporters of the DLP in the diaspora, The DLP caused several boats and aircrafts to transport thousands of electors for the purpose of voting.
Unlawful source of campaign financing funds:
As published by Aljazeera in a recent documentary on the sale of Dominica’s diplomatic passports to criminals, it was alleged that proceeds of crime were being used to fund the DLP campaign. Iranian Ali Monfared, who was given Dominican citizenship and ambassadorial status, directly or indirectly paid over USD$85,000.00 to print the DLP manifesto and USD$115,000.00 for huge /expensive DLP billboards, a sound system and fireworks. Allegedly the Prime Minister, the candidate of the Vieille Casse constituency and the husband of the RC candidate also requested and/or sanctioned the payment of USD$200,000.00 to the Citizenship by Investment Unit, by Ali Monfared. All said monies were paid by Ali Monfared and were in fact the proceeds of crime. The monies paid and materials purchased by Ali Monfared directly and indirectly to the DLP were used to partly fund the DLP’s 2019 election campaign. These monies were obtained corruptly directly or indirectly as a bribe for the issuance of a diplomatic passport to Ali Monfared, who has since been charged and imprisoned in Iran for his crimes..
Lack of access to the DBS
During the election period, the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation (DBS radio) was used by the DLP as a propaganda instrument for its campaign. The state-owned DBS Radio provided live coverage of the addresses, speeches and statements of the leader of the DLP and other DLP candidates at various election campaign events and the launching of DLP candidates. The DBS Radio Facebook page was also used as a DLP propaganda medium. The General Manager of DBS serves a member of the DLP and appeared on several DLP political platforms, including a public town hall meeting in New York. During the period 2016 to Dec. 2019, the UWP communicated with DBS radio several times and requested coverage of its events. All of the requests made by UWP for media coverage were denied by the DBS radio station. Several other requests for media coverage were made by UWP to DBS and all were denied.
Intimidation and Police Brutality
Over the past decade, the persons who oppose the DLP led Government have been victimized, brutalized, discriminated against and persecuted by the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force in circumstances where supporters of the DLP are allowed to commit actual crimes with impunity. The constitutional rights of the Petitioner’s and other electors’ have been violated pursuant to Section 3, 5, 10 and 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica in that regard. A number of incidence were highlighted including police searches of the home of the Leader of Opposition, Mr. Lennox Linton and the arbitrary arrests of UWP candidates etc. The Commissioner of Police and the Prime Minister have abused the constitutional and statutory powers of citizens, when they authorized heavily armed foreign and local militia to unleash rounds of tear gas and live ammunition against Dominicans on consecutive days leading up to the general elections. Moreover, heavily armed police and army personnel in full military fatigue patrolled the streets of Dominica on Election Day. In so doing the environment during the general elections was not conducive to the conduct of free and fair elections and reasonably amounted to intimidation of electors who would have been unduly influenced to stay away from the polls.
On the Morning of December 5th, 2019, army personnel and police officers from the Regional Security System (RSS) joined police officers from Dominica to unleash tear gas and fire live rounds of ammunition on sleeping residents of Salisbury in a blatant act of voter intimidation. The use of tear gas on sleeping unarmed, peaceful men, women, children, the elderly and the vulnerable in Dominica was deemed unacceptable by all international human rights standards, unlawful and unconstitutional. The use of force was unnecessary, unreasonable and disproportionate to the seriousness of any alleged offence and any purported legitimate objective to be achieved which in this scenario could only be for the purpose of protecting lives.
Failure of the Electoral Commission
Electors in the Commonwealth of Dominica had a legitimate expectation that the electoral list would have been cleansed by removing the names of ineligible voters and that the voter identification cards would have been issued in time for the general elections on 6 December 2019. On 4 June 2018, the EC publicly announced that it was preparing to undertake a voter verification exercise for the purpose of improving the accuracy of the Elector’s Register. The Commission promised the Dominican public that this exercise would commence on or about 01 July 2018 and would be completed over a period of about six weeks. The citizens of Dominica made several requests over the past decade for electoral reform; including a cleansing of the voter’s list and issuance of voter identification cards. Over the past six years there were frequent and widespread public protests demanding electoral reform. The DLP Administration has made several promises of electoral reform but to date it has failed to deliver on these promises. This resulted in widespread voter personation, fraud and the voting by ineligible electors. The EC purchased a ID card management system but to this date it has failed to issue voter ID cards since a cleansing of the electors register is necessary before the cards are issued.
Actions of Electoral Officials
The Presiding Officer and the Returning Officer unlawfully and willfully rejected several ballot papers which were validly cast for the UWP candidate in contravention to Sec. 39(2) and Sec.51 of the provisions of the House of Assembly Elections Act. The Presiding Officer and RO willfully counted ballot papers as being cast for the DLP, which they knew and had reasonable cause to believe were not validly cast for the said candidate.
In light of the above, it is difficult to justify the protracted delay by the assigned judge in issuing his judgment on the strike-out application in order to expedite the trail before a judge at the High Court of the ECSC in Dominica.
We patiently await while the delay bug of the justice system in Dominica bites!