The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) started after the 2014 General elections. The group arose out of deep disappointment expressed by many citizens on the events surrounding the elections. Their concerns were concerned that the elections were neither free nor fair. The group started with 4 members as a grassroots group who realized that if elections in Dominica were neither free nor fair, then there was a serious erosion of the democratic rights of the people. This small group decided they could not just sit by and permit the destruction of the democratic process in Dominica. Accordingly. they took on the mantle of defending democracy in their homeland. With these common interests and driven by their motivation to protect democracy the group came into existence with the following mission, goal, and vision.
The CCM is committed to standing as a defender of democratic principles in Dominica, to be a voice for the voiceless and to championing the cause of injustice without fear or favor. To accomplish these goals, the CCM has committed to undertake various patriotic activities. A key patriotic activity of the organization is to ensure that the next election and all subsequent elections in Dominica are free and fair. Another important activity is to educate the public on their constitutional rights and the electoral process in Dominica.
It has been 5 years since the Concerned Citizens Movement, members of the public and various political parties have been advocating for electoral reform in Dominica but the process has been unnecessarily difficult. This is because the Electoral Commission, a Constitutionally mandated independent Body, whose job it is to ensure that that the people of Dominica receive free and fair elections, has been totally corrupted by outside influence in contravention of the Constitution.
How does one explain the Electoral Commission’s silence when the governing Administration decided to take a Bill to Parliament on May 25th2017, which would basically legalize bribery and treating during elections? It was the power of the people, including members of the CCM who rallied together which stopped the Bill from being tabled. So, it was no surprise that the Electoral Commission also did not register any objection to the governing Administration’s decision to rush a Bill to Parliament on September 20th, 2018 without public consultation. That Bill that would have allowed the Commission to go overseas to reconfirm voters. The CCM headed a people’s protest action on that day in order to register the citizens opposition to a bill that could potentially severely diminish their voting rights in Dominica. Consequently, the governing administration withdrew the Bill citing the need for more public education.
Unfortunately, such a Bill should have been discussed in the public sphere prior to its introduction into Parliament. Such is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission. However, the Electoral Commission has abdicated its role in preserving the integrity of elections. This Body has neglected to ensure that all elections conducted are trustworthy. Consequently, the CCM has insisted that the only way that the next election can be seen to be fair is by instituting voter ID Card and verifying the voter’s list. And so, on May 15th the CCM and many members of the public and other affected parties held a peaceful protest in the vicinity of the Electoral Commission Office trying to impress upon the Commission the fact that for elections to be free and fair they must be credible. It is widely known that towards the end of this peaceful assembly the participants were tear-gassed by the police.
This atrocity on the rights to assembly and free speech has not deterred the CCM in their role to educate the public about their democratic and constitutional rights. In keeping with this theme of educating and informing the Dominican electorate, the CCM undertook a village by village campaign educating the public on Voter ID cards and the importance of a clean voter’s list. The organization also ran a Voter education series in local newspapers and online. Additionally, the CCM hosts a live, call-in, three-hours weekly Radio Show called “Patriots voices on Q” on a local radio station Q95fm. During this show pertinent issues relating to democracy, electoral reform, and voting are covered. To enhance programming, the CCM has brought in expertise relating to the aforementioned areas during its weekly radioactivity.
Finally, the CCM continues to educate the community at large, increase public participation and foster dialogue on the issue of electoral reform by organizing two successful mass rallies on June 30th and October 19th, 2019 respectively. At these rallies the education goals on electoral reform were strengthened by active involvement of participants in the event. The hope is that these participants will further disseminate what they had learned at these rallies.
In summary, the CCM will continue to advocate for free and fair elections in Dominica because elections are the cornerstone of any healthy and functioning democracy. A country cannot really be democratic until a people can choose their representatives through the process of free and fair elections. The CCM believes that there must be more local engagement of the citizenry by the Electoral Commission in line with its constitutional mandate and the public interest must always be put ahead of personal political interest. Therefore, the Concerned Citizens Movement endeavors to continue championing the cause of protecting Democracy in Dominica.
“Together we can: Together we will”
Loftus Durand, President