Both the US State Department and the Canadian Government have issued travel advisories against the Commonwealth of Dominica.
This, in the wake of some unrest in the CARICOM country, in the run-up to general elections on Friday December 6th.
Veteran Caribbean journalist Peter Richards told us the unrest is not as severe as is being made out in social media.
He reports that it has taken the form of blocking roads and burning debris, and much of it is limited to two key areas—the Marigot and Salisbury constituencies—which are strongholds of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP).
“Once you pass Marigot and you pass Salisbury, you will not realise that Dominica has any form of violence, as they’ve been showing you on social media,” the veteran journalist explains. “Look at the pictures of the areas they keep showing, of where the violence is taking place. It’s only in Marigot and Salisbury,” he points out. “No other part of Dominica are they showing you acts of violence or intimidation, or what have you.”
Calls for election reform behind Dominica unrest
The protesters, mainly UWP supporters, are demanding electoral reforms ahead of the polls. They want to ensure the sanctity of the Voters' Lists.
Peter Richards explains that under the Dominica system, once one’s name is on the Voters’ List, one can vote, and do so without picture identification. He says one of the issues being raised by the opposition is the fact that Dominicans who live abroad often return home to vote, and then go back to their other country. The opposition wants this to stop.
Another bone of contention concerns the registering of deaths of voters.
“If your family do not bring the documents to show that you have died, your name cannot be removed from the List. That’s the law.”
“If you live out of Dominica for more than five years, there also is a provision in law that you could be removed from the List, but it requires filling out a special form,” he says. “If you fail to fill out that form, there is no way they can take you off the List.”
This week, the courts threw out an attempt by the UWP to have the elections delayed until February 5th next year. The reason behind the ruling is that the Dominican Constitution does not allow for anyone but the Prime Minister to set the election date, which is what the opposition attempted to do, the court noted.
Peter Richards says notwithstanding the pockets of opposition unrest, Dominica’s Electoral Commission assures that everything is in place for a smooth electoral process on Friday December 6th.
Just over 72,000 Dominicans will be casting their ballots between 7am and 5pm.
The opposition UWP is contesting all 21 seats.