The Electoral Commission is a creature of our Constitution provided for at section 56(1): "There shall be a Constituency Boundaries Commission and an Electoral Commission for Dominica (each of which is hereinafter in this section referred to as a Commission)"
According to Section 56(3) "The Electoral Commission shall consist of -a) a chairman appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgment;b) two members appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister; andc) two members appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition
Section 56(11) states that "in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority
Following the 2005 election, a five member Electoral Commission was appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as follows:
Gerald Burton - Chairman, appointed by the President in his own deliberate judgmentRichard Charles - Member, appointed on the advice of the Prime MinisterKondwani Williams - Member, appointed on the advice of the Prime MinisterBernie Didier - Member, appointed on the advice of the Leader of the OppositionDon Christopher - Member, appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition
That independent Electoral Commission decided to 1) undergo a complete re-registration of voters in order to sanitize the voters register; and 2) introduce voter ID cards
At that time, Anthony Astaphan was fully aware of the Constitutional provisions if only as the lawyer for Urban Baron in his 1998/1999 matter against the Constituency Boundaries Commission where he argued bias on the part of the UWP nominees on the Commission. Indeed, in his irrational, hate-mongering, tirade against Dave Bruney's appointment to the IPO Commission he recently reminded us about the 1999 judgment of the Appeal Court:
"The principles of impartiality and independence
apply. These questions were considered by the Court of Appeal in the Urban Baron
appeal before 2000 or between 1995 and 2000. The court condemned, deprecated,
criticized and made it clear that the appointment of political activists to
constitution commissions and commissions such as the Integrity Commission is (an)
assault to the integrity and commonsense of the people of this country; it’s an
assault on the intelligence of the people of this country; it’s an assault on
the structure and fabric and impartiality of the integrity commission. It is
similar to the Al Qaeda assault on the Twin Tower when they sent people there
to destroy institutions of the United States". So Astaphan gives the impression that he has an abiding concern with the impartiality and independence of the Electoral Commission and therefore advocates that it should be protected from "political activists". Richard Charles is a political activist of the Dominica Labour Party who contested the 2005 election in the Marigot Constituency and lost to Edison James. Immediately thereafter he was placed on the Electoral Commission with not as much as a single word of concern from Astaphan. Yet to make his partisan case against "political activists" he resorts to saying what the Appeal Court judges did not say. Disingenuously implying in effect that 'comments in passing' by an Appeal Court judge amount to an order that carries the force of law.
For perspective and the avoidance of doubt, what the judgment of the Appeal Court (written by Justice Satrohan Singh) actually said with respect to 'impartiality and independence' was this:
of the situation is that when such a Commission is being set up, the respective
sides will recommend members whom they are satisfied will look after each
side’s respective interests. Their
concentration will be more on political advantage than constitutional
“It is my considered opinion that such a Commission
will always lean more towards political loyalty than constitutional
integrity. What would assist in order to
avoid the appearance of this mischief of bias, is that if, when members are to
be recommended to the President, the respective politicians give names of those
who are less politically conspicuous.
Life would be so much simpler".
On March 27th, 2008 the great advocate for "impartiality and independence" of Constitutionally appointed commissions turned his guns on the "impartiality and independence" of the Electoral Commission. The savagery of his attack is captured in an email to Roosevelt Skerrit which documented his concerns as follows:
"I spoke to Kondwani
this morning. There is madness going on at the Commission. You need to call in
Richard and Kondwani. I leave today. These guys are talking about reforms to include
ID cards and COMPLETE REREGISTRATION! Such reforms will undermine your
reelection legacy as the opposition will say look, the Commission agreed with
us; reform was required because of wide spread fraud!"
Within a month DLP political activist Richard Charles was deemed unfit for the task of ensuring that the independent Electoral Commission was brought under the direction and control of Roosevelt Skerrit and Astaphan. So he was removed and replaced by Alick Lawrence whose specific assignment was to ensure that there would be no cleaning of the voters list and no voter ID cards before the general election constitutionally due by October 2010.
On April 28th, 2008, an email from Alick Lawrence to Skerrit and Astaphan confirmed the purpose of his appointment to the independent Electoral Commission:
"Hi Comrades, I am due to attend my first Commission meeting on
Tuesday at 9 am, although due to a mediation at 10 am I am only able
to spend 1 hour there. I see from the documents sent to me that the
Commission has taken a decision to introduce a new voter registration
system before the next election. I
have serious reservations about this and would like to have a chat with you both about it".
Three years later, the "reservations" of Alick Lawrence and the reasons Skerrit placed him on the Electoral Commission on the advice of Astaphan, reign supreme. We have no voter ID cards and there has been no clean up of the voter's list contrary to the public interest decision of the independent Electoral Commission more than three years ago.
Astaphan, Skerrit and Alick Lawrence, who have hijacked the impartiality and independence of the Electoral Commission, are the same persons currently bellyaching about the appointment of Dave Bruney to the Integrity Commission under legal arrangements which make Bruney criminally liable for any breaches of the confidentiality provisions of the IPO Act that they allege he could possibly commit.
According to Astaphan "there is a disease blowing in the wind and it is called madness".