ELECTION 2009 AND THE CORRUPTION OF OUR NATION’S CHARACTER
By Gabriel Christian Esq.
A lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society Charles Houston Dean, Howard University Law School, Founder of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Mentor to Justice Thurgood Marshall While the first casualty of a failed state is integrity in office, it is preceded by the weakness of its judiciary, its system of laws and those practitioners who complement that system. In Dominica, the Chief Magistrate is Prime Minister Skerritt. His disrespect for his role as chief enabler of our laws and guarantor that law enforcement will do its job without fair or favour is encapsulated in his regrettable statement made at the height of the campaign: no law or constitution can prevent me from running for election. That statement from the chief himself represents the corruption of our nation’s character. What other factors obtained in the election of 2009 which represent a calamity for honest government and rule of law on Dominica? Here are some samples from the campaign which was strewn thick with apologists and excuse makers like the lethal landmines on the DMZ which separates North Korea from democracy.
The PM is a hero in the crowd. A poor man from Veille Casse must make money too. All you Roseau people hate de poor boy from Veille Casse. Somefing happening. If the man take a little fing, so what? If China give us ten million and the man take one million, what’s the big deal? Is he that get de
money, so he can take a piece, as long as he share some. If it was UWP they would thief all de money and share none. Boy, you are a Labourite, you have to support de party. Look at the stadium and the seawall, de man is working my boy. UWP use to steal too. UWP bring down people to vote too. All you staying in America and trying to rule us by remote control. DBS Radio denied access equally to all the parties, so there was no suppression of the press.
The excuses are sad, as they are lamentable. We must strive to uphold the highest standards for our beloved Dominica. It is shameful and wretched where people would come to Dominica and accept lawlessness of a kind that would never be accepted in the UK, Canada, USA or nearby Barbados. We must reject the hypocrisy and dishonesty which holds that our people are not fit to enjoy the democracy and lawful conduct of its leaders which hold true in advanced democracies.
National Leadership Sets the Tone.
That relatively literate persons made such excuses as noted above, or wrote them on line, is an even more worrying symptom of the deterioration of the national character. The nexus between the acceptance of illegal acts by government leaders who should set an example, is not lost on the criminal
underclass. No wonder our crime rate and murders have skyrocketed in our hitherto peaceful country in a manner never before seen. Then in a bid to win an election by all costs, the government did the following:
1. Denied electoral reform which would have cleaned-up the voters list and ensure the issuance of ID cards; there is an e-mail being disseminated which allegedly comes from Senior Counsel to the Government which makes him complicit in lobbying against such reform; he has not denied the authenticity of that e-mail.
2. The Government owned GIS and DBS did not give any time to coverage of the opposition campaign;
3. The Government used in excess of a million dollars airlifting voters from overseas, even though that practice of air fare is the conferring of a bribe to induce a voter to vote for a particular party under the plain meaning of our electoral laws.
To add to the above, the Government had access to loads of overseas money with which to sway the populace. It is undoubtedly true that the Prime Minister is a charming man. It is also true that even at the worst of times, the Labour Party could command at least a third of the national electorate. One must also consider that the Government was recipient of aid from China and Venezuela which mitigated aspects of the global recession and allowed for project finance. The Red Clinic and the Housing Revolution bestowed credit on the Government from the masses. Add to that the power of the purse held by any incumbent regime and the poverty of financial means by the opposition forces, and you have a great advantage. Granted all of that to be true, why tarnish our national legacy of free and fair elections by skirting the electoral law and breaching the bounds of decency Mr. Prime Minister? Do you not realize that the manner in which one wins an election is as
important as the victory itself? Your win is now tarnished; it lacks the gloss of honest effort and due process. It is suspect in the international community; and reviled by a significant portion of our population because of the manner in which it was gained. It has led to a further distortion of our
national character where anything goes in an election and the laws and constitution are thrown out the window. Lawyers and judges know well the old adage: Justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done.
The Role of Law and Lawyers
Law and due process of law, separates decent societies from the law of the jungle. Decent people engage in civil debate and reasoned disagreement. The agents of the Government, despite the smiles of the Prime Minister, spew venom, strive to silence alternate voices and are profane in the extreme.
Chief among those are lawyers who should know and do better. As lawyers we can choose to be forthright and uphold the law, even where it may not well serve our client’s interest. In so doing we protect the integrity of the process so as to ensure we can arm ourselves with the protection of the
system of laws when next we venture into battle. However, in forgetting Dean Houston’s admonition that we should be noble social engineers some have become parasitic growths on the body politic in a manner which drains rule of law on Dominica of its very life’s blood. In our courts it is already the
sad truth that cases drag on for an eternity. The process is shambolic. The murderers mostly walk free. Now, add to that a flawed electoral process worthy of distrust and you have a recipe for disaster. When rule of law is so haemorrhaged and lifeless, what will become of the nation? When those who are sworn to uphold the law, are the chief breakers of the law, who can blame our young for being so deviant? That the fish rots from the head is an apt phrase in this regard. But then God is good all the time.
Elections Must Be Transparent
When a party or group wins an election fair and square, they must be complimented. The system works. I am happy that no lives were lost on the 18th December 2009 or the period leading up to that date. Bu that date was not a glorious one in our history where an election was bought and paid for in a manner unprecedented. The Labour Party could have won the elections without breaching the moral and legal boundaries as it did. The international observers themselves commented on the need for legislation which will ensure transparency. When one places the thumb of state power on the scales of electoral justice so as to reap a particular result, such a practice renders the electoral process illegitimate and is a calamity for our democracy. None of us who are familiar with the norms of Western democracy can sit comfortably with this one. This election was not free and fair or transparent, based on what we know now. Our courts then must be summoned to do justice, lest we usher in dictatorship on Dominica.
It is by that resort to law, and a system which will enables rule of law, we can rescue our national character as an orderly and law abiding people. However, where we allow power to reside in the hands of the arrogant who will dismiss any duty to uphold our laws and constitution, we shall rue the
day. Our legacy of freedom is at stake. Dominicans be dutiful to the best needs of your country! Strive to uphold your democracy!