New Dominica head of state a controversial choice

ROSEAU, Dominica (WINN) — Last week he was a senator and government minister. By Monday he had become the country’s president-designate, scheduled to be officially sworn in on Tuesday.

“Mr Charles Savarin has a strong history as a teacher, as a trade unionist, as a diplomat, as a member of parliament and as a politician,” attorney Anthony Ataphan, adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said in defence of what’s being regarded in Roseau as an unpopular choice.

Savarin was the government’s third nominee. The first, controversial Speaker of Parliament, Alix Boyd Knights, withdrew, following public protest. The government’s second nominee, former public servant Jennifer Wallace Lafond was later discounted when it was confirmed that she has dual citizenship.

The opposition United Workers Party (UWP), which is leading the charge against Savarin becoming head of state, stayed away from parliament on Monday during the vote. The government has a huge majority in an 18-3 equation of elected members (senators also vote as well on the presidency in the island’s unicameral parliament), and its nominee received the backing of the administration in the House.

Opposition supporters and others argue that Charles Savarin has, as a politician, been a very divisive character and shouldn’t be made the country’s head of state. The UWP leader Lennox Linton has also suggested that the constitution was breached because he alleges that the necessary consultation between the prime minister and leader of the opposition Hector John on third nominee Savarin did not take place.

Linton and Attorney General Levi Peter locked horns on the issue on opposition aligned radio Q95 Monday morning.

“You and your colleagues are playing games of convenience with the constitution, when the letter and spirit of the provisions are crystal clear,” Linton told the attorney general.

Peter retorted: “You be very careful, that’s why I’ve engaged because I think it’s necessary for the members of the public to be warned against what you are suggesting to them which is dangerous for the country and for individuals.”

Astaphan rejected claims that the majority of Dominicans oppose Savarin being made president. He argued that it’s only some supporters of the opposition UWP who are against the choice. That’s not borne out, however, by the large number of nationals airing their views on social networks including Facebook, who have criticized the decision.

Savarin was, as a then leading trade unionist, very instrumental in rallying the nation’s people to shut down the country for well over a month in 1979 in protest against the then Patrick John-led Dominica Labour Party administration, which was subsequently forced to resign.

 

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