Sir Dennis Byron to hear from members of Dominica private sector and civil society on electoral reform

Dominica News Online – Friday, May 21st, 2021

The private sector and civil society are being given the opportunity to have their voices heard on issues relating to the ongoing review of Dominica’s electoral system.

The Dominica Business Forum (DBF) Inc. on June 17, 2021, will hold a consultation with Expert Jurist Sir Dennis Byron – the consultant hired by government to manage the review process, the Electoral Commission and local business owners and individuals.
President of DBF Inc. Severin McKenzie told Dominica News Online (DNO) that the consultation comes as a result of a request from his organization to Sir Byron for discussion on electoral legislation. The forum is geared at garnering recommendations from the private sector and civil society on the subject matter, in which presenters are expected to put forth submissions to Sir Byron based on their review of current electoral legislation.
McKenzie said that though the event is promoted as a consultation, Sir Byron will be mainly listening to the comments and recommendations of presenters.
He explained that the private sector will be stating “what they think is the best way forward for the electoral environment in Dominica” and these suggestions “will be reflected in whatever report he (Sir Bryron) presents” thereafter.
“We’re hoping that after his report, we will be able to look at it to see how satisfied we are with what we recommended,” McKenzie said.
DBF Inc. believes that various authorities have the power to influence a country’s electoral reform – the president, the Electoral Commission, government, parliament and citizens. And with the government taking the initiative to engage Sir Byron, McKenzie said it is paramount that Dominicans seize the opportunity to engage him to ensure they receive maximum results.
According to McKenzie, this session is a follow up to the DBF Inc.’s previous efforts towards electoral reform in 2019 in which it helped develop a “comprehensive report” for reform in Dominica. This document has already been presented to Sir Byron, he said.
“…The report that we produced prior to the last election, concentrated a lot on voter ID cards and cleansing of the list and those types of things. We had indicated in the report that subsequent to the last general election we would be looking towards a more comprehensive electoral reform. So now we think that it’s time … to look beyond these two issues and look at campaign financing and other issues too…” he said.
On the point of a need to regulate laws regarding campaign financing, McKenzie said that DBF Inc. has considered the precedence set in other Caribbean islands and Jamaica’s legislation seems to be the best example. Hence, the organization will be making reference to this model at the gathering.
The consultation was originally scheduled for May 27 but on request of Sir Byron, was postponed to the current date.
Each presenter will have no longer than five minutes to make their submissions, guided by the following question; ‘what is wrong with our (current) legislation and what do we recommend for the new legislation?’ the president told DNO.
The event will have both an in-house audience (of 50 attendees) and virtual participants. It will be carried live on various mediums and will take place at the Dominica Public Service Union Conference Room from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“We want at the end of the consultation…to be very clear as to the recommendations that we have given to the consultant so that at the end when he comes up with his report we can look at the report to see whether or not he took those recommendations into consideration,” he reiterated.
Moreover, the president was very clear on what he called a “deliberate” decision to prohibit presentations from all political parties at the event.
“We have taken a conscious decision, a deliberate decision, not to allow the political parties at any time to make presentations. It is going to be private sector (event) so no political parties – no government, no opposition – are going to have any opportunity to score political points at this consultation. It is limited to the private sector and civil society and private individuals…” he noted.
“We do not want it to turn into a political circus and the reason for this is, when it comes to electoral reform it is not an issue for the political parties [or] favouring one political party over another. It is in fact paving the way for future generations so that they can have an equitable electoral system where the citizens will have the right to vote in free and fair elections and to put the government of their choice in power without some of the things that we are witnessed in the past,” he stated.

This consultation is one of several initiatives planned under the electoral review process.  According to Sir Byron in a recent press release, more public forums like this will be convened so that individuals will have additional opportunities to provide feedback on electoral reform concerns and recommendations. An online electoral reform survey which was set to run from April 26 to May 14, has been extended to June 9, according to the consultant.

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