Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
I reflected last evening that when the date for this event was announced last Thursday, there was no threat of adverse weather conditions impacting Dominica or the region.
Weather, and more specifically dangerous weather conditions, are the one thing that has focused and united us as a nation over the last few years.
Dominica has rebounded from hurricanes, floods and landslides over the years, because in the period leading up to and in the aftermath of these occurrences, there had been no divide in our country. In such times of adversity, we become one people with one focus; survival and the minimization of human suffering.
It is therefore, I am convinced, not coincidental that as we contemplated our attendance at this event this afternoon, our thoughts, fears and focus were on Tropical Storm Bret and other associated weather disturbances likely to adversely impact this region and farther afield in the days ahead.
Tropical Storm Bret has placed us in the frame of mind that is required, to optimize the benefits of us each having a copy of the Commissioner’s report to leave here with. It will also be available on the internet so that you can share it with your members, family and friends, at home and abroad.
I think this augurs well for our being able to impress the world, in the coming weeks and months, with our mature and responsible approach to analyzing the document and extracting therefrom, a legislative framework that would seek, realistically, to achieve all the objectives we have set ourselves as a people and as a nation.
Just as disaster preparedness and damage mitigation requires a collaborative approach, so too must be the issue of electoral modernization.
I have made a deliberate effort not to comment publicly on the Report, because I do not wish for myself or any senior official of the government to be accused of prejudicing any discussions, or of seeking to impose our thoughts, perspectives or preferences on the people of Dominica.
A report had been commissioned and a report has been presented. That said report is being shared with political parties, social partners and civil society.
It is my fervent wish that we will all take the next few weeks to read and analyze the document, and then return at the appointed time to comment on it, providing the perspectives of those we each have the honor to lead or speak for and on behalf.
The Government of Dominica has to date not proffered a position on the report, so it cannot and would not be a case of anyone or any entity supporting or opposing the view of the government.
What is important, in this instance, is the perspective of the people. Those said people are who you each represent here today. They have authorized you to collect and review this document on their behalf, and to participate fully in the national discussion when the opportunity is provided.
Given the dynamic nature of an already active hurricane season and other activities such as the upcoming Caricom summit, which incidentally, I will have the honor to Chair, I do not wish at this stage to pin us down to a specific date for the first working session, but I am hoping it will be as early as the week of July 15th.
The Electoral Modernization Secretariat, headed by Dr. Kenneth Darroux, will in due course communicate with you as to the schedule for presentation of reactions, responses and perspectives on the document.
I wish us all to note that this is but a preliminary framework with which we shall be working. The Commissioner has considered all factors and has made a series of recommendations which I hope we shall all review thoroughly and analyze and assess in terms of practicality.
No electoral system is perfect, however we expect that due consideration will be given to the recommendations made and that we will assess what is practical within the context of our limited human and financial resources, cultural nuances and realities of time limitations, to ensure that recommendations are implemented sufficiently in advance of the next general elections.
So, the Government is approaching this task with a very open mind. You are being presented the document within one week of my receiving it.
I have not even had the opportunity to share or discuss it with my parliamentary colleagues. I firmly believe that even more important than what I or my government has to say, is what you as civil society have to say about the report and the proposed solutions to modernize our electoral systems. I want in the final analysis, for Dominica to be the ultimate winner in this exercise.
As I intimated from the outset, I want for there to be a nationalistic approach to our management of this assignment. This is not a partisan, political affair. It is also not the sole responsibility of politicians, political parties or government officials.
Every organized group in Dominica, every special interest group in Dominica, every Dominican with an interest in the future of Dominica, is being invited to lend their voice to the discussion that will ensue over the next few months.
Those who are being presented copies by me this afternoon, are invited to discuss the report with their members, canvass the views of their wider groups and fraternities and then return to us, on invitation, with prepared presentations and recommendations on how we move forward.
I would like to think that we can convene four centralized events over a 10- day period, during which we can hear from the most wide-bodied and influential groups in society. Thereafter, I foresee us taking the discussion to the community level, where individuals from each geographical region can and will be provided the opportunity to weigh in on the subject. I also intend to share the Report with respected regional and international luminaries and organizations, before finally tabling new draft legislation in the Parliament of Dominica.
It is my fervent wish that we can conclude this process and the legislation can be passed and enacted into law, before the end of this calendar year. I therefore call on all of you, and Dominicans generally to take an active part in the process.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank each and every one of you for coming out today. I believe that just as we will rally together in the days ahead to navigate whatever comes our way weather-wise, we should also rally together in the weeks and months ahead to agree on the four corners of new electoral administrative procedures.
It is now my pleasure to facilitate the organized distribution of the first 20 copies of the Electoral Modernization Report, as well as to formally authorize distribution and circulation of this document via all components of social media and generally on the worldwide web.
I therefore declare the process of consultation and discussion on the electoral modernization report, started!
I thank you.