President Charles Angelo Savarin, 75, was on Monday re-elected to serve as Dominica’s head of state even as opposition legislators staged a walkout in protest at what they term the unconstitutionality of the entire affair.
Speaker Alix Boyd Knights, who had earlier asked the opposition member for Roseau North, Danny Lugay, to leave the Chamber following his outburst, said that all 20 legislators who were present when the vote was taken had shown their support for Savarin, a former trade unionist, diplomat and former government minister.
However, Opposition Leader Lennox Linton had argued that the election was taking place during the 14-day period designation for nomination of candidates and had urged that the Parliament be adjourned to Friday so as to accommodate the election process.
“Madam Speaker, all that now is set aside because you have advised this Honourable house in the process on the 20th of September that there is no agreement between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition (for a joint candidate).
“So the process must continue and the continuation of the process is at 19(4) where it mandates a 14-day period of nomination after which there shall be an election of a president. We are seeking now to convene this meeting of the House to have a president elected within the nomination period, which as far as we on this side of the House are concerned is completely unconstitutional.
“There is no authorisation or assignment of responsibility for it under the Constitution. We should not do it. We should adjourn this House, come back here on Friday, allow the nomination period to conclude,” Linton said.
But Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit citing “doctrine of necessity on which the courts have ruled upon” said that the vote could proceed.
“We Madam Speaker believe that we are in conformity with the process and we are proceeding with the conformity of the process to elect the president,” he said.
Skerrit said that if Linton was serious about the situation he should inform the Parliament as to who did he consult regarding a possible nomination from the opposition for the position of president that became vacant today.
Skerrit said the election of a president is ‘a serious matter” informing legislators that he had written to Linton since August 3 indicating to him the need to have a nominee to replace Savarin.
He said Linton had promised to response within a 15-day period ‘after consultation with the people of Dominica” but to date he has not received any such response.
“He goes on to state…in the public domain that he and the prime minister will not agree on a nomination and he will not have a nominee. That’s what he said in the public domain and I am saying to the people of Dominica that the Constitutional also provides that the Commonwealth of Dominica shall have a President”.
Skerrit interpreted that to mean “strictly speaking…if a president were to die in office in the morning, strictly speaking we shall have a president by night time,” he said.
Attorney General Levi peter citing court cases said that the government was on perfectly strong grounds in nominating Savarin and holding the election during sitting of the Parliament.
Boyd Knights said that while it would be academic for there to be an election for just one nominee, the Constitution also makes provision for an election in case that the nominee, who could either be nominated by the government, opposition or three members of Parliament, receiving a majority of the votes cast.