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Unrest Intensifies in Dominica Ahead of Elections; Airline Cancels Flights and Regional Security Troops Prepare to go in

High Court Judge Denies Request for Injunction to Stop Elections in Dominica

The main road in Marigot has been blocked with burning debris. (Photo Credit: Dominica News Online)

Dominicans demanding electoral reform, including a clean-up of the voters’ list and the issuing of voter ID cards, have staged fierce protests, prompting Seaborne Airlines to cancel flights until at least tomorrow. And members of the Regional Security System (RSS) are to be deployed to maintain law and order.

The protests, which have attracted international media attention, saw demonstrators blocking the two main roads leading to the Douglas-Charles Airport.

Seaborne Airlines said in an advisory on its website that “uncertain situations in Dominica” have created some operational challenges that have forced it to change its scheduled flights.

“Wednesday, December 4, 2019, our flight will be cancelled. Flights are planned to resume on Thursday, December 5, 2019, if conditions allow,” it said, adding that all change fees, fare differences and rebooking fees for later travel are waived to/from Dominica from Tuesday December 3, through Tuesday December 10.

Regional airline LIAT, however, said its service to Dominica continues as normal.

It issued a statement after reports were circulating on social media that the airline had been cancelling flights to the island.

“LIAT wishes to advise that all of its scheduled flights are operating into and out of the Douglas-Charles Airport, Dominica. No flights have been cancelled….LIAT flights are operating and passengers are advised to check in on time for their flights,” it said.

Protestors have set up fiery roadblocks in the north-eastern constituency of Marigot which is represented by Opposition Leader Lennox Linton.

In an address to the nation on Monday night, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit accused Linton and his United Workers Party (UWP) of encouraging the violence as part of its strategy to disrupt the election, and he called on the leadership to bring an end to the lawlessness.

“I am calling on them to tell their supporters to stop. I am calling on Linton and the UWP to put Dominica first,” he said.

But at a press conference yesterday, Linton made it clear that while his party was one of peace, it also stood for justice and supported the protesting residents who he said have been “oppressed and abused, hated and denigrated and denied of their fair share of national resources from the Skerrit administration for 20 years”.

“The people of Marigot are standing for issues of justice that need to be addressed. The justice issues for the people of Marigot are clear and need to be addressed before we start talking anything about peace. So yes, I support peace in Marigot and everywhere else in Dominica, but I support justice first. And when people rise and stand for justice, I don’t have a moral obligation to be talking peace, because I’ve been long enough on this earth to know there really cannot be any peace without justice,” he said.

Meantime, the UWP posted on its Facebook page yesterday that in light of “credible threats” made on Monday against Linton and his family, the party leadership had written to Police Commissioner Daniel Carbon, seeking police protection for him for the remainder of the campaign.

It is awaiting a response to the request.

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An attempt to stop general elections from proceeding in Dominica on Friday will head to the Court of Appeal, after a High Court judge yesterday refused to grant a group of concerned citizens an injunction to postpone the polls to next February.

The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) had asked the court to issue an interim injunction restraining the parties concerned from holding the elections on any date prior to February 5, 2020 unless the procedures are fully in place to hold the elections. They have argued that there are irregularities in the list of electors and election reform is necessary for the country to have free and fair elections.

But Justice Bernie Stephenson ruled that the court does not have the jurisdiction to grant such an injunction, since President Charles Savarin had already issued the writ to hold the polls, and the challenge could only be made by election petition.

“The conduct of election in Dominica is governed by the Constitution. When an election is called, the country enters into a period called elections, the Parliament is dissolved. This court cannot intrude on the elections once the writ has been issued by the President. I understand that the applicants may have legitimate concerns but that can be done otherwise – and that is after the election, via elections petition and so, declare that this court has no jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought,” the judge said.

Her ruling yesterday came after hearing arguments from both sides on Monday on whether the court had jurisdiction to grant the requested injunction.

The team of lawyers for the petitioners, led by attorney Cara Shillingford, will lodge an appeal with the St Lucia-based Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

“We are not surprised at the decision and will appeal. We remain firm in our conviction that the elections should be stopped and there are too many irregularities for the December 6th, 2019 election to go ahead,” Shillingford said after the ruling.

But Lennox Lawrence, who appeared on behalf of President Savarin – who was named as a respondent along with the Electoral Commission, the Chief Elections Officer, the Cabinet of Dominica, the Attorney General and the state-owned DBS radio – told reporters the law in Dominica and other parts of the Commonwealth was clear on the matter and the court had simply applied the law.

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