THE riots in Dominica continue to rage ahead of the December 6th General Elections. This is actually a snap election called by Dominica’s Labour Party Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, who is hoping to win a fifth consecutive term. But the supporters of the Opposition United Workers’ Party would not have it so, as they have taken to the streets in violent protests, clashing with police. The OECS has already called for an end to the disruptive activities taking place in Dominica.
Amidst the election-fuelled violence in Dominica, members of both political parties were accused recently of various kinds of corruption. The accusations stem from Al Jazeera investigations which were ongoing in Dominica. The accusations, made earlier this week, claim that wealthy foreign businessmen have secretly funded political campaigns in exchange for diplomatic passports. Dominica’s current Prime Minister has been exposed, according to Al Jazeera, for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the last general election campaign from Iranian Businessman, Alireza Monfared, in exchange for a Dominican-Malaysian Ambassadorship. Dominica’s former Labour Party Prime Minister, Oliver Seraphin, has also been implicated in this affair. Both Skerrit and Seraphin have so far denied the allegations.
Other Caribbean leaders in islands such as Grenada have also been accused of similar corruption. Indeed, political integrity is said to be lacking in Caribbean countries, especially around election time. Citizenship by Investment programmes (CIPs) are considered to be a global industry racking-in approximately 25 billion U.S dollars per year. There is no doubt that Caribbean leaders are under suspicion of utilizing CIPs to fund their political campaigns. It is interesting that such corruption has been pinned onto the current Prime Minister of Dominica during this time of political and social unrest, and one week before the date of the snap election.
Indeed, the political corruption that is being affixed to Government leaders in other CARICOM countries is inevitably affecting the whole of CARICOM. In a still circulating and relevant article from 2007 entitled ‘A Strategy for Fighting Corruption in the Caribbean’ written by Olga Nazario, the writer states, “Some CARICOM members have been more successful than others in establishing and enforcing strict controls on corruption. The high level of corruption in some countries, however, taints CARICOM’s image and could affect its ability to strengthen the relationship with the United States, entice investors and seek assistance from international institutions. It will also lessen the effectiveness of the CARICOM social agenda for development.”
In reference to the above, it is the duty of all leaders of CARICOM member states to oversee, as much as is reasonably possible, the actions of each other so as to protect the integrity of CARICOM and the well-being of its citizens. –And furthermore, our leaders here and in other neighbouring islands must do all that is necessary to safeguard our nations from falling into the circumstances that now disrupt the peace and tranquillity of Dominica. So far, Skerrit has expressed concerns that the rioting in Dominica may upset the tourism industry, in particular the much anticipated December-January climax of the cruise season.
It must never be forgotten that peace is as much the responsibility of our leaders as education, healthcare, employment and infrastructure. May the political parties, governments and oppositions in all our Caribbean countries, come together to protect and defend the safety and security of all our communities.