Church condemns verbal attacks on Dominican bishop, cardinal

Church condemns verbal attacks on Dominican bishop, cardinal

Friday, December 06, 2019

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ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the verbal attack on Bishop Gabriel Malzaire and Cardinal Kelvin Felix, even as supporters of the main Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) continued their fiery protest mainly in the northern section of Dominica ahead of today's general election.

“We, the Catholic Clergy of the Diocese of Roseau consider it an act of disgrace and disrespect not only to the head of the Catholic Church in Dominica but to the clergy and the lay faithful as well,” the church said in a statement, condemning the verbal attack on the two religious officials, who were on their way to the airport.

“While we recognise the dissatisfaction and passion associated with the issue of electoral reform, and political positions in general, we believe that there are more humane and civil methods of expressing concerns and resolving conflicts,” it said, adding that Bishop Malzaire and Cardinal Felix were “subjected to insults and embarrassing questions”.

The protesters have been calling for electoral reform including the issuance of picture identification cards, and a cleansing of the electoral list, issues which the Catholic church has been speaking about.

In a statement, the Roman Catholic church said it recalled a statement made by Bishop Malzaire in his New Year's Day homily in which he said “of concern to many in Dominica, especially during the past days is the issue of electoral reform.

“It is a long-standing issue which is impacting and affecting our society. It is imperative, therefore, that those responsible move with some alacrity to see that all is put in place for the appearance of free and fair general elections, which are due this year. Brothers and sisters, we are duty bound to do all in our power to maintain a just and peaceful society,” Bishop Malzire said then.

The statement said that more recently, the head of the Catholic church made reference to the code of conduct prepared by the Dominica Christian Council and the Association of Evangelical Churches, reminding the population, “Our duty as clergy is to recognise that our basic obligation is to promote unity in our communities,” and “to refrain from saying or doing anything likely to be interpreted as partisan politics”.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) have arrived here to assist in maintaining law and order.

But Thomas Letang, a member of the Electoral Reform Group here, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the presence of RSS members would not solve the issue because they can't be here forever.

“If people believe that the way you solve the problems in respective countries is by bringing guys in uniform to really get people scared that itself has to be revisited. What you want is to look at the cause of the problem and to address that problem.

“I am saying that is happening in Dominica now, if the Government had listened to people and had done something about electoral reform there would have been no need to bring in the regional security force here to do anything,” he said, taking also a swipe at the regional integration movement, Caricom.

“I always say to myself what it is that these guys discuss when they meet at this table,” he said, noting that “while Dominicans were making noise for electoral reform, Caricom said nothing,” he added.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office, has criticised the UWP and called on its leader, Lennox Linton, to publicly condemn the acts of violence that have so marred the campaign for the elections.

Skerrit, leader of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), told party supporters on Tuesday night that the protests were part of the Opposition's strategy to disrupt the polls.

“They can try what they want, they can do what they want, they can jump high, they can jump low, there will be elections in Dominica on December 6.”

The United States, in a statement on Wednesday, said that the reports of political violence in Dominica in recent weeks “are incongruent with the history of stable parliamentary democracy in the Eastern Caribbean.

“Free, fair, and transparent elections are hallmarks of any good democracy and an indication of good governance and leadership. Equally so, the conduct of peaceful campaigns, rallies, and demonstrations beforehand and the acceptance of the will of the people after a fair vote are intrinsic parts of democracy,” Washington said in a statement issued by its Embassy in Barbados.

The Electoral Commission said it is prepared for the elections today and the press and public education officer, Elias Dupuis, told CMC that 74, 895 people are eligible to cast ballots at the 255 polling stations across the country.

He dismissed a report that the commission had been unable to cleanse the list as called for by the Opposition parties, saying, “With regards to our laws, for any registered elector, it guarantees them the right to remain registered until their name is deleted because they would have violated four specific provisions, one of which is the unfortunate case of death.

“Another significant one is the five year limit [in that] you have to be out of Dominica. I understand that much of the contention has been that particular five year issue but as far as the Electoral Office is concerned we do have to respect the right of any duly registered voter whose name exists on the voters list on an election day to be given the right to cast their ballot.

“We are going to ensure that we keep to the law with regards to that, and we want to be respectful of anyone's right to cast their ballot to exercise their franchise,” he said, adding that the laws were created to enfranchise people and not necessarily to disenfranchise people.”

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