Dominica: Lack of support for first female head of state nominee

September 12, 2023 in Regional

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Tuesday said he is “disappointed” that the government’s nomination for the position of President of Dominica, did not get the support of the Opposition Leader.

Parliament will meet later on Tuesday to discuss the issue of a replacement for President Charles Savarin, whose two five-year term, in office comes to an end on October 1 this year.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that the Dominica Constitution provides for consultation between the head of government and the Opposition Leader on the selection of a candidate. Failure to reach an agreement would mean that the election of a President will take place 14 days after Parliament has been informed of the situation.

The government has nominated 58-year-old Sylvanie Burton, a member of the island’s indigenous population, to become the island’s 11th head of state since the attainment of political independence from Britain on November 3, 1978.

But speaking on the state-owned DBS radio, Skerrit said that he would have to inform the Speaker of the Parliament of the position adopted by the Opposition Leader, Jesma Paul Victor not to support the government nominee.

Skerrit told radio listeners that he was disappointed that there could not have been consensus on the appointment of Burton, who is from the Kaliango Territory, where the descendants of the country’s indigenous people, the Caribs, still resides.

“It is unfortunate and I see this as a repudiation of a woman and a repudiation of a Kaliango…the people who first came to our country, who defended our patrimony that we could have a Dominica to call our home.”

He said he was also disappointed that a “highly qualified” person did not meet the approval of the opposition.

“She has stayed in Dominica all of her life at the service of the Kalinago people, at the service of Dominica. Every developmental programme and project which has been pursued in the Kaliango territory over the last 40 years, Mrs Burton has been involved one way or the other, preparing the project document, soliciting funds or overseeing its implementation.

“I can’t understand any good reason why the Leader of the Opposition would have come to her conclusion, but I guess her advisors would have a different view and would so advise her,” he said.

Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government has a significant majority in the 21-member Parliament and the government’s nominee is expected to be elected when the Parliament meets.

Mrs Burton has been a senior public servant since 2014 and is currently the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment, Rural Modernisation, Kalinagoo Upliftment and Constituency Empowerment.

She has been a Justice of the Peace for 25 years and holds a Master’s Degree in Project Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Rural Development.

She is married and has two children.

“She is the first female president and first indigenous president in Dominica,” Skerrit said.