By Keryn Nelson

Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit announced on Sunday,13 new members of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), who will contest in the country’s 2020 elections.

Nine of the new candidates are women, one of whom is the prime minister’s wife, Melissa Skerrit.

It was disclosed, Ms. Skerrit will campaign for the Roseau Central seat which is currently held by former United Worker’s Party (UWP), now DLP MP, Joseph Isaac.

Acknowledging the appointment of his wife, PM Skerrit noted the following during his address at the Londonderry delegates conference on Sunday;

“It is one thing to have one parent directly involved in politics, it is something else to have two and to have very small children. But we are committed to this country and we are committed to the Dominica Labour Party.”

Dominica’s Prime Minister Rossevelt Skerrit

Several other constituencies will have new DLP contesting candidates come 2020, including Roseau North, which was assigned to Joseph Isaac; Jahisiah Benoit –who many suspected was being prepped to take over post in Roseau South –was traded in for Chekira Lockhart-Hypolite; Colin McIntyre will be replaced by his brother Dr. Irvin McIntyre; Cassius Darroux who held the Kallinago Territory for one term was replaced by Cozier Frederick and Fidel Grant will be the candidate for Wesley.

“They are all success stories, ladies and gentlemen. None of them are looking for a job. None of them are seeking economic opportunity. None of them can be considered, far less regarded as failures. These are young bright Dominicans in whom all can be pleased,” Skerrit said of the new DLP reps.

Regarding the 13 candidates who were seemingly discarded, Skerrit reasoned,

“Let me make it clear to you my brothers and sisters, we are not discarding anyone. We were fortunate as a party in government to have had a group of young men and women who stepped forward in 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2014 to serve their country.

“They have done a tremendous job under the circumstances and against a backdrop of enormous adversity. Many still have a bit more to give but we have determined that 2020 is the point at which we seek to prepare ourselves for a new dispensation of government and governance in Dominica”.

The prime minister said, the released 13 will continue to serve Dominica but in a different capacity.

Additionally, Skerrit’s announcement of his wife’s candidacy is reminiscent of last year’s Antiguan parliamentary elections, when 26-year-old Maria Bird-Browne, wife of Prime Minister Gaston Browne stood as a candidate for the Antigua Labour Party in the St John’s Rural East constituency. Bird-Brown was known to be the great grand-daughter of former Premier and Prime Minister Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr, who is widely considered Antigua’s ‘father of the nation’ and a national hero. Although having no political affiliation beyond family ties, the Browne proclaimed the young woman was a descendent of a “public service family.”

Having obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Law Degree from Arden University and, also having founded the Share Inc Charity, Maria Bird-Browne was subsequently sworn in as Antigua’s youngest parliamentarian in March of 2018.

Needless to say, it was not Melissa’s Skerrit’s familial proximity to Dominica’s current Prime Minister that raised eyebrows. Rather, some Dominicans were concerned about the context of the announcements made on Sunday by PM Skerrit.

“… Skerrit made such a clear gesture that he doesn’t care what the people think in the various constituencies. He picks and chooses the candidates he wants, and the people simply accept it and do as he says. But if Dominicans don’t reject this flagrant abuse of power and insult on their personal pride during the next elections, then Skerrit can be certain that Dominicans care more about money than their own pride and long term sustenance,” one commenter said on an online forum.

One of the Prime Minister’s newly appointed candidates, Anika Charles has also stepped down from the running following the public’s response. Skerrit said Charles’ withdrawal was directly related to backlash.

“Mrs. Charles expressed her shock and dismay at the salacious, vicious and downright nasty campaign launched against her immediately after her endorsement by persons associated with the opposing camp,” he said during an announcement on Monday, February 18, on DBS Radio.

“While stepping forward to serve her country and the people of her beloved Marigot constituency, she understandably did not bargain for the type of nastiness that her opponents and detractors have introduced in this campaign,” he added.

The following words—meant to be a source of comfort to the people of Dominica—from Skerrit’s Sunday address, will now only apply to twelve new DLP parliamentary candidates:

“Your fresh looking Dominica Labour Party is [the] change that Dominica needs at this time.”