Judge dismisses petitions against Dominica PM

High Court Judge Gertel Thom on Jan. 10 dismissed election petitions filed by the defeated candidates of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) challenging the nomination of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Education Minister Petter Saint Jean to contest the 2009 general election.

In a 49-page ruling read by Justice Brian Cottle, Skerrit and Saint Jean were cleared of any wrong doing on Election Day.

In the ruling, Justice Thom said that the petitioners failed to show evidence that the two men had pledged allegiance to a foreign power or state and failed to show that they were in possession of French passports.

But the judge said she would not award cost based on the national importance of the case.

The two opposition politicians had asked the court to declare that both Skerrit and Saint Jean were illegally nominated to contest the December 2009 general election because they held dual citizenship at the time.

Prime Minister Skerrit said that he was “humbled by the court ruling,” adding that “we always felt that we were properly and legally qualified to contest the election.”

“All along, we had affirmed that the opposition had failed to prove a case,” said Saint Jean. “Today, it has demonstrated clearly that Roosevelt Skerrit, Petter Saint Jean and the people of Dominica have finally been vindicated.

“We were always confident that the opposition had failed to prove a case. We see this as a victory for the people of Dominica, this is not about Roosevelt Skerrit and this is not about Petter Saint Jean,” he added.

Lawyers for the UWP leader Ron Green and Maynard Joseph said their clients will appeal the ruling.

“We are not totally surprised, but, at this time, we are hoping to appeal the matter,” said attorney Geoffery Letang. “We have to sit as a legal team and discuss it, and we will move from there.”

As the ruling was handed down, supporters of the incumbent Dominica Labor Party (DLP) sang “We Shall Not Be Moved”.

At the same time, Skerrit handed an olive branch to UWP members in building a better Dominica.

“I am again extending the olive branch to the opposition. My office is open to engage them or anybody who wants to ask questions of the government, who wants to work with the government on various projects and programs,” the prime minister said.

“We have always felt that we were properly and legally qualified to contest the 2009 general elections, but those in the opposition felt we were not,” he said on the state-owned Dominica Broadcasting Service (DBS) radio.

“They took the matter to court, and they indicated they had all the evidence, and the court has said they have failed,” he added.

“Our hope now is that the country can settle to serious work. There are so many issues confronting our people, and we spend all this time wasting people’s time in court and talking about things that are really not important to our people,” Skerrit continued.

“Let us criticize the programs and policies of the (Dominica) Labor Party. So I am hoping that that once and for all these unnecessary rhetoric and discord in this country can be set aside and we look to better things,” he said.

“Here it is, I was born in this country, I grew up in this country, went to school in this country, worked all my adult life in Dominica. I never said I wasn’t a citizen of France, but what I said is that I got citizenship by virtue of my mother. So why drag me into court and wasting people’s time when there is no evidence to prove,” the Dominica leader said.

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