|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 56 - Monday March 15, 2004|
|Overseas Dominicans Should be Allowed to Vote |
by Dr Emanuel Finn
Recent census figures in Dominica confirmed that tens of thousands of the most productive citizens are leaving Dominica every year for greener pastures. At the same time, large numbers of the island's expatriate community are attaining middle class status in their adopted countries and are becoming more politically and economically involved in the affairs of Dominica.
The more progressive political leadership of the various political parties on the island has recognized that the positions that this (soon to be organized) powerful constituency adopts on important policy matters impacting the country can no longer be ignored or dismissed.
The expatriate community not only counsels relatives back home on how to vote, but are forming organizations, holding meetings and conventions to plot public relations campaigns, growth, development and sustainability strategies and projects for and in Dominica.
Former Prime Minister Douglas acknowledged that this community must be an integral part of the development process of the island. One of his agenda items was enacting a law that would allow overseas Dominicans the right to vote in Dominica's general elections, without leaving their adopted country.
If that happens- and when it happens (not if it happens, given the rate of migration, easier and more effective communication systems, and the global village nature of the world), Dominicans residing in distant shores could become pivotal in deciding the outcomes of the elections.
The increase in the numbers of highly educated and politically savvy overseas Dominicans who have a deep abiding affection for the nature Isle and are tired of the antiquated and unprogressive styles of politics at home, are some of the reasons why they are getting involved in influencing the policy and political processes.
Currently, Dominican citizens have the right to vote, but must return to Dominica to cast their ballots. The trip home is often expensive and some people have travel and visa restrictions, which prevents them from traveling.
All political parties, civic institutions, business, religious and community leaders should lend principled support making it easier for nationals living abroad to vote, and government should enact laws making it possible.
Details of security, access and fraud have to be worked out and debated. By allowing Overseas Dominicans to cast their ballots without having to fly home, a highly influential and effective new expatriate constituency will be created.
This should not be a complex political issue as it is a logistical one. Dominicans who are living in self-exile should be able to vote in their general elections because a high percentage of them continue to have links with Dominica.
But the idea of overseas Dominicans voting in elections probably makes some people on the island very uncomfortable and nervous. These people might be asking, why should Dominica allow folks who are supposedly living the ‘good life’ overseas to vote for a government we have to live with?
This writer’s response to this important question is, “we left the beloved land of our birth for economic and educational reasons and we send hundreds of thousands of dollars home in the form of remittances and other resources to our families and communities every year for development purposes”.
We care about our culture, the environment, socioeconomic equity, good governance and basic civility in the land, which we hold in high esteem and where our allegiances lay. We think we all deserve to be involved in the process as players instead of affected spectators.