President Charles Savarin Tuesday night called on churches and other civic and social groups in Dominica to condemn the harassment and verbal abuse of the Roman Catholic Bishop Gabriel Malzaire on Monday.
In a radio and television broadcast, Savarin said he was informed by the relevant authorities that “all is ready for the holding of the Poll” on December 6.
Supporters of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) burnt tyres and other debris, set up road blocks in the north east village of Marigot in support of claims for electoral reform ahead of the elections.
Video posted on social media showed people calling on Bishop Malzire to speak out against the elections and “stop hiding under the cloth” with others insisting that “we talking to our Bishop”.
Savrin said he was dismayed at the treatment meted out to the St. Lucian-born head of the Roman Catholic Church here, saying the cleric was being “abused in the most shameful manner.
“This is reprehensible behaviour which I condemn without reservation. I also call on all church leaders to condemn this lawless behaviour and in particular to condemn the verbal assault on the Bishop of Roseau.
“I further call on the professional and community based organisations to similarly add their voices of condemnation and to call for peace and respect for the rights of all to go about their legitimate business peacefully,” Savarin said, adding that he was commending the police for their “restraint” in the face of the acts of violence during the campaign for the election.
Last month, in a pre-election message read out in Roman Catholic Churches, the Bishop said that Dominicans will have the privilege to exercise their franchise by electing the leaders who will govern for the next five years, adding “it is indeed a sacred duty and a noble responsibility entrusted to all”.
He said voters must make an effort to know the parties, their aims, objectives and policies in order to make a reasonable choice and to ‘vote as free persons and not to debase ourselves by selling our votes for money or any personal favour”.
He also called on voters here “to oppose and reject any candidate who use bribery, intimidation or threats of violence to win votes” as well as to “reject any invitation to join in the harassment of those whose political views are different from ours”.
The Bishop reminded voters that “no political or economic system is perfect” and that they must “accept the verdict of the majority, even if this differs from how one has voted in accordance with one’s conscience”.
In his address, President Savarin said that Dominicans will be voting for a new government on Friday and he was urging “all …to conduct themselves in a responsible and respectful manner.
“We all have a responsibility to abide with the provisions of the law and to promote the upkeep of law and order throughout this land that God has blessed us with. Let us be instruments of peace and pray daily for a peaceful journey to the polls and beyond…”.
Savarin also made mention of the High Court ruling on Tuesday where Justice Bernie Stephenson said that the court had no jurisdiction to hear an applications by several Dominicans to postpone the elections to February next year, pending electoral reform among other concerns.
He said the matter is now the subject of an appeal and as a result it “cannot be discussed at this time”.