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Update: Historic election of first female and Kalinago head of state

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the election of Mrs. Sylvanie Burton to the office of President of Dominica should have been an opportunity to rally around one candidate. He made the statement while addressing parliament on Wednesday.

Burton, a nominee of the Roosevelt-Skerrit-led administration has been duly elected as the first female President of the Commonwealth of Dominica. She was elected by 20 members during the Fifth Meeting of the First Session of the Eleventh Parliament.

Her opponent Mrs. Anette Sanford who is also of Kalinago descent received five votes. Burton will replace outgoing President His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin as his second five-year term comes to an end on October 1, 2023.

“The election of Mrs. Sylvanie Burton to the office of President of Dominica should have really been an opportunity for us to rally around one candidate and show the world that on some things there can be unity of purpose,” Prime Minister Skerrit said.

He continued,” There should really not have been any reason for there not to have been one candidate, but that’s the democratic process and everybody has a right to determine how they do things and when they do things.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Skerrit indicated that this has not robbed the country of making history.

“It has not robbed women of an opportunity to be grateful and that a woman, the first time in the history of our country has been recognized and elevated to this high office,” he noted. “It will not rob the Kalinago people, the first people of our country to have an opportunity that was lost in terms of the process, but not the outcome of having the first Kalinago person elected to the highest office.”

He said focus should be placed on the positive side of this rather than the negative. He believes that every woman in Dominica and the world should be celebrating today. Furthermore, Mr. Skerrit told the young people of Dominica that their future should not be determined by his or her circumstances, “especially if you are in or have been in a difficult circumstance.”

“Challenges must be an opportunity for us to dig deeper into our God-given talents and purpose in life and to say to ourselves that notwithstanding the odds we are facing that we can overcome,” he stated.

Parliamentary Representative for the Salybia Constituency, Cozier Frederick congratulated Mrs. Burton.

“She has made us proud, I think our ancestors are proud to know that we have the Kalinago who despite many years of discrimination can be highlighted across the spectrum,” he said.

He went on to state that deep down he is saddened that the country lost a unique opportunity to show the rest of the region and the world that, “while we are building a climate resilient country we can also continue to build a resilient people who can join forces at a certain point in our history to ensure that we have unity across the spectrum.”

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Representative for the Castle Bruce Constituency Octavia Alfred said as the District Development Officer, Mrs. Burton’s work brought the realization of several development projects within that constituency.

She thanked the Prime Minister for presenting this nominee.

“This is proof that women in Dominica are granted equal and full voice, participation, and leadership everywhere and in every aspect and for making the case that we need the essential role of women of courage in the vision of the achievement of sustainable development, peace, and security,” Alfred stated.

She said Mrs. Burton has demonstrated through her life and work and her leadership in governance, diplomacy, and women’s empowerment that women make a difference, “not just a small difference, but a big and crucial one.”

“She is an incredible role model for our women and girls and men and boys too,” Alfred said.

Mrs. Burton will be sworn in as the new President on Monday, October 2, 2023.