Greetings to you and the rest of the executive of the National Youth Council of Dominica. I am Whitney Melinard, Youth Activist and founder of the newly formed Ripple Effect Youth Initiative in the Kalinago Territory.
I write to place on record my dismay and utter disappointment in the disrespectful actions of the 1st president of the National Youth Council in which he openly participated in partisan politics at the Dominica Labour Party-led youth forum on Saturday, March 20th 2021 at the Kalinago Barana Aute.
Evidence proves that Mr. Lander acted as the master of ceremony for the politically charged event which leaves one to imply that he was provided with ample time to make a decision, consult with the president of the NYCD or that the office of the president of the NYCD had given approval for his participation in this event. It is important to note that Mr. Lander did not just openly speak on a political platform he went on to align himself with the political party through his red-color-coded clothing.
I need to remind us that history serves as a reference and as lessons to future actions. For instance, on Thursday, June 20th 2019, the Dominica News Online blazed the headlines: Roach to Baron-Adhere to NYC Code of Conduct or resign. The story went on to say that “Chief Youth Development Officer, John Roach has called on president Paul Baron to “do the honourable thing and resign” if he cannot adhere to the Code of Conduct.” Mr Roach also stated: “The (NYC) Constitution is very clear about partisan political affiliation and persons who present themselves to represent the youth at this level should at all cost conduct themselves as stipulated by the constitution”.
Roach added, “This behaviour by the leadership of the NYC is unacceptable as it has the tendency and the potential to undermine the confidence of the youth who look up to the NYC to address their concerns at the community, district or national level.” Roach further stated that bearing in mind that the members of NYC may be affiliated to different political parties, “those who don’t share the NYC president’s political persuasion are likely to distrust his leadership judgement on their behalf.”
He said these factors were taken into consideration when the constitution of the NYC was being drafted and further amendments followed, “particularly to ensure that the Code of Conduct is adhered to by persons who serve on the Executive. If the president cannot adhere to the Code of Conduct of the National Youth Council, he should do the honorable thing – resign.”
Section 3, Article VIII (Code of Conduct) of the NYC constitution addresses the issue of political expression and affiliation by Executive members of the council. It states:
“No member of the National Executive shall demonstrate openly in a public forum, media appearance, political platform, or at such public events, show his partnership to any political party as this may have the potential to undermine the integrity and independence of the NYC. However, an Executive member is free to his independent political affiliation and is free to attend any political gathering. This also applies to any elected officer or staff of the Council.”
Roach also referred to section 4 of the NYC constitution which states that no representative shall misrepresent his organization’s position on any matter in public at Meetings of the General Assembly.
According to that section, “A member found acting in such a manner shall be subject to disciplinary action not excluding expulsion. In like manner, if a representative is found to be guilty of breach of conduct and it is found that this particular offense represents the official position of his organization then the organization itself shall also be subject to disciplinary action not excluding expulsion from the NYC.”
The NYC constitution further states that the youth of Dominica are united in cause and have organized themselves in order to ensure a strong voice and active participation for the furtherance and protection of the interests and rights of youth. “We will vigorously maintain our policy of an independent National Youth Council, free from partisan influence and capable of making independent decisions in the interest of all Dominican youth,” the NYC constitution declares.
We know all now that Mr. Paul Baron was subsequently suspended as the president of the NYCD by members 0f the executive.
It is against this comprehensive and important mark in the history of the NYCD that I humbly urge the President and executive of the National Youth Council to take firm action to reprimand the first president of the council for his actions. Ms. Mc Dougall, I dare say that what you do or fail to do about this situation will set the tone for the future and integrity of this organization.
The organization has been battered with bad publicity and you came in with a new vision that we all embraced so I would like to urge you to allow your actions to be guided by the constitution of the NYCD.
I also need to state that my action here today is not personal as I am acquainted with Mr. Lander’s interest in youth but I cannot show blind loyalty to anyone over the integrity of an entire organization that serves thousands of youth. Moreover, I refuse to shy away from an issue because it involves my friend, instead I wish to be recognized for my steadfast cry for equal justice and fairness for all.
I further trust that a public apology along a probationary period in which Mr. Lander does not publicly act on behalf of the organization would be part of the actions taken since it would send a clear message to future executive members (however I am aware this is not my decision to make or as some may deem to be wishful thinking). Throughout the course of the month, my group members will watch as this situation unfolds and we will be prepared to bring added light on the matter to the nation in the upcoming month if needs be. We wish you all the best. I have copied Mr. John Roach-Chief Youth Officer and Mr. Lander on this email.