Protestors call for resignation of Dominica's Prime Minister
By TDN Wire Staff
March 31, 2017 2:10 P.M
Roseau, Dominica (TDN)
Thousands take to the streets of Roseau.
Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Roseau, Dominica’s capital last night demanding the resignation of prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit. Two protest meetings organized by the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) realized scores of protestors coming from all over the country to register their disgust over the leadership of Skerrit.
Just days before, protest organizers were denied permission to march through the streets of Roseau by police commissioner Daniel Carbon, citing public safety and national security reasons. The organizers then decided to go ahead with two public meetings one at the staging point of the proposed march and another at the center of Roseau.
Protestors peacefully called for Skerrit’s resignation bearing t-shirts reading “Skerrit Must Go” and displaying placards pointing to the various scandals revolving around the sale of Dominica’s passports and growing accusations of corruption within government.
Speakers at the meeting including Opposition Leader Lennox Linton outlined several reasons why they believed that Skerrit should resign. Among the key accusations is his alleged involvement in harboring Dominican diplomat Alireza Monfared who was arrested by INTERPOL in the Dominican Republic and extradited to Iran. He is accused of siphoning money from the proceeds of oil made while the country was under international sanctions.
Skerrit is alleged to have assisted Monfared and Iran in evading international sanctions by registering ageing oil tankers under the Dominica flag, which were then used to illicitly ship the embargoed oil. He also made Monfared a diplomat and issued him with a diplomatic passport. In addition Monfared set up two companies in Malaysia called My Dominica Trade House and Dominica 1, which were believed to have been instrumental in the success of evading the sanctions.
Other troubling appointments made by Skerrit, which protestors say have irredeemably tarnished the country’s image include former Nigerian oil minister Alison Mdueke, Francesco Corallo, Eric Torner and Ng Lap Seng.
Mdueke is awaiting a June 2017 trial in the United Kingdom, charged with the theft of as much as $3.2 billion from the Nigerian Treasury. UK authorities revealed that she was in the process of fleeing to Dominica when arrested on the request of the new Nigerian government. Just months before she was appointed by Skerrit as Dominica’s trade representative a position that was never revealed to the Dominican public.
Francesco Corallo was arrested in St Maarten on money laundering and other crimes and is expected to face charges in Italy. He was appointed by Skerrit as Dominica’s representative at the Food and Agriculture Organization, an appointment eventually denied by the Italian authorities.
For his part, Ng Lap Seng a Chinese billionaire is under house arrest in New York awaiting trial in May 2017 on money laundering and other charges. Seng like Monfared are close friends of Skerrit and the two men before their arrest were seen on several occasions being publicly entertained by him.
Questions are being raised as to the exact role of Skerrit in circumventing US-led sanctions against Iran and whether he is a subject of interest by US authorities given his affiliation with Monfared. Similar concerns are being raised concerning his relationship with Ng Lap Seng.
There are also deeply concerning revelations on the sale of diplomatic passports by the Dominica authorities, which was highlighted in a January 1, 2017 edition of US broadcaster CBS 60 Minutes. The show featured a high ranking employee of the US Homeland Security who revealed that the country’s passport program poses “a gaping hole to the world security infrastructure.”
Beyond the growing international focus on Dominica, protestors expressed their disgust of Skerrit’s handling of the Dominican economy, which has witnessed growing poverty levels and stymied economic growth. The government have also declared that they are unable to offer salary increases to public workers for the last three years because of falling revenues.
With the growing chorus for his resignation an embattled Skerrit have taken to the towns and villages in Dominica on an almost daily basis promising to make cash donations to individuals wanting to set up businesses and also to rebuild housing and other infrastructure. He has also struck an increasingly defiant note threatening at one point to remain in power “until my son Dimitry starts making children.”
Given his dismal failure in bringing relief to the thousands of poor people in Dominica combined with the threat posed to world security over the reckless supervision of the passport program, several protestors wondered aloud why Skerrit appears so intent on clinging to power.
Additional photos of the protest meetings