Volume No. 2 Issue No. 27 - Friday January 25, 2008|
Pierre Colaire Story and the Monument Project
By Hon Ron Green and Dr. Emanuel Finn
Historical notes from a London archive detail a vivid picture of how a people’s rebellion to prevent taxes by the British Colonial Government manifested itself in 1893 in a poor village located on the rugged windward coast of Dominica.
Sari and Alanna Finn at the Pierre Colaire Monument and site of the La Plaine Riots.
Because the area faced the constant trade winds, it came to be known as Au Vent and the people who resided there as ‘Gens Au Vent’.
Today that area is known as La Plaine. French explorers gave it the name ‘La Plaine' due to the wide area of unusually flat land on an otherwise steep island.
But it was also known by the Carib Indians as Koulirou, Sari-Sari and Toboui (Taberi) as they journeyed northwards in search of a homeland after British colonists displaced them from the fertile Geneva and Petit Savanne area settlements and other places.
In April 1893, the village of La Plaine was the scene of the land tax riots when heavily armed British marines and local police landed at Plaisance Bay in Laronde from the warship HMS Mohawk, and attempted to evict persons who had not paid their land tax.
Colonial Governor Hayes Smith decided to make an example of at least one individual in an attempt to quell the rising tide of dissent all over Dominica regarding the new tax.
In the remote southeastern community of La Plaine, community leader Mr. Pierre Colaire was chosen by Governor Smith to be the sacrificial lamb.
Colonial troops and local police evicted Colaire and his large family from their small wooden house in Case O’ Gowrie at the edge of Quanarie estate (now the Agricultural station) where the rolling hills meet Morne Governear.
They boarded and nailed shut the windows and doors of Colaire’s small house.
After the troops vacated the scene and retreated back to their barracks in Roseau, Colaire refused to be intimidated. He reentered his house ignoring the real threat of arrest and imprisonment.
When word of Colaire’s action reached the colonial authorities in the capital, Governor Smith decided to make an example of Colaire once and for all.
Smith deployed twenty five (25) Royal marines and nine (9) policemen under the Command of G.E Bailey of the Royal British Navy to Case O’ Gowrie.
This time they would take no prisoners nor listen to anyone. Upon entering the village, Bailey and his contingent went first to the local priest, ‘pere’ Couturier, at the Roman Catholic Presbytery to inquire about the whereabouts of Colaire.