Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dominican selected to lead U.S Virgin Islands Legislature

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Senator Louis P. Hill has been selected by his colleagues to serve as President of the 28th Legislature.
Hill, a four-term senator who hails from the Carib Territory in Dominica, was appointed via resolution to head the 15-member Legislative body which is tasked with establishing the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

senator hill
Senator P Hill from the Carib Territory is the highest ranking lawmaker in the US Virgin Islands.

The resolution appointing Hill as the new Senate leader came during a legislative session on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Hill, a Democrat, is part of a majority consisting of seven Democrats and one Independent.

In his first speech to the territory as Senate president, Hill expressed gratitude to all those who supported him and pledged to work with others to do the work of the 28th Legislature.

“I am truly honored and humbled that my colleagues have entrusted me in this role,” Hill said, following his selection. “I look forward to working with all Senators, whether they are in the Majority or Minority, to get the people’s work done.”

Hill was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and voters elected him for three other consecutive terms. He has served in the 25th, 26th, 27th legislatures and held the esteemed chairmanships of the Senate Committee on Finance and Senate Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection – two of the most prominent committees in the Legislature because it deals with the territory’s purse strings and pristine environment, respectively.

Prior to being elected to the 25th Legislature in 2002, Hill was chosen by U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Charles W. Turnbull to serve as the Administrator for St. Thomas and Water Island. He served four years in that position before resigning to run for elected office.

Unlike many who have failed on their first attempts at elected office, Hill easily won his seat and has consistently placed high in the number of votes counted on Election Day in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Dominica, Hill attended the Dominica Grammar School, graduating in 1978 as the Head Boy. He taught at the Grand Bay Grammar School for four years before migrating to the Virgin Islands in 1982. He later served seven years in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War, Desert Storm, and was awarded the Bronze Star.
senator hill
Senator P Hill with Virgin Island governor de Jongh.

He holds a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of the Virgin Islands and Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Maryland.

The Legislature is one of three co-equal branches of the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States, with its own powers delegated by the Revised Organic Act of 1954, passed by the U.S. Congress, which established the islands local government.

The other two branches are the Executive Branch, which is headed by the Governor and is responsible for administering the laws passed by the Legislature; and the Courts, usually called the Judiciary, which interprets the laws passed.

The Senators are elected representatives of the people and pass the laws for the people of the Virgin Islands, subject to the veto power of the Governor. These laws must not be in conflict with any federal rule or law, or in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

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The garbage bin scandal and governance in Dominica

By Jason Richards

The Bin-Bobol or Bin-Gate as the most recent scandal involving the Dominica government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is referred to is just the latest in a series of occurrences and actions that have the Dominican public asking just exactly what’s going on in their beloved country. See related
pm skeritt
Prime Minister Skerrit addresses reporters in Roseau.

Today, even as I sit to write this article I have the distinct impression that this just may be the ‘straw that breaks the camel back’. Even as the Prime Minister has been slow to respond with a credible explanation for the looting of more than half a million dollars from the government treasury, the Dominican people are increasingly beginning to voice their anger and irritation at a government that many are describing as having gone ‘rogue’.

Indeed, the latest scandal was so audacious in its execution that many believe that it may very well cost the government the next general elections constitutionally due in May 2010.

Like one of a large number of Dominicans, I eagerly embraced the new Prime Minister when he succeeded Pierre Charles in 2004, becoming the youngest leader in the world at the age of 31. There was a general feeling at the time that together with the people of Dominica the sky was the limit, and that we would quickly become a country envied by the rest of the Caribbean.

Now, more than five years under the stewardship of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit we could not be further from the admiration of the world. Quite to the contrary, Dominicans are getting better at hanging their heads as the breath and scope of the dealings of the administration becomes known.

It all appeared to have started well, with the Prime Minister moving quickly, to establish good relationships with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the Chinese regime. The later at the expense of Taiwan, which Dominica had faithfully supported for more than thirty years.

Ironically, the same decisions that appeared to open up a world of opportunities are proving to be the ones that may be the most damaging to the country’s survival and well being.

In 2004, Prime Minister Skerrit emerged from Beijing with a US $ 300 000 commitment from that country in assistance. It turned out that the ‘devil were in the details’. It did not start well. The government refused to release the details of the Memorandum of Understanding. Five years later, the visible evidence of the Chinese presence extends well beyond the gleaming new stadium in the heart of Roseau.

A flood of Chinese businesses have been established, displacing local businesses, and there is growing friction between the locals and the new arrivals. Unconfirmed reports also point to a deal being reached with the Chinese government for an undisclosed number of Dominican passports.

The evolving relationship with Venezuela is a bit more complex. President Chavez, flush with oil revenues, donated millions of dollars to the Skerrit administration. The funds were pledged to a ‘Housing Revolution’ that in the words of the Prime Minister “would transform Dominica.”

It however appears that this has created more problems than it has solved. Houses are being given, not on the basis of need, but to party supporters. In one of the more glaring examples of patronage, a young party supporter who has chosen not to work was given a brand new house over the countless numbers of struggling single parents.

The Venezuelan largesse also led to the popular “Red Clinics’ where the Prime Minister dutifully and personally donate hard dried cash, to party supporters on a weekly basis, from his government office. Many have criticized the government leadership for fostering an atmosphere of dependency and handouts rather than focusing on sustainable efforts that can be maintained into the future.

More troubling is the question of accountability. Why are these funds not channeled through the government treasury? Why are people handed cash by the Prime Minister? These are not the personal funds of the Prime Minister and one can only suppose that Hugo Chavez meant the money to go to helping develop the country.

Dominica’s closeness to Venezuela have created its own problems for the country. An incident in 2007 brought this into stark contrast. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), started tracking a suspicious vessel in international waters. It eventually worked its way into Dominican waters and the Coast Guard was informed.

The brave young men of the Dominica Coast Guard boldly intercepted the vessel, but not before crew members dropped several large packages overboard. When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel, they found more than a million dollars in cash.

The crew was arrested and taken to Roseau. To the astonishment of many, Lennox Lawrence, Dominica’s non resident ambassador to Venezuela, himself a local attorney, showed up to defend the accused in court.

Surprisingly, there was no outrage from most in Dominica and no protest from government that a senior member of its administration could represent in court, drug traffickers who were been brought before the courts by that same government.

Not surprisingly, the case went nowhere and within a few days the eleven Venezuelan nationals were given back their vessel and the money, and left Dominica without so much as a fine. The DEA was said to have been furious at what transpired in Roseau.

In February of 2009, authorities in Baltimore sentenced a man to 25 years in prison for using young women to transport cocaine and heroin from Dominica into the United States. British authorities also intercepted a young woman in London with cocaine coming from Dominica, and another was apprehended in Puerto Rico.

Dominicans are increasingly blaming Venezuela for the increasing incidence of hard drugs in the country and rising violence linked to those drugs. A report from the United States State Department in early 2009 explicitly linked close members of the Chavez regime to drug trafficking and implicated Dominica in that same report. See Related.

These episodes highlight the plight of a Police Force that by all reports is thoroughly demoralized. A Police Service Commission that is supposed to handle all matters of promotion has been systematically undermined. Promotions are usually at the behest of the political powers.

The complete breakdown is no more glaring than in the case of a particular individual who in 2004 was a lowly corporal. In just five years he has been catapulted to Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), a feat never before accomplished in the long and storied history of the force. His only qualification appears to be a very good relationship with the ruling party.

Local officers are furious and moral is at an all time low. This is a position that is just two levels below Commissioner. Many worry about the ‘Espirit de corps’ , the camaraderie that exist between officers who would lay down their lives for each other in time of adversity.
This has been replaced by suspicion and fear as officers now have to look over their shoulders concerned that they might be looked over for promotion if they don’t tow the party line.

And it does not stop there. At the height of the trade in human trafficking of mainly Haitians between Dominica and the Northern Caribbean between 2004 - 2006, some individuals linked closely to the party were said to be benefiting from the trade. In one well publicized occurrence, a police officer was shouted down in public for supposedly “interfering with the profitability of an operation”, and that for simply doing his job.

No wonder the policemen I spoke to are concerned about the direction of the country, the rising crime, and creeping indiscipline within the police force. However, thanks to the efforts of the United States Coast Guard and the St Maarteen authorities, the human trafficking problem has largely disappeared.

On a personal level, the first signs of trouble for the Prime Minister emerged with a sensational article in the Times entitled “5000 Dollar Salary Million Dollar Assets”. Penned by local journalist Matt Peltier, the article questioned how a Prime Minister making $5 000 a month could have acquired so many assets so quickly. The Prime Minister hit back by filing suit against the journalist claiming that the assets were gifts. The case is still within the court system.

As a direct result of the ensuing public outcry, it was determined that no taxes were paid on the properties. The Prime Minister explained it as a mistake by his lawyers and later paid the taxes to the Treasury. However, just five years into his leadership, many still question the former school teacher’s growing wealth.

Take the response to Hurricane Dean. The government of Dominica gave assistance purportedly to those who had suffered damage. In some cases two members of the same family received compensation for the same house and non farmers received checks for abandoned fields.

In one interesting case related to me, a supporter of the party said he refused to spend the money for many days after receiving it fearing that he was been set up because he knew that he did not have any property or land. Today, neighbors view each other with suspicion. The truly deserving of support sacrificed at the altar of party allegiance.

Then there is the well publicized appointment of ambassadors and diplomats of less than stellar repute, who pay for the privilege of the appointment. This is linked to the much maligned Economic Citizenship Program that is out of control and lack accountability. See related .

Therefore, at this stage, more than just a report is called for. The very fabric of society is being torn apart. The once vaunted and independent public service is a shadow of its former self. No where is that more evident than in the current Auditor General. The incumbent Clarence Christian calls local radio stations to openly support the ruling party. A disgrace when you consider that this office should be the one looking out for the public interest, and should be fiercely independent.

No wonder he was tapped by the Prime Minister to investigate the garbage bin scandal. And no wonder, this suggestion is dismissed by the public as a waste of time. But, with a demoralized police force lacking the will to take on the biggest theft in Dominican history it appears that the ultimate verdict will be rendered by the Dominican public.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is the Prime Minister serious about an investigation

By Michael Astaphan

Judging from some of the statements being made by the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) Spin doctors and persons who call themselves classical freedomites (to somehow sway true freedomites to support them and their selfish exploits with this corrupt and incompetent government) I say to them, I know that it is sometimes painful to face the truth of the leadership of this DLP Administration and I know you feel more comfortable basking in the bliss of self induced ignorance.

garbage bins bill
Government paid well over $277 per bin that could have cost $92 if imported through the local private sector.

This so called investigation into the bin saga has the assumption that a procedural standard has been breached. However, this government does not conduct its business according to the Procedural Standards established by General Orders etc. Senior Council did speak about these well established procedures when he headed Committee Good and Accountable Government.

This Skerrit led Administration has created a dilemma for civil servants, in particular Accounting Officers. So why is The PM and his spin doctors wasting time and resources pretending otherwise? This is no different to the civil servants preparing the cheques for the red clinic or monies being given to pal reps for their constituencies' projects or monies given to village councils or monies paid to persons who did not suffer damages from the passing of Hurricanes Dean and Omar.

Who are the accounting officers involved in these types of transactions. That type of management is the creature of this Labour Party Administration that is bent on breaching the procedures to protect tax payers; this type of abusive procurement practices will flourish whenever a nation and its people have dropped their guard down to an administration that flaunts accountability and good governance.

Why has the FS not taken actions? What about the AG? What are the roles of the AG and the FS here? Are they not the public officers who are being paid to be the guardians of the people to protect them from unscrupulous politicians.

It is too late to protect them now. They got away with the Susan Oldie and the Citizens for a better Dominica. The PM got away with defrauding government of its rightful taxes on land purchased. The vehicle donated and the list goes on and on!!!!

This investigation is an attempt to maneuver their way out of this and/or to DECLARE that another MISTAKE was made.

From what I have observed, this thing walks like a duct, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck without having to get money to buy a quart of paint to colour it to look like a duck.

I know for a fact that it is not a sisserou.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dominican surgeon launches new political party

A United States based surgeon has launched a new party called The Real Labour Party. Dr Sam Christian in a video published on the internet called on Dominicans to unite under the banner of Progress and Unity so as to bring positive change to Dominica.

Dr Christian lamented the direction that the ruling Labour Party has taken, accusing Prime Minister Skerrit of corrupt practices and amassing a large amount of personal wealth.

He also said that the Chinese were poised to gain even more control in Dominica, and showed a dramatic photo of an armed police officer holding an umbrella over a Chinese official as he talked on his cell phone.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prime Minister Skerrit calls for report on garbage bin scandal

By Jason Richards

Three days after the garbage bin scandal broke in Roseau Dominica, an embattled prime minister took to the airwaves to announce that he had instructed his Auditor General to compile a report because “there are questions to be raised and questions to be answered.”
baroness scotland
Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

Admittedly, the less than confident declaration left many to wonder exactly what strategy the prime minister was employing to deal with a widening scandal that appears to certainly threaten his administration.

Indeed, the payments to Andre Dopwell of close to US $300 000 for 2 700 baggage bins came directly from the prime minister’s office. The speed with which the payment was effected strengthens the belief that it had to have had the blessing of the prime minister who is also the minister of finance.

The invoice was received in the prime minister’s office on May 1, 2008. On May 9, 2008, the National Bank was wiring funds into the account of Andre Dopwell. Where was the system of checks and balances? Is there a system to safeguard the country’s meager resources?

The government bureaucracy is not known to work that efficiently so it is clear that the bureaucracy was bypassed. If the prime minister really does not know what transpired, then this should raise even more troubling questions.

The whole question of procurement of goods and services in government must be looked at. The people of Dominica will await the ‘report’ of the Auditor General. One hopes that this public servant has the courage to speak truth to power.

The fact that this level of transfers can be made without the goods been received or by a lone civil servant is troubling to say the least. Why has the Accountant General not drawn attention to this in the past? How many more of these transactions are yet to be discovered? Why is a bogus company doing business with the Dominica government? Will the police conduct a criminal investigation?

In the spirit of transparency, an independent auditor who is not beholden to the prime minister for his monthly salary should be given the task of giving a fair and balanced report to the Dominican people.

When a call was made to a taxi cab company occupying the address given on the invoice, the woman who answered the phone vehemently denied that there was anyone name Andre Dopwell at this address. She continued to maintain this position even after I pointed out to her that an internet listing showed Andre Dopwell as the owner of the company.

The report must be extended to find out just who is Andre Dopwell. Why is he operating under a fictitious company name? Why is he receiving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars? What is his relationship to the minister of Trade Dr Colin McIntyre? Is he a half brother of the minister? If so, then why are family members of government receiving no bid contracts to supply goods and then overcharging government?

In a situation where hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars have been frittered away, the Dominican people expect and demand no less.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dominica government and the EC$ 749 797 garbage bin fiasco

By Jason Richards

The government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is reeling from allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the purchase of 2 700 (Roughneck 32Gal Non-Wheeled) garbage bins.

At the center of the controversy is the payment by the Dominica government of EC $ 749 797.22 to Andre Dowel Sr. of Logistical Supply Solution, a Pennsylvania based supplier for the purported purchase of the bins.

garbage bins
Garbage bins like the one pictured were purchased by government for over US$100.

Following questions raised by the opposition United Workers party (UWP) in the country’s parliament, it was revealed that an invoice dated April 22, 2008 for the 2 700 bins at a cost of US $102.19 per bin was submitted to government.

On May 9, 2008 two separate payments totaling EC$ 749, 797.22 was made to Mr Dowel of Logistical Supply Solution. The whole affair came to light after government presented a supplementary budgetary appropriation to Parliament that included the payment of the bins.

The bins eventfully arrived in Dominica on September 24, 2008, and was finally cleared from the Customs on April 16, 2009 after government paid EC$112,400 in VAT payments.

The garbage bins were subsequently turned over to the Roseau City Council, which is headed by a high ranking member of the ruling Dominica Labour Party, Roseau mayor Cecil Joseph. Residents of Roseau were required to pay EC$30 for each bin.

Over the past week, talk radio was inundated with discussion on the issue, with many asking for an explanation from the prime minister.

At a news conference in Roseau earlier today, former prime minister Edison James called on prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit to explain to the Dominican people why his government paid US$102.19 for bins that can be purchased at a retail value of about US$ 15 in the United States.

He also called on government to explain its relationship with Andre Dowel Sr who just last year was paid well over EC$275 000 for the importation of fertilizers.

For its part, the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) through its leader Judith Pestaina in a tersely worded statement called on the prime minister to among other things “explain why was the request for such a large sum not tendered in keeping with the guidelines for transparency and probity in office.”

She also questioned why the funds were “paid in advance and kept for almost a year before the bins arrived in Dominica.” The DFP leader also questioned why the government was dealing with a company that is obviously not registered in the United States.

The prime minister has so far not responded to any of the questions raised by the opposition.

A preliminary query to the Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau revealed that no such company was listed with the state. The company address and name listed on a copy of the invoice provided to this writer was given as:

Logistical Supply Solution

67 Kings street

Pottstown, PA, 19464. E-mail to a friend

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Monday, May 25, 2009

DFP statement on garbage bins fiasco DBS board and good governance

By Judith Pestaina

The Dominica Freedom Party continues to be alarmed by the continuing absence of good governance in the Roosevelt Skerrit administration and even more so when in what seems to be a contradiction, the Honourable Loreen Bannis-Roberts stated that in keeping with good governance where statutory bodies are concerned, a new DBS board was soon to be appointed.

It is passing strange that the issue of good governance is being linked to the administration and management of statutory bodies when it is obvious that good governance is so blatantly absent in the affairs of this government.

The garbage bins fiasco is clearly another case in point. It is a matter on which the honourable prime minister and minister of finance, Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit managed to allow this fiasco to take place under his watch. The Dominican people need to know the following:

1. how can the government of Dominica engage in business with a non-registered company in such large amounts?

2. why was the request for such a large sum not tendered in keeping with the guidelines for transparency and probity in office?

3. why were the bins paid for almost one year in advance of their receipt and why were they paid from what seems to be a slush fund- was it the red clinic or the Wednesday casualty department?

4. why have the bins been transferred to the Roseau City Council to be sold at a price way below cost?

5. how was the relationship with Ande Dopwell established and who is his local contact?

6. why were the funds paid in advance and kept for more than a year before the bins arrived in Dominica?

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The words actions and behaviors of a politician

By Dr Emanuel Finn

The man who occupies the office of the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said that Ms. Judith Pestina, owner of the Garraway Hotel and leader of the Dominica Freedom Party cannot afford to buy paint to paint her hotel. Does the PM realize that he is the leader of a country and not the chairman of a small village council and such pronouncements only create more doubt in his abilities as a leader?
pm skerrit
Prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Because of the stature of his office, he needs to conduct himself accordingly with dignity, sensitivity, respect and thoughtfulness. While I am not making the mistake of comparing Mr. Skerrit with President Obama, maybe he can strive to take a hard look at the U.S. President’s style and learn a thing or two if he cares to or if it is important or of any concern to him.

Mr. Skerrit’s words and actions reverberate and have far outreaching meanings and echoes well beyond his political base’. Obviously the PM has enough money to paint the whole country in three coats of ‘red’ and there for maybe lacks sensitivity to anyone who does not pain their buildings, especially if it does not have shades of red.

But where is all that money coming from and does the PM has any plans to declare his assets? Some say why would he? They did not give valid reasons. Does anyone have any suggestions as to why he won’t declare his assets?

This statement by the PM generated anger and frustration among Dominicans at home and abroad. An internet site stating that ‘Mr. Skerrit did not represent himself as a leader and he showed that he knows little about business and how to run a country.

The comment went on to say that he did not have any permission to talk about any business ventures when he has never owned and/or operated any business – not even a road side vegetable stand.’

Another comment was ‘ when you are getting grants only and you don’t have either any long term and/or short term strategic sustainability plans for your country, coupled with inexperience and arrogance, statements and behaviors such as the one exhibited by this man are inevitable. Another blogger chimed in –‘You ain’t see nothing yet boss man.'

One must therefore ask the questions: Is he so confident that he can say anything he likes when he feels like without repercussions? Does this man has anybody advising him, or does he or can he accept any advice from anyone? Is he left to ‘dry’ by himself? This is a sure text book formula for political and self destruction sooner rather than later.

This writer thinks that no matter how hard, loud and emotional politics may be- and it is a contact sport and not for the faint of heart- the office of the PM deserves more respect, sensitivity and honor.

If the person occupying that office is unable or willing to respect it, then how in the world can that person and his supporters expect him to be respected? If Skerrit is as wise and confident as he claims, then he should do the noble thing and apologize to Ms. Pestina and all the small businesses in Dominica who are trying to stay afloat during this global economic crisis and keep Dominicans employed.

Well when one is getting easy money from elsewhere what do you expect? The worsening economic situation in the world means that our people are losing their jobs every day. What does mean for the barrel economy that helps sustain our folks in Dominica? Not of all of them can or want hand outs from Mr. Skerrit and his Red Clinic Political Machine.

Maybe someone on DBS, the Heng show or the Labour party leadership (if one still exists) should counsel the PM. He should be told that he ought to conduct himself as the first servant with humility instead of as the Magnificent Lord and Master of the land. I don’t think ‘you all’ will be overstepping your boundary if you tell him. That is what ultimate love, support and respect for your ‘dear’ leader means- honesty and truthfulness.

That is what all effective, progressive and respected leaders need and ask for. Their greatest single source of ideas on what they should do or how they should conduct themselves is by seeking and listening to the well meaning advice of their most thoughtful and faithful supporters in their own unique and unscripted ways.

Well maybe I should just tell him because ‘you all’ are afraid (‘so me hear boy”). ‘Mr. PM with all due respect Sir-you are making a mockery of the PM’s office and our country by your seemingly juvenile and arrogant behavior. Your actions are very unbecoming of a leader who deserves any respect and one that should be taken and/or treated seriously.

Instead they make you look like a myopic school yard bully who only wants to argue, disrespect and insult others who don’t support you, your styles and positions. You need to be mindful of these facts and cease immediately because they make all of us who care and love Dominica and its people appear backward, shameful, antiquated, unenlighted and out of step with reality and current world issues.

Finally Sir, that is not leadership and Dominica deserves much better from the person all its people (regardless of party stripes and colours) and constitution recognize as Prime Minister.

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Dominica's PM's address to Tobago insurance company

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in positions of leadership, there are always so-called ‘hot potato issues’ that one is well advised to leave alone, as there are normally competing perspectives from which only one position can be taken.

The chosen theme of “Political Account, Caribbean Matters” is a prime candidate for such ‘hot potato’ status, wherein I am aware of the possibility of leaving this forum with a couple new friends in this room and around the region, and more so, the likelihood of leaving this forum with less admirers and well wishers than when I came.

The subject matter is, however, of such importance to me as an individual and as a leader of my people that I am prepared to take that risk, even without insurance cover from the organisers of this event.

The political tactician might have taken the high road by seeking to define in great detail each and all of the words contained in the theme. Maybe, that would be the most academically correct thing to do. But while I could proffer an interpretation and remain in orbit away from the central issues of interest to you as practitioners and to the Caribbean public as a whole, I consider this a most useful and timely opportunity to get to the heart of the matter by zeroing in on the conduct of the business of financial services at this time and how in this Caribbean region, the political system has an umbilical connection.

Ladies and Gentlemen, recently we have seen, heard and felt the impact of inadequate regulation of the financial sector.

None of us could have imagined or envisaged the events that have unfolded over the last six months. We followed the news on our televisions and saw the demise of great banks and financial institutions in major financial centres around the globe. Many of our people did not think for a moment that the Caribbean region would be affected.

Some saw the value of real property in the United States of America plummet, and some may have determined that since we had no houses and apartments in the US, they would not have been affected.

What they did not realise was that the economic and financial sectors of the region are closely related to and intertwined with those of the rest of the world. As we have done in so many ways, we have moved beyond our borders and are as much a part of the world as any other large developed country.

In such circumstances, we were to ensure that we had in place the requisite checks and balances so that, as we became exposed to the world that we had also put in place the necessary protection and safeguards. Hence my focus in this address is on the need to strengthen the protection and regulation of the financial sector and in particular the insurance sector in our region.

Insurance, in our parts, is not an end in itself. Our ability to obtain a mortgage is sometimes determined by our ability to secure a life insurance policy. Our ability to drive on the streets of our cities and villages depends on our ability to obtain suitable insurance, if not for ourselves, for other users of our roads.

In an era where the cost of medical services is high, many of us would have no access to those services in the absence of health insurance. Clearly, ladies and gentlemen, insurance products are an integral part of the financial landscape. In fact, we would do well, to identify new products that meet the needs of our people.

The challenges we have faced arose not because insurances are not useful, or because there is little participation, or because policy holders are delinquent. It is my view that these challenges have arisen from inadequate supervision and in some instances the need for greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of the business. And so, failure to regulate that sub sector adequately could very well affect our entire financial system.

By the same token, there is the tendency by some to grudge the insurance industry for what may appear to be or what are proffered by the insurance companies themselves as huge profits, amassed during periods of limited claims. I see this not as something to be denounced but as providing the opportunity to build up adequate shelter for a rainy day.

The very nature of your business demands that you set aside in times of plenty for the period of scarcity when great demands are made on your limited resources. In this manner, I personally have a difficulty with the taxing structure, whereby you are penalised by the financial system for stockpiling that which you need to stockpile in order to honour inevitable claims and commitments down the road.

As one of several voices around the summit table of CARICOM, I would certainly support a proposal that advanced an argument in support of the need for less taxes and other financial impositions on your industry, provided there is a guarantee of said savings going towards a secured and accessible fund for use in times of calamity when demands attributable to economic shock threaten your very existence and continued viability.

Perhaps that proposal could be one of the outcomes of your deliberations, or certainly, the process could begin here in Tobago and be carried forward elsewhere. I am a pragmatist. If the region wants you to step up to the plate and perform better in times of crisis, then the said region may have to leave you with more of your net earnings so as to trigger and enable that heightened role and responsibility.

Now, there is the view by some, especially in your industry, that strong supervision is tantamount to control.
I disagree! I go further to say that supervision of activities which have such a direct impact on the quality of life of our people is an absolute necessity.

It is not satisfactory that when the average citizen of our region invests in a life policy, that all of his or her contributions may be put at risk because we have not made sufficient effort to ensure that their investment is safe.

By the same token, it is not satisfactory, that we do not provide sufficient information to our people so that they can understand the products and services that they are being offered. It is also not satisfactory that we do not require adequate reserves to ensure that compensation can be paid when the need arises.

I continue further. It is not satisfactory, that service providers are not made accountable for the quality of the services they provide. It cannot be accepted that a variety of services which bear no resemblance to insurance services are offered under the guise of insurance products.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our governments ought to exercise their minds on the policies which they must adopt to give our people confidence that when investments are made in insurance products, on the one hand these are in fact insurance products and on the other that these investments are safe.

The inter-related nature of the financial sector in the Caribbean requires that there is some level of consistency between and compatibility of our legislative framework. Our standards and best practices should be equivalent, if not the same.

In other words, we must ensure that all citizens are protected regardless of who they are or where their insurance policies were issued. The countries of the region should not and cannot operate in one financial space and have rules, regulations and standards that are limited to geographical space of one or a few territories.

Furthermore, it should not be that our regulatory framework is so fragmented or different that it allows stakeholders and participants in the sector to take advantage of the loopholes, to the detriment of our people and institutions.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, issues such as these make a strong case for regional integration. It is on this point that the political involvement becomes important.

As a region we must move ahead in our efforts at integration and meaningful cooperation. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the truth is that our businesses, our financial and economic activities are cross border. We have to ensure that all our systems, including our regulatory systems, follow the same cue.

I must commend regional governments and institutions for approaching and attempting to resolve ongoing insurance sector challenges as a regional issue. I have no doubt that such efforts are much more beneficial to the people of the region than if we had tried to resolve such matters at the individual country level. I dare say, it may not even be possible to do so at the individual country level.

Going forward we must ensure that we provide the framework for minimising the probability of recurrence and in the event of such unfortunate circumstances repeating themselves, that challenges are resolved in a prompt and efficient manner, due to the presence of clearly defined procedures for so doing.

Our challenge as Caribbean people is to see beyond these events; to use the shortcomings of the past to build a stronger future. I have no doubt that our successes will be greater if we seek to resolve these challenges together.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for the opportunity to address this forum. I wish you God’s Guidance and success in your deliberations over the next few days.

I thank you.

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The Dr sam Christian I Know Part II

By Dr Emanuel Finn

When I entered DGS in 1972 we were told to look up to the boys in 6th form for guidance and leadership. One of these senior classmen was a well spoken and friendly guy named Samuel Christian who hailed from Didier lane.

dr sam christian
Dr Sam Christian.

His parents, retired fire man Wendell Christian and Alberta Christian who retired as a mental health nurse at St Luke's Hospital, raised their four sons and three daughters with the understanding that hard work, respect education and faith in God and love of the land of their birth are the foundation and fundamentals of their home.

After DGS Sam taught at Wesley High school where he was sensitized to the fact sustainable development in our society would have to include women playing key and vital roles in leadership positions. At about the same time he was the elected president of the united student Council and then Secretary General of the National Youth Council and co-hosted the youth program Motion on DBS.

Sam headed to Shorter College in Rome, Georgia with the help of southern Baptist lay missionaries. He worked his way through college graduating with honors in Chemistry and completing the 4 year program studies in 3 years. At Shorter he was the president of the International Student Organization and founded/captained/coach of the soccer program.

In 1981 Sam started Medical School at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC. In 1982 I found myself in Washington DC on a college campus lonely but with an enthusiasm to acquire more knowledge but with little money and not knowing if any or where my countrymen and compatriots reside in this complex and sophisticated metropolis.

While listening to a radio station, a familiar voice came on asking Dominicans to call a telephone number and that Sam Christian is looking for Dominicans to start a Dominica Association of Washington DC Metro Area.

Sam got ulcers trying to stretch his money, eating fish heads with 'Kool Aid' and crackers. When his younger brother Gabriel (now a highly successful Maryland attorney) joined him he still did not have a working refrigerator and had to leave their perishables in the snow outside the back door.

While in college in DC we were all broke and times were hard for us in the big city. With a rugged determination to succeed we preserved. In spite of these conditions we shared the joys and sorrows of working hard to achieve something in life. Sam would like to see that kind of work ethic and reward revived in Dominica.

I will forever be indebted to Sam for his unwavering emotional and financial support he gave me during my trying undergraduate college days in the middle of the winter when funds were low and sprits and energies were down during my freshman year.

Sam gave me his room (at no charge) when my housing situation became desperate in the middle of winter. During these rough times we always talked about the fact that education is about transcendence especially for poor people’s children and one day we all will be back in Dominica making a meaningful contribution to our country. We always viewed the big city and higher education as duty.

Today life is very different for us as we enjoy our families and successful careers in the big city. In spite of this fact, our thoughts, hopes and prayers are forever with our island home and we feel the pain of our people. Our allegiance is and has always been to Dominica and not to other country, party or posse or crew.

Dr. Sam got married to Dr. June Henry a nutritionist he met while at Howard on the same day he graduated from medical school in 1984. June’s first trip outside of her native Guyana as a teenager was to Dominica. The cultural singing group the Sifleur Montagne Choral sang at her home during the Carifesta celebrations in Georgetown in 1970. The couple has two sons, Kwame, at the Ohio State University and Kobie in High school.

Dr. Sam received his training in surgery in New Jersey and at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He and June then retreated to Ohio to start his career in General surgery, raise their sons and repay his student debts before returning to Dominica.

Dr. Sam has performed numerous weight loss surgery procedures in the U.S. He shifted into the area of helping patients shrink their own overstretched stomachs by controlling their eating. Because of June's background in nutrition, he is also very interested in primary care, and lifestyle management of common diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and their systemic effects on life and well being..

One of his patients lost an incredible 1000 pounds without surgery and was featured on the Discovery TV Channel seen all over the world. He remains, to this day, the only known patient to have lost so much weight, naturally, and survived.

Dr. Sam wrote the faith and fitness book Mannafast Miracle based on his professional experiences both in Dominica and the United States. Through numerous radio and television appearances, Dr. Sam promotes personal responsibility for one's condition and the notion that people are much more capable of change if we provide the right guidance and nurturance.

Despite Dr. Sam’s personal and professional successes, his ’home’ will always be in Didier lane where it all began. Today life is very different for him and a very far cry from those Washington days as a medical student. In spite of this fact, he remains a very humble, proud, centered and a true patriot with an unbinding and uncompromising love for his country. This is the Dr. Sam Christian I know.

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When our government has failed us it is time for the people to ask what part we played in the failure of the government

By Emelda Morgan

When our government has failed us it is time for the people to ask what part we played in the failure of the government. And how should we hold our government accountable?

The prime duties of government are, first, to protect the national territory; secondly, to preserve peace within its boundaries; and thirdly to ensure that every family unit of the nation has space in the nation's territory for a home and a means of livelihood, but there are also secondary ones, and others that would depend on the personal ethics of individuals.

There is a lot of debate going on in our country about our present government having failed us, and the reason for this debate is multiple. The allegations of corruption are rampant, the fear that Chinese will not very long from now be the majority population on our small island, the unproductive dependency culture that is now being perpetuated among our people, the lack of real sustainable development, problems with crime and rule of law, the unemployment statistics, the division among our people, just to name a few of the burning issues.

I want to make this fundamentally clear; our government isn’t causing our country to fail. That’s an illusion. It’s the people. We are the reason Dominica is falling. We can’t have a quality democracy if we fail to participate FULLY in it. Not only is it our right, but it is our sacred duty. Mahatma Gandhi said it so eloquently “The true source of right is duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they will escape us like will-o-the-wist, the more we pursue them, the farther they will fly.”

The civic and personal duties of Dominicans should transcend the physical boundaries of Dominica our beloved homeland. Nationhood my people is what it’s citizens are. What are we? What have we done as part owners of our government to ensure that it is accountable to us, and do our wishes? How do we see ourselves? How do we see our nation? Our beloved Dominica!

My Dominican people, for those of us who call ourselves Dominican patriots, I have this to say to you; a true patriot will defend his country and the honor of his people against any government at any time.

A true patriot takes his duties as a citizen seriously; for those of us who are not too sure about what those duties are, please permit me to give you an idea of what I think the fundamental duties are:

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of Dominica“
(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of Dominica;

(d) to defend the country against all forces and influences and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of Dominica transcending religious, regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of every man, woman and child;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;

(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavor and achievement.”

(k)To embrace and safeguard our sovereignty and independence;

(l)to ensure that our natural resources remain in the hands of our natural citizens; and

(m) To pas on to our children the importance of the dignity of work and self sufficiency.

Our nation is now at a time and place were we all Dominicans at home and abroad should take those duties very seriously. And to ensure that those in Government take theirs seriously also, and if they don’t, it is our duty to hold them accountable.

There are some among us who claim have all the answers for every one of us; they question our patriotism, and try to disparage every one of us who seek to perform our duty as true Dominican citizens who are genuinely concerned about our nation.

No place too low for them to go in their attempt to do so; be so warned that we have to be aware of the so called intellectuals who as Mark Lilla described them in The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics “they consider themselves to be independent minds, when the truth is that they are a herd driven by their inner demons and thirsty for the approval of a fickle public.”

They incite passion rather than thought; they divide in order to rule. It’s not education that they give, it is not philosophy; it is hubris. Be aware my Dominican people, be aware. And perform your duties as citizens of our beloved Dominica.

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Reflections on Eugenia Charles - The Eugenia I knew

By Ambassador Dudley Thompson QC - Flight Lieutenant RAF WW II

Memory takes me away, back to the end of the 1940’s while I was studying at Oxford as Jamaica’s Rhodes Scholar. One of the many memorable persons studying with me at the time was the Mary Eugenia Charles of Dominica.

She was among many distinguished students in London at the time some of whom became heads of government later. These included such names as Forbes Burnham, Allan Rae, and Michael Manley I was President of the Union and formed a close relationship with the West African Union WASU under Joe Appiah. She took an active part in the West Indian Students Union WISU.
eugenia charles
Eugenia Charles served as Dominica's Prime Minister from 1980 - 1995.

I recall her tall, impressive figure full of vitality and ideas. Even then she had clear visions of her island home, Dominica. I recall overhearing vividly heated conversations between herself and the late Errol (Dipper) Barrow, another RAF veteran who as Prime Minister of Barbados established himself as probably the leading Caribbean politician of his generation.

Their opinions differed markedly in politics. One belief however they shared in common, was that such leading politicians like Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad, Norman W. Manley, Q.C. of Jamaica (my early mentor) all set the tone of political integrity of the highest order.

They behaved in open, honest transparency and earned the respect they deserved from the people they served. Their hands were clean. I regret that, since then, many of our leaders have deteriorated severely in this respect.

I recall on one of my early visits to Dominica, Eugenia introducing me to the delicacy of frog’s legs and local cuisine. We did not complete visiting the 365 rivers of her country that she boasted of.

Eugenia did impress me with her determination to maintain Dominica’s habitat and natural beauty. She was resolute against interfering with Dominica’s pristine beauty.

Later, we differed over Grenada’s revolution and [its leader] Maurice Bishop. As leader of the rump Parliament of the West Indies Federation, Eugenia supported the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

I regard our failure to consolidate the West Indies Federation as one of the great setbacks, indeed a tragedy, in Caribbean history. Our leaders neither prepared the people for it nor shared the same visions of its advantages. I am however optimistic that we will, some day, step to the same drum beat in the march of history.

I represented her as counsel both for her and also later her father in the island’s Court of law. He [John Baptiste “JB” Charles] was a remarkable man who traveled the world in his 90’s.

Eugenia, my friend, certainly carved her own niche on the pantheon of Caribbean History.

(In tribute to the British West Indian veterans who served in World War II and as a prelude to the event Caribbean Glory set for June 19, 2009, The Dominican will be carrying several articles by the veterans and others of the Caribbean generation who went through World War II and transformed the British West Indies from colonial states to free associates of the British Commonwealth of nations).

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Britain’s Attorney General to Speak at Event Honoring Veterans from the Caribbean who Fought During the Two World Wars

By Thomson Fontaine

The Rt Hon Baroness Patricia Scotland of Ashtal, QC, Attorney General of England will be the keynote speaker at an event honoring the many Caribbean veterans who fought for Great Britain during the two world wars.

The event dubbed Caribbean Glory is the brainchild of Dominicans Gabriel Christian and Judge Irving Andre who just last year published For King and Country; a book detailing the sacrifice, courage and dedication of the many fighting men from the Caribbean who took up arms to help defeat Nazi Germany.
baroness scotland
Dominica born UK Attorney General Baroness Scotland.

Undaunted by racial and other stereotyping, the grandsons and great grandsons of former slaves eagerly signed up alongside their colonial masters to wage war. They fought bravely and with dignity in the British Armed Forces thus helping assure victory in the battle against fascism in both world wars.

The event will be held at Andrews Air Force Base Officers Club on June 19, 2009, just outside of Washington D.C. It will be under the auspices of Trinidad & Tobago's Ambassador to the US and the OAS, HE Glenda Morean Phillip, and will pay tribute to the many Caribbean heroes of that campaign.

Many of the RAF veterans returned to the Caribbean and gave much to our societies by their civic leadership; they include: Dominican scholar, journalist and politician Edward Scobie, Jamaica's Michael Manley, Barbados Errol Barrow, St. Vincent's Milton Cato, among others.
Cy Grant
Grant was shot down over Holland and survived a Gestapo prison camp.

A few of the surviving members of this brave campaign will be present at the event. Already well into their late eighties and early nineties, Ulric Cross and Dudley Thompson of the Royal Air force, and Wendell Christian and Twistleton Bertrand of the British Army will represent the men of the greatest generation that ever lived. Former three star general of the United States army and Undersecretary of Defense for Education Policy, Lt General Samuel Ebessen (Ret), who was born on St. Croix, has also promised to be there.

Ulric Cross, was the only black in his squadron, rising through the ranks to become its leader. He would lead his squadron over the skies of Europe and was honored at Buckingham Palace by King George VI with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), and later given command over the demobilization of all colonial forces. He would become a judge, and serve as former High Commissioner to the UK, and ambassador to France and Germany.

Dudley Thompson, Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate flew over Europe to defeat fascism and famously defended and freed former Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta from jail. He would serve for many years in the Jamaica parliament
Dudley Thompson
Dudley Thompson flew sorties over Europe and later became a leading lawyer.

The daring and heroic story of Cy Grant is one that must be told. Shot down over Holland, interrogated by the dreaded Gestapo, this son of Guyana was able to survive prisoner of war camp and was liberated by the advancing Red Army in 1945.

When caught, the unbelieving Germans took a look at his dark complexion and publicized his photo in a national Nazi paper with the caption: “A Captured RAF Officer of Indeterminable Race.” Later, a lawyer and brilliant actor, Grant was the first person of color to have a show on BBC. He acted alongside notables of the stage such as Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton.

Although, he will not be present at the ceremony, Grant will be honored for his outstanding service during the war.

Wendell Christian and Twistleton Bertrand, both from Dominica served with the Caribbean forces and later took leading roles in their country’s fire and defense forces.

For her part, Hon Baroness Scotland who was born in Dominica became the United Kingdom’s first black female Queens Counsel (QC) at the age of thirty-five. She later became a judge and served on the British Privy Council – the country’s highest court of appeals.

Baroness Scotland is into her fourth term in British politics having served in former prime minister Tony Blair’s foreign and home offices, and was elevated to the top legal position in her country with the ruling Gordon Brown administration.

A fifteen minute film - West Indies Calling - unearthed from deep within the archives of the Imperial War Museum will also form part of the event. The film features West Indians in London at the height of the war (1943) speaking of their experiences and contribution for the freedom campaign then underway.

It is considered to be the oldest film with West Indian notables that anyone in our generation will have seen. The famous Lord Learie Constantine is featured in that film alongside the British West Indians.

Also of note at the event will be a preview of the documentary Caribbean Glory! - The story of the British West Indian Military. The event is open to all interested parties for a small $100.00 contribution.

Collaborators for this event include: the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences,www.caribbeanaircrew-ww2,, The Institute of Caribbean Studies, Godfrey De La Rosa’s Under the Coconut Tree Restaurant, CariBeat Events and the West Indian American Military Members Association.

Further information can be obtained by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or calling the law firm of Gabriel J. Christian and Associates, LLC at 301 218-9400 to pay by credit card.CLICK HERE FOR INVITATION.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Research symposia carded for Ross University in Dominica

Ross University School of Medicine will sponsor two research symposia to take place on May 22 and 23. The symposium on Friday, May 22 will focus on the activities of the Atlantis Mobile Laboratory that will be in Dominica for the next six months.

Currently, The Atlantis Mobile Laboratory is located on the campus of Ross University School of Medicine in the Portsmouth area. This mobile laboratory offers state-of-the art methodologies directed to environmental chemical contaminants, as well as identification of infectious diseases.

Physicians and health-care workers are encouraged to visit the Atlantis Mobile Laboratory to view some of the current approaches that address the challenges facing public health officials in developing countries. Three scientists from the Atlantis Mobile Laboratory will present talks on Friday that provide an overview of the capabilities of the special laboratory.

The topic of the symposium on Saturday, May 23 is obesity. Three internationally recognized experts will present talks that address basic and clinical research underway to investigate the causes and possible solutions to the ever-expanding obesity problem.

The increased incidence of obesity and associated medical problems such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension has gathered much attention in developed countries in Western Europe and the United States.

With the recent conduct of a survey in Dominica that assessed the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, it has become apparent that Dominica may be on the verge of becoming a part of the obesity epidemic.

Scientific talks will be presented at Classroom 4 on the Ross University School of Medicine campus on both Friday and Saturday from 8AM to 12 noon. Individuals interested in either symposium topic are encouraged to attend. Dr. Marc Bergeron (767 255 6456 and David Averill (767 255 6330) may be contacted for further information on the Atlantis Mobile Laboratory and the obesity symposium, respectively.

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Cuba and Dominica agrees on new areas of cooperation

By Sean Douglas

Ten Dominicans who have graduated in medicine from Cuban universities will be able to specialise in a variety of areas at Cuban Universities from September this year.

This information came out of the Sixth Dominica-Cuba Joint Commission which took place in Havana, Cuba on May 4 and 5, 2009. The Fifth Dominica-Cuba Joint Commission Meeting took place in 2007 in Cuba.

vince henderson
Foreign affairs minister Vince Henderson.
Addressing the media at a news conference on the outcome of the Meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Labour, Hon. Vince Henderson said that the areas of specialisation will include general surgery, oncology, intensive care medicine, urology, cardiology and psychiatry among others.

It was also agreed that the Cuban specialists and technicians who are in Dominica managing the Intensive Care Unit and the Diagnostic Centre, will provide training to Dominican medical personnel with the possibility of continuing their training in Cuba if necessary.

Through collaboration with the Dominica State College, the Cuban specialists will be able to run special training programmes for Dominican doctors, nurses, lab technicians and other medical personnel.

It is hoped that one day Dominicans will be able to manage the ICU and the Diagnostic Centre by themselves. The Minister added that also coming out of the 6th Dominica-Cuba Joint Commission Meeting will be the expansion of the health care education programme.

The intention is to move “from strictly nursing education to expanding the programme to health care education where persons will be trained in areas of specialisation not only in nursing but in other areas such as dental assistants, lab technicians and other areas of health care” so as to take fuller advantage of the numerous Cuban medical professionals who are working in Dominica.

In the field of agriculture, agreement was reached for the assistance of the Cuban Government to help Dominica rehabilitate its citrus industry which has been blighted by the citrus tristeza virus in recent years. Technical assistance will also be provided for the agro-processing sector.

Hon. Henderson added that the Dominica government will work with the Cubans in the areas of education, culture, agriculture and agro-processing in the development of programmes to be funded under the Bolvarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

Also agreed at the Sixth Dominica-Cuba Joint Commission was the launching of a programme to teach English as a second language for the many Cubans working in Dominica at various medical facilities throughout the island. It is also anticipated that Cubans visiting Dominica will also be able to take advantage of the programme.

The programme will be administered by the Dominica State College.
Since 2006, in collaboration with the Dominica State College, Cuban medical professionals have been providing training for Dominicans to become nurses.

Currently there are thirty-six (36) Cuban medical personnel on island providing critical support at the Intensive Care Unit at the Princess Margaret Hospital, the fully equipped Diagnostic Centre in Portsmouth and the Miracle Eye Care programme.

Hon. Henderson also revealed that a team of Cuban technicians will provide assistance to Dominica in the Government’s quest to build an international airport in Dominica.

Mr. Henderson’s remarks comes only months after Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit and Energy and Ports Minister Hon. Charles Savarin confirmed the establishment of a broad-based committee headed by Permanent Secretary, Mr. Vincent Philbert to coordinate the efforts towards the construction of the international airport.

The Dominican delegation used the opportunity to express its profound gratitude and appreciation to the Cuban Government for the tremendous contribution it has made to Dominica over the last thirty years.

Three hundred and twenty-four Dominicans have graduated from Cuban Universities over the last three decades. One hundred and two Dominican students are currently pursuing studies in Cuba, with another eight expected to leave Dominica to pursue undergraduate degrees in September, 2009.

Other members of the delegation for the Sixth Dominica-Cuba Joint Commission were Hon. Ian Pinard, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Hon. Urban Baron, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructural Development and Mr. Hubert Charles, President of the Dominica State College.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

When government fears the people

By Emelda Morgan

“When Government fears the people, it is liberty, when the people fear the Government, it is tyranny”. Thomas Jefferson

I write this column anonymously because I fear the Government, not for myself, but for my family and friends. They want to talk, but they are afraid to talk, and even if I reveal myself as the one who talks for them, I fear the consequences my talking will have for them. So, I remain anonymous.

First, I say to my Dominica people, there will be a time when you will fear no more, if only we take the necessary actions that will lead us to that time now! So listen up my Dominican people. The people who you look up to are not serving you well, it is now time to reflect, think, act, search your soul, and engage your mind. Harness your power!

I have been following what is going on in my beloved country very closely. Those who observe closely need not be a Sigmund Freud or a Rousseau to conclude that most of us have refrained from reality and analytical thinking and opted to give more credence to eloquence and celebrity, and those educated men,--who no doubt have betrayed us--, than we give to reason and truth.

We have been bamboozled and continue to be bamboozled everyday, by those in whom we put our trust. Dr. Henry David Thoreau once asked the citizens of America in Civil Dis-obedience “Do we have to always resign our conscience to the legislators?” I ask it again of my people. Why did God give us a conscience then? Not to be surrendered to the service of unscrupulous men I am sure.

The importance of truth and the faithfulness to conscience have become almost obsolete. It is now only what is politically expedient and not what is constitutionally or democratically faithful that matters.

It is impossible for anyone who is paying close attention not to notice or even absorb the profound irony that surrounds us; what is even more frightening is what lays beneath the irony- The vilification of those who seek the truth and demand it. That has always worked effectively for those who seek power or those who seek to maintain power. The time has come to deny them the use of this technique.

Those of us who are brave enough to be ruled by the laws of our conscience, to stand for truth and justice, and patriotic enough to dissent and make our voices heard are branded as pariahs, we are accused of being divisive, partisan, and vitriolic. By asking legitimate questions, that we have every right and responsibility to ask as citizens we are branded as trouble makers, and are condemned as threats to national security? That we threaten the stability and image of our country we all love so dearly?

It is a colossal mistake to think that those who fight for the cause of truth, justice, democracy, and people’s empowerment will be intimidated or coerced into silence. In time the vigilante and virtuous shall be victorious, the pariahs will become the prophets, and the truth will set us free.

It always ends up that way! There are many examples to show, Mandela in apartheid South Africa Martin Luther King in racist America, and Gandhi in India, to name just a few.

Now our country is in a time of crisis, we need men and women of conscience more than we ever needed them. Men who will opt for the laws of conscience instead of the laws of man; men who stand for justice, equality, right, and truth. Where will these men come from?

The best thing any one, especially the educated among us can do for our country Dominica is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which we entertained when we were poor, to stand with the poor and un-educated in times of national crisis. Help them to hold the government accountable, because after all the government works for them.

The people have every right and responsibility to demand good performance and honesty in the people they employ-elect to conduct their business, and when the government fails in what is required of them. The people must hold them accountable. My people let’s not be afraid to unite as one people and fight to save Dominica for Dominicans for the sake of the next generation.

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The Dr. Sam I know

By Dr Emanuel Finn

In spite of being far away in the quiet American Midwest, Surgeon, Dr. Samuel Christian always kept working for our homeland. He would later use his connections to arrange and participate on the first sister-brother kidney transplant on Dominicans. He had the privilege of performing the first laparoscopic gallbladder surgery at PMH with Dr. Paul. Dr. Christian raised support to send relief back home after disasters.
dr sam
Dr Sam Christian leads a group of protesters at a prayer march around government buildings.

As Chair of the Health Committee of the DAAS, he helped arrange shipment of medical supplies after the Central Medical Stores burnt down. Years of quiet support for each new elected government in Dominica had to be replaced by direct action after learning of the crisis of Chinese penetration through the Las Vegas/Ambassadorship scandal revealed in BVI court documents.

Dr. Sam finds certain trends in the country quite disturbing: the inability of government to curb the rampant replacement of local business by the foreigners; the fear of victimization that exists and extends to the average non-government worker who does not want to risk a possible scholarship for their children; high officials flaunting unaccounted for cash-paid properties, the undermining of traditional civil service processes through Red Clinic handouts.

Dr. Sam applauds the brave journalists and citizens who keep up the good fight in the media and online. Now only grassroots organizing can overcome the government’s war-chest of seemingly limitless China/Venezuela funding.

Religious folks have traditionally avoided matters of nation-building in Dominica. However, he perceives that as knowledge increases, that is changing and the church will make an unprecedented difference this time around. He himself had struggled with warnings by certain friends and family not to expose himself to dirty politics.

In the end, he and his determined group of patriots forged ahead with a prayer vigil 6:00 am, Mother's Day, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” They kneeled on the concrete in front of the Government Headquarters Ministry building, recited and sang hymns and choruses chosen from several denominations. They picked up bags of trash as they marched around Bath Road and Hillsborough Street to Independence and Kennedy Avenues.

They held Dominica's flag high, recited and sang Mother Dominica’s National Anthem (about which he and the group were threatened by the Prime Minister). In Mr. Skerrit’s words, ‘I heard that come tomorrow or whenever it is, they going to blow the conch shell seven times, and they’re going to walk around the ministry seven times; but I will tell them that seven is the mark of the beast.’ Of course, any churchgoer knows that is incorrect. This unexpected publicity ironically provided greater resolve for the marchers.

Dr. Sam’s orderly band of prominent and ordinary prayer warriors bravely stared down camouflaged Special Security Forces emerging from black SUVs. They extended courtesies and respect to undercover police photographers who mingled with the crowd. Strangely enough, known government provocateurs were pointed out walking 7 times in the opposite direction in an apparent superstitious effort to undo this Jericho march. During extensive media coverage, Christian claimed the victory that “this corrupt house of cards now in power, will soon come crashing down.”

He further expressed appreciation for the political leaders who accepted the invitation to attend the historic conference in New York beamed live to Dominica. As a result of the efforts that Dr. Sam and his brother Gabriel and others made, Mr. Skerrit is losing the moral support of the informed and influential Diaspora community. Despite pointed attacks on their integrity, the Christian brothers have been helping drive the debate about our nation’s future. Everywhere, they are hearing, “Keep it up. People are listening. People now have hope.”

The Surgeon says that the Prime Minister is so confident that he has bought off everyone and he boasts of winning all 21 political constituencies. However, opposition forces are more energized than ever. Dr. Sam promises that “true Labourites will soon strike a telling blow and suddenly the numbers won't add up for the Skerrit Labour Party.” He encourages voters to be smart: Sure, take whatever is offered. Clean them out but sweep them out when the time comes. This is now a cause for concern as the ruling party tries to put together a full slate of candidates.

Dr. Sam feels satisfied that he is doing his part to stimulate a promising vision of great potential for Dominica: One where foreign aid is responsibly spent - for production and development, not on a stadium thrust down our throat and used only 26 days last year.

Nevertheless, he is holding back at present on declaring as a candidate because he understands that people need more time to get re-acquainted with him and trust his commitment to Dominica. Meanwhile, Dr. Sam is certain that Unity and Progress is the only strategy that will tell what may well be the most corrupt government in Dominican history – You’re fired!. He encourages all Dominicans to analyze the issues on and other informative websites.

Concerned Dominicans at home and abroad are thrilled by the opportunity of participating in this vibrant campaign to bring real change to our homeland. As one famous hymn of the faith declares, “Once for every man and nation, comes the moment to decide.” It is a decision we each must make. “Will we chose a government bought by China,” asks Dr. Christian, “or will we chose to live in a free, self-reliant country that Dominicans control.”

Everyone who knows Dr. Sam can tell that he is man of bold action, thoughtful and compassionate, with an unbroken record of unselfish service for the Dominican people. This is the Dr. Sam Christian I know.

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'The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys'

By Lilian Pizzichini (Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal)

Chapter 1
Le Revenant
On 25 February 1936, Jean Rhys boarded a French ship called the Cuba at Southampton dock. The ship was bound for Dominica, her childhood home, which she had left twenty-nine years previously. Since then, she had lived in London, Paris and Vienna; she had married twice and given birth to two children (the first died in infancy, the second was living with her ex-husband). She had published a volume of short stories entitled The Left Bank, a translation of a French thriller, Perversity, and three novels, Quartet, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie and Voyage in the Dark. She had received critical acclaim, albeit somewhat guarded, and very little financial reward.

The Blue Hour takes a look at the life of Jean Rhys of Dominica.

Going home was a matter of urgency: she had to go home to keep writing. She had moved through scenes of Parisian and London life like a sponge, soaking up the atmosphere and detail, yet so absorbed in her own travails that she was unable to connect with external reality. She had met famous people and been the lover of two English gentlemen, one a famous novelist. She had been disappointed and cast aside. She had been cut adrift from her roots, and had found no haven. Dominica was calling her home.

Jean was accompanied by her second husband, Leslie Tilden Smith, an occasional literary agent and publisher's reader. The couple's families came to see them off at Southampton: Leslie's daughter Anne, Jean's sisters, and her long-lost brother Owen, who had recently returned from a failed fruit farm in Australia. He was as feckless as herself. Everyone brought flowers for the happy couple and everyone was happy for Jean. So was she; at forty-six years old, she was going home.

But the journey was hindered by the sea: the Sargasso Sea, where the Cuba seemed to flounder for long, dreary days in a mess of weed and wreckage. The sea itself was blocking her way.

The Cuba had a French crew and French and English passengers. Jean and Leslie had a table on the French side of the dining room. Jean liked French people. Unfortunately, the reality of being surrounded by people overcame her initial delight at their nationality. And they were not all French. Sitting next to her at the dining table was a voluble Italian woman with two noisy children and a thunderous husband. The woman's chatter enraged Jean. Words were exchanged, the Italian glowered, an atmosphere poisoned the nightly meal.

Close proximity to other people wiped her out, erased her. It is so hard to get what you want in this life. Everything and everyone conspires to stop you. This was how it seemed to Jean. She could not voice her feelings, and her life, as she told it to others, seemed unreal. She often found that when she told people her story, they looked at her with disbelief in their eyes. So she stopped telling them. Instead, she told it to herself in her novels. That way, she at least could believe it. As a writer, this strategy worked well for her; as a woman, it did not.

Jean put on different guises for different phases, becoming a different person depending on whom she was with; there was no continuity to her idea of herself. When surrounded by others, it was a battle to preserve even the most subtle sense of who she might be.

Jean created her own world as protection from this one, with its infuriating chatterboxes, selfish drama queens, and arrogant upstarts. When she argued with her neighbours, as she would for the rest of her life, it was not merely a matter of winning or losing an argument, it was a struggle to prove that she existed.

The Cuba stopped at St Lucia for a week. The last time Jean had stayed on this comparatively sophisticated French island was for her Uncle Acton's wedding. Acton was dead now. His widow, Evelina, and her two daughters Lily and Monica Lockhart, were running the Hotel St Antoine outside Castries. There had been a son, Don, who had shot himself. Volatility was not unheard of in Jean's family.

On both her mother's and father's sides there were instances of consuming despair and depression. Jean recognised something of her younger self in her cousin Lily, who was a bit of a loner. She went for walks by herself in the moonlight, and edited a self-published magazine for which she wrote all the stories. Leslie, an experienced man of letters, 'could see no merit' in Lily's magazine, Jean wrote in a letter to a friend. But Jean liked it. She struck up a friendship with the girl, a rare instance of mutual sympathy in Jean's family.

The couple's stay in St Lucia was pleasant. They were waited on by a woman dressed in the old style, the foulard and madras of the gwan' wobe (grande robe) of the French Antilles. The woman brought in Jean's afternoon tea on a tray. It was, she said, 'the past majestically walking in'.

But there were too many familiar faces here, too many conversations to be had and too many demands on her waning energy. Jean wanted to write. Towards the end of March they arrived in Roseau, Dominica, her birthplace. She wrote to Mother Mount Calvary, her favourite nun at the convent where she had been educated. She had come home, she wrote; she wanted to see the Good Mother. But she was afraid Mother might have forgotten her.

'How could I forget you, Gwen?' was Mother Mount Calvary's reply, using Jean's real name. She invited Jean to visit for tea.

Going back is difficult because everything always changes. Mother Mount Calvary looked old and sombre though she smiled and kissed Jean affectionately. She had sad news for Jean. Mother Sacred Heart, another beloved nun, was dead. The convent was faced with closure. One consolation was a photograph in Mother's office of Jean's father. He had been a doctor to the convent, and a favourite son of the parish. Jean visited his grave in the nearby graveyard. She was grateful to be away from the anxious, ageing nun, who had gamely tried to conceal her worry about her future. But her anxiety betrayed itself, and Jean found it painful to countenance.

Jean sat by her father's grave with its Celtic cross, almost obscured by weeds and neglect, and wept for the past. Her father, apart from the nuns, had been forgotten. His good works, his kindness to the poor, were as though they had not happened. No one tended his grave. His life had been temps perdu, a waste of time. Nature had confirmed that, wiping out the traces of his endeavour with senseless fertility.

Jean still loved her island. For her, it was the loveliest place that could be imagined. It was so conducive to sleep. The hot weather, the steady rainfall, the lushness, made sleep irresistible. She felt the usual delicious sinking sensation she always felt when tired, as though she were dying of opened veins in a hot bath. Her thoughts were of death, and Dominica was a beautiful place to die in.

A friend of Jean's dead mother offered her the use of a remote estate called Hampstead in Portsmouth, on the Atlantic side of the island. The familiar English names of the locations belied the dramatic rainforest colours that ran through the gardens encasing the house. Much to her relief, this was not the suburban England that felt so suffocating to her.

The colours enlivened her. She felt confident enough to make a joke about several years of hard drinking not making her calm enough to face cockroaches. She had sea on one side and mountains on the other. She had a beach with white sand, a good pool in the river, and a nice girl to look after her and Leslie. Most important of all, there was no one to interrupt her writing or her recovery of her self.

'The wonderful thing is to wake up and know that nobody can get at you – nobody,' she wrote to a friend.

This contentment did not last. Leslie tried to blame it on the heat but Jean sank further into a misery born of anger and paranoia. There were too many people around. She sensed hostility. The servants preferred Leslie to her. Her father had been kind to the blacks, she wanted to tell this new generation of black Dominican. Not all the whites were oppressive, she wanted to explain. But no one was in the mood to appreciate her sensitivity to the past and her need to repair the losses she and her family had incurred.

When she asked for dishes that Francine, her family's cook, had prepared, the servants looked at her in disbelief as though such dishes had never existed. When she asked drivers to take her to the places of her childhood, they shook their heads in stupefaction.

These places were no longer there, not even the Imperial Road which had been opened by the great Mr. Hesketh Bell whom she had danced with at the celebratory ball and to whom she had once been so unpardonably rude. The road was just a track now, covered with forest. Genever, the family estate, was a burnt-out wreck covered in ferns. She walked round it, trying to remember the honeysuckle and the jasmine. There was nothing left.

Excerpted from "The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys" by Lilian Pizzichini, with permission from the publisher, W.W. Norton. Copyright 2009 by Lilian Pizzichini. All rights reserved.

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The real victory of Private T. Willie

By Campbell Webster

At one minute to midnight on July 31, 1834, there were 14,175 slaves in the Caribbean Island of Dominica. One minute later, on August 1, they were free, a result of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Their British white owners had predictably predicted the worst, proclaiming that drunkenness, disorder and violence against the slaves' former masters would ensue. It did not happen. It was a victory worth celebrating with joy, and so most freed slaves went to Mass in thanksgiving. (Perhaps the British projected their own rituals of victory onto the soon-to-be former slaves.)

Over 70 years later, a grandson of one of those slaves, Private T. Willie, gave his life in pursuit of another victory: that of the enslavers of his grandparents. For Private T. Willie died on the grim battlefields of World War I Europe, one of 24 Dominicans who were killed in the service of the United Kingdom. Private T. Willie's name is last on a small brass plaque in Roseau, near an historic, and prominent symbol of British colonialism: a large stone Anglican church that dominates Dominica's capital and port city of Roseau.

As with Prince Edward Island's early European history, Dominica's 17th and 18th centuries were all about exchanging victories between the English and the French. But prior to those battles, the Spanish had been uncharacteristically defeated by an indigenous population, the Kalinagos, who racked up victory after victory against the notorious conquistadors.

No matter where they tried to land, the Spaniards were repeatedly showered with poisoned arrows, and finally gave up. The Kalinago victories have persisted in various forms to this day, with their culture, and small population somewhat intact on the eastern shore of Dominica. Their survival itself is a major victory, as they are the only remaining indigenous tribe in the Caribbean. (Although their struggles remain, most recently to dispel their racist depiction as cannibals in the Hollywood blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.)

On Tuesday of this week, a victory of another kind greeted Dominica: in the form of the enormous cruise ship, the Carnival Victory. As it unloaded in front of Private T. Willie's inscribed name, some of the local population regarded this as their own victory, a victory of commerce. Indeed, the thirst for cruise ship revenue is strikingly similar to Prince Edward Island's, including Dominican government policy which promises to spread the cruise ship arrivals between Roseau and its second-largest city, Portsmouth.

Where the similarity with Prince Edward Island ends is in how intrusive the cruise passengers seem as they roam Roseau, many rushing by the merchants and the occasional panhandlers, speeding their way to the numerous duty-free liquor stores.

As the Carnival Victory prepared to depart at dusk under an explosive pre-hurricane season rain storm, the weather recalled the earlier showers of poison arrows. A lone harbour attendant stood perched atop a tiny concrete island in the harbour, watching the enormous white Carnival Victory power away; its duty-free rum safely inside the ship (and many of its passengers), none of whom looked very nice to eat.

The final victory, though, may yet fall to the Dominicans. Of any nation, theirs has one of the highest per capita number of people living to be 100 years old (and certainly it seems most of them will outlive the passengers of the Carnival Victory.) Dominica's ultimate freedom and victory may not be so much about Private T. Willie's sacrifice, as it is about just surviving. And for a long time.

Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at [email protected]
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cruise line crew member quarantined after leaving Dominica

The Newsdesk

The authorities in Barbados have reacted swiftly to a suspected case of the H1N1 “Swine Flu” virus. A crew member of the Carnival Victory cruise line who was on board the ship that left Dominica for Barbados was quarantined after exhibiting symptoms of influenza.
Crew members of Carnival Victory greet local officials on arrival in Barbados.

The female crew member was quarantined upon the ship as soon as she started to complain of the flu like symptoms shortly after leaving the Roseau port.

Upon arrival at the port in Bridgetown, Barbados, health authorities there immediately started screening all 3 000 passengers and crew on board before allowing them to disembark. The subsequent screening took several hours and slowed activity at the country’s busy port.

Rumors quickly circulated that the port had been closed but in a midday news conference, Minister of Health Donville denied the reports saying “Officials of the Bridgetown Cruise terminal have confirmed that at no time was the facility closed, but the strict health procedures for managing such situations were fully activated, which resulted in some passenger delay.” George Hutson, Minister of International Business and International Transport, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, and Chairman of Barbados Port Inc. David Harding, accompanied the Minister at the press conference.

He went on to assure the Barbadian public that there was no reason to be alarmed and that they should “continue with business as usual.” He added that a blood sample of the sick crew member had been sent to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad and Tobago for further testing; “to determine if it is the H1N1 virus.”

None of the passengers who eventually disembarked showed any signs of the virus. Barbadians who were on the ship were provided with a health alert card, so in the event that they present any symptoms of the flu they will know what to do when contacting medical personnel.

The latest scare has brought into sharp focus the way in which Caribbean countries will handle cruise visitor arrivals in the face of the flu scare. More than 500 000 visitors are expected into dominica before the cruise ship season ends.

It was confirmed earlier this week that two crew members on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas had contracted the virus. Both employees have now fully recovered.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Freedom party leader responds to the Prime Minister

By Judith Pestaina

Some weeks ago, the private sector was invited to consultations for the 2009/2010 budget. Unfortunately, I was out of state at the time, but the Dominica freedom party was ably represented by Mr. Swanston Carbon.
judith pestaina
Freedom Party Leader Judith Pestaina.

These consultations were aimed at addressing the issues facing our country at a time when we are feeling the effects of the global financial crisis; at a time when remittances from nationals abroad are on the decline and at a time when unemployment has increased as never before.

At a time when violence among youth is on the rise; at a time when many Dominicans are being made more dependent on handouts which are not sustainable and which do not provide them with the independence or the wherewithal they need to feed themselves, clothe themselves and which in effect is destroying the work ethic needed to make our nationals productive.

What we are now faced with is a government led by a prime minister who is trying to denigrate persons who cannot be accused of corruption and who cannot be bought. Persons who will not compromise their integrity for a price or a position.

Because I am sure that if those Dominicans who now rely on favours from government had a choice they would be able to be objective in their thinking and see through what I want to describe as political and economic blackmail. I have always said that I would rather die poor than compromise my integrity and this is what I stand for.

When I was elected unopposed as leader of the Dominica Freedom Party, it was in the knowledge that my track record spoke for itself. Some of my achievements included a six year stint as a graduate teacher at the Portsmouth Secondary School, which I understand the prime minister attended after I left.

Perhaps if he had been there during my tenure he would have learnt to be not so rude and disrespectful. Additionally, I held several positions in the public service ranging from Director, Women’s Bureau, permanent secretary external affairs, permanent secretary education, chief personnel officer, and acting cabinet secretary, among others.

I also worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat as Deputy Director of the political affairs division and special adviser, political affairs for six years before returning to Dominica to take up the position of Managing Director of the Garraway Hotel. My extra-curricular activities included serving as Girl Guide Commissioner, president of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, among others.

My professional qualifications consist of a bachelor of arts in French, Spanish and linguistics, a post graduate diploma in education, a diploma in international relations, a masters of science in tourism planning and development, among others which qualified me for the many positions held throughout my public service career.

Perhaps that was why after the 2005 general elections the prime minister offered me the post of minister of foreign affairs, which I turned down and for which I recommended Charles Savarin.

In accepting the leadership of the Dominica Freedom Party, I knew that I was following in the footsteps of someone whose integrity in office was unquestionable. I was taking on the leadership of a party renowned for its accountability and transparency in government.

I was associating with a party which was recognized locally, regionally and internationally for its commitment to national development and which was not seeking personal gain through political office. I was going to be part of a political party that restored pride and respectability to our country, which had been destroyed by another labour party government.

Today, we find ourselves confronting another dilemma brought on by the present leadership of the labour party government. How can we have a leadership which can find time to resort to a non-issue in the face of so many critical social, economic and political challenges.

If as the prime minister states that the leader of the Dominica Freedom Party cannot afford to buy paint to paint her hotel what does this say to Dominicans? Is he happy to admit that under his tenure, things have got so bad ?

Is this why he now has to acquire the Sisserou Hotel, which obviously has not been painted for a number of years? What does this say about the investment climate in Dominica?

These are the issues which the prime minister should be addressing instead of seeking to undermine the investment made by local persons like myself and my family who have honestly worked and invested in Dominica to create employment for Dominicans instead of making them line up cap in hand for handouts, which provide them with no job security. What has he personally invested in Dominica to create employment? Nothing!

The prime minister has threatened to expose more information as the campaign gains momentum. Dominicans must ask themselves what kind of leadership would use the political platform to disclose matters negotiated in confidence on the basis of confidentiality.

When investors local or otherwise borrow money whether this is from the bank or under the economic citizenship programme, they do not expect their private business to be exposed on the political platform because they may not be supporters of the party in government.

And why should only government supporters benefit from the public purse. All Dominicans are entitled to their fair share of support and it is disgraceful that we have reached a stage where persons are being discredited for taking the risk of investing in their own country.

I ask all Dominicans to condemn the prime minister for such behaviour, which can only bring his office into further disrepute. I want Dominicans to examine their consciences; I call on all freedomites to disassociate themselves from such shameful and disrespectful utterances. We deserve more.

Dominicans deserve more. As leader of the Dominica freedom party, I urge all Dominicans to demand leadership that is exemplary and uncompromised. We deserve nothing less.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dominica government lauds EU assistance

By Sean Douglas

At a ceremony to mark Europe Day in Dominica on Thursday, Prime Minister, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit acknowledged the contribution the European Union has made to Dominica over the years.
ec delegation
Head of the EU delegation Valeriano Diaz confers with local EU representative Eddie Lambert and Financial Secretary Rosamund Edwards
Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, His Excellency, Valeriano Diaz also listed the many projects that are currently being financed by the European Union in Dominica.

In his address at a ceremony, Prime Minister Skerrit stated: “For us in Dominica, the European Union through its Executive arm, the European Commission, has been a most generous development partner. EU development assistance currently valued at over $300 million has touched every sector in Dominica including the private sector and the NGO community.”

The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the European Union for their assistance to Dominica.

“It is therefore my pleasure, through you, to convey to the officials of the European Commission and the members of the European Parliament, the gratitude of all Dominicans for many years of valued development cooperation dating way back to Lome 1,” Hon. Skerrit concluded.

Meanwhile, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, His Excellency, Valeriano Diaz highlighted the extent of cooperation between the Commonwealth of Dominica and the European Union.

• Through the Special Framework of Assistance(SFA), which started in 1999, 52.5 million euros or approximately EC$180 million was allocated to Dominica for the banana industry; agricultural diversification; private sector development; Information and Communication Technology; Water Supply and Sewerage as well as social and transport activities;

• Upgrading of Tourism sites in Wotten Waven, Portsmouth and Bellevue Chopin;

• Continued implementation of the Waitikubuli National Trail Project;

• Successful implementation of the Melville Hall Airport expansion programme;

• A road transport policy has been developed. Policy will improve road maintenance and road rehabilitation;

• Test drilling activities will help to assess the full potential of geothermal production in Dominica;
• Dominica Social Investment Fund is having a significant impact on the lives
of vulnerable communities, underprivileged youth, the elderly and the Carib people;

• Two budget support programmes, one focussing on private sector development and one focusing on land reform for a total of 19 million euros in the form of grants are currently being implemented;

• General macro-economic budgetary support totalling 4.5 million euros under the 10th EDF is under preparation;

• Major rehabilitation of farm access roads;

• Three Inland Distribution centres in Roseau, Portsmouth and Marigot;

• 3.6 million euros ($12.6 million EC) for the third phase of the Water Supply and Sewerage programme along the west-coast of Dominica.

“All of these achievements highlight the excellent level of cooperation between Dominica and the EU with emphasis on genuine development for the benefit of the people of Dominica,” Ambassador Diaz concluded.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Life, death and everything in between

As She Returns A Novel by Steinberg Henry of Dominica
By Thomson Fontaine

Steinberg Henry of Dominica has written a beautiful work of art that is delightfully entertaining yet deeply contemplative and revealing. In his debut novel “As She Returns”, the author unashamedly tackles the issue of life and death that we sometimes tend to disregard as we go about our daily affairs. Life to some extent encumbers us, distorts our view of who we are, why we are where we are, what makes us, and then the final intrigue of death.

swine flu
As She Returns is powerfully provocative.
For the author, his self-searching bubbles to the surface after the death of his mom. This transcendent moment, so revealing, so utterly transforming. “After news of her death, because of what I felt inside, I was convinced that my mother who carried me had to be the most interesting woman beyond her overt simplicity and lightness of being.”

It was this eighty-one year old woman whose thoughts, actions, and intentions were colored by her relationship to Christ and that gave rise to these deliberations. And so began the journey that takes the reader along with the author through the searching psalms, prayers and chants, so much a part of his mother’s life, and now it is his inheritance.

The reader cannot help but be moved by the strength of the author’s mother. Over thirty-five years she labored in the banana industry. “Geest fed her family; her labor kept our family alive.” Even when she developed a dreadful eye disorder she soldiered on; “in her gracefulness, this woman had the courage to count blindness as a trial.” It was her strength that belied the weakness and frailty of human flesh, which would ultimately succumb to death.

It is that fascination with death, not death itself, but what it represents, its expression, and meaning that brings the book to life. The interpretation is wonderfully profound, touching on Caribbean religious history, African descent, sickness and cure. Life interchanges with death, an eternity of thought; and so the author argues that the eternal is already upon us, was maybe always with us, in all of us.

As She Returns is an extraordinary read. An unusual relating of the special themes in life that matters most. The strength of a mother, the ability to deal with adversity, to provide, raise children, serve your God, and do well. And then so much more.

This is a book for everyone. For those interested in Dominican culture, thought and traditions, this work is particularly revealing. “In the yard of every soucouyant or those whom we cared to call witch, grew a diversity of plants and herbs…they were the mystic women about whom numerous stories were told.”

The stories are mystifying, matched only by the brilliance of the storyteller. It is powerfully provocative and forces us to take a harder and deeper look at life and death, and at everything in between. What a read, what a journey!

Steinberg Henry was born in the Commonwealth of Dominica in the Eastern
Caribbean. His life story has taken him from teacher to broadcast-journalism to
corridors of universities. Like love for his island, he has not forgotten the
course of his journey.

He previously wrote a sixty-page reflection on Dominica's World Creole Music Festival entitled 'A Thick Environment: Notes on Dominica's World Creole Music Festival'. It was published by SHINC Productions and printed by Paramount Press.

As She Returns can be purchased at and by calling 301 695 1707

PublishAmerica is the home of 30,000 talented authors. PublishAmerica is a
traditional publishing company whose primary goal is to encourage and promote
the works of new, previously undiscovered writers. Like more mainstream
publishers, PublishAmerica pays its authors advances and royalties, makes its
books available in both the United States and Europe through all bookstores.

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Beach, burlesque, booze, brilliance

By Val Hennessy

Had she been alive today Jean Rhys (1890-1976) would certainly have been diagnosed with a personality disorder. Or as hovering on the very edge of the Asperger's spectrum. Poor woman.

Jean Rhys.
As Lilian Pizzichini's excellent biography makes clear, Rhys, author of such troubling novels as Quartet, Good Morning, Midnight and the radiantly brilliant Wide Sargasso Sea, was an absolute nightmare. And, of course, such a volatile personality is God's gift to a biographer.

She was born Gwendolyn Williams on the Caribbean island of Dominica. A descendent of a wealthy slave-owner, Rhys was a privileged white Creole girl - a notch below pure whites, but resented and envied by black locals who called her 'White Cockroach'.
Her black nanny filled her head with tales of zombies and vampires, and Rhys spent much of her childhood screaming, sobbing and taking to her bed.

A spell at Catholic boarding school, where she wrote gloomy poems
She longed to escape from the drenching heat, brooding mountains, lush vegetation and stultifying community. So, with her imagination full of jolly characters from Dickens, log fires, snow, bejewelled Edwardian mistresses and elegant society shindigs, she left Dominica for England.

Big mistake. Chaperoned by an aunt and stuck in a dreary Bloomsbury boarding house, 18-year-old Rhys was freezing cold, bored and disenchanted by London's smoggy melancholy.

Rhys's aunt, exasperated by this ungrateful, self-absorbed girl who ignored all efforts to please her, declared: 'You are incapable of thinking about anyone but yourself.' Which, in fact, remained a permanent facet of Rhys's character.
The recent BBC4 adaptation of The Wide Sargasso Sea starring Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall.

Pizzichini asserts that 'in England she lost her sense of oneness with the colours of the world' and that she was 'crippled and constrained by English society and its rules,out of her element'.

Fast-forward and the restraint soon dissolved when Rhys became a burlesque dancer, touring the provinces, staying in seedy lodgings and prowling for chaps who'd swap her favours for fancy meals and gifts.

At 20 she was a 'kept woman', installed in a love nest by her rich lover Lancey, who skedaddled after two years, broke her heart and offered her a generous allowance on condition she left him alone. He supported her financially for years.

By now, the abandoned Rhys was hitting the bottle. As Pizzichini says: 'All her certainties, that love lasted for ever, that she was beloved, had fallen away.' She went off the rails, worked as a prostitute and had Lancey cough up for an abortion and a new flat.

The lamps were going out all over Europe, but Rhys didn't notice world events - she became an artist's model and, fuelled by booze, began to write.

She lived a vagabond life, with three eventual marriages and a multitude of temporary homes in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest.

A baby boy was deposited at a hospice for poor children, where he died. A baby daughter was left in a clinic and with various carers, while Rhys, drunk and downand-out, frequented the bars of Montparnasse.

By 1941, she was in Norfolk spending some time in an asylum. Having produced five not-very-well-received books, she stopped writing. About one book, a critic had warned readers: 'You will be at the suicide point long before you close it.' People admired her prose, but not her hopeless heroines and depressing plots. As Pizzichini explains: Rhys 'writes about loss, fear of loss, never being able to recover from loss', which, during the war years, didn't appeal to readers wanting cheerful, escapist novels.

How she managed to write Wide Sargasso Sea (the Jane Eyre prequel about the first MrsRochester) is one of the great literary mysteries of our time. Pizzichini describes the original draft as being 'stained with grief, sweat and face powder' - as well as splashes of whisky, we must assume, as by now Rhys was getting through at least a bottle a day.

Yet just when she had hit rock bottom, she was rescued from obscurity by a BBC producer who set the septuagenarian hell-raiser on the road to literary celebrity.
As you can deduce, this is a good, gripping, action-packed biography. Pizzichini bends over backwards to sympathise with, and account for, Rhys's grotesque behaviour.

She admires her way of hoarding her psychological pain and recycling it into high-status literature. She skilfully pinpoints the parallels between the life and the fiction, and leaves you eager to hunt out Rhys's now-acclaimed collected works.

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