About the author
Alex Bruno earned a bachelor degree (BA) in Philosophy with a minor in theatre and a master degree (MA) in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Mr. Bruno graduated with an initiation into the Eta Delta Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honorary Society (FAU CHAPTER) on December 1, 2016, and is currently enrolled in a PhD program with a major in Political Science at Florida International University’s (FIU) Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
Alex is also an Adjunct Instructor of political science and U.S. government at Palm Beach State College in Florida. The author has conducted several research assignments on the island of Dominica, including his groundbreaking national scientific political survey on the electability of Dominica political candidates in April 2017. Bruno is a constant contributor to political debates of the island which is badly in need of the sort of scholastic attention for which the author advocates. Bruno has spent a considerable number of years studying Caribbean cultures and societies.
Nations undergo some form of reform from time to time and the present is as good a time as any, if not the perfect opportunity to reform the electoral system of the island of Dominica. This change is urgently needed if the island is to progress past the vision of the political incumbency which has consolidated power in this fledgling democracy.
For this to be achieved, however, the society must become more tolerant of opposing views and the concept of democracy should be allowed to find its way through every sector of the Dominican way of life, especially its electoral processes. Political incumbency in thriving democracies, as is the case in Dominica, can work against the very notion of the inclusiveness which democracy mandates.
It is an unhealthy state of affairs when, in a democratic system, there is majority rule and little regard for the rights of the minority. Hurricane Maria decimated Dominica and this presents opportunities for a fresh start. There should certainly be a revamp of the structure of the island’s electoral system in a way that would be fair to all electoral entities.
I posit that the island’s electoral agency should be brought in line with international best electoral practices. There are several working parts of the Dominican elections machinery and they should be strengthened in any reform, but whatever the case, opposition interests should be granted greater autonomy.
“The Dominican opposition needs to take urgent political stock if they are to seriously contend for political leadership of a country which probably needs it now more than ever before.”
Tragedy is supposed to bring people together, but hurricane Maria seemed not to have done so in the case of the Caribbean island of Dominica. My view is that the gap which exists between in partisan political opportunities; the space between the haves and the have-nots and the unpretentious efforts by the status quo to increasingly widen that gap are mainly to be blamed.
Instead of adopting a country first attitude, those who control the balance of power operate as if it were business as usual, while the opposition fades away in the background as if they were buried beneath the rubble which Maria had left behind. With the consciousness that this is not necessarily the correct approach to Dominica’s recovery following the devastation of hurricane Maria, this essay intends to engage the political hopefuls and fair-thinking Dominicans in a way that would call them into action – united, in Dominica’s overall interest. I began composing this essay on Sunday, October 21, 2017, at about 10:19 am.
The desire to write came as an uncharacteristic jolt during my solemn meditation on the state of affairs of my native land, Dominica, after it had been literally slackened by hurricane Maria. I write at a time when the political wrangling taking place in Dominica is bigger than the political players. This mission directs me to call for the invocation of a more profound political consciousness that would bring opposing opinions together in the creation of a master governing policy; a policy which is needed if Dominica must make any sort of meaningful recovery.
Skerrit, Linton, Vital and the lot should operate under the premise that their task is a solemn engagement in nation building – not party and self-aggrandizement. The current actors on Dominica’s political stage must take their responsibility seriously, as the current and future generations of Dominica rely upon the honest application of their states-personship. The present state of helpless segregation and subtle political manipulation of the people is certainly not the foundation upon which a stronger and more united Dominica should be built.
This analysis, if embraced, could assist in the harmonization of the approaches to offer a solid platform of ‘change’ in a climate of heightened power anxiety and politico-physiological stagnation. By this I mean, a time when partisan politics stretches the limits of our divisiveness into rigid geographical spaces; in a place where the zeal for power could spark political unorthodoxy to the determent or benefit of the country.
My idea is presented with the view that this, democratic republic of Dominica would greatly benefit from the sort of political rethink necessary for a nation which must be freed from a situation of perpetual ‘one-man/political party incumbency syndrome or OMPPIS.’ Protecting Dominica and its democratic institutions should be the main goal during this recovery.
As the nation rebuilds from the ravages of hurricane Maria, adjustments must be made to its electoral policies. Whereas such adjustments or political realignments are not traditionally advanced by the incumbent party, the onus rests on the opposition interests to advance the cause.
A divided opposition will not defeat the incumbent Dominica Labour Party (DLP), especially at this time of widespread mendicancy as a result of the passage of hurricane Maria. My view is that the DLP, based on what has been observed, will exploit the situation and manage the recovery to their benefit.
And this may be seen as fair game in the battle for political expediency. Because the DLP has such deep roots into Dominica’s socio-political landscape, mainly through the initiatives of its leader, Roosevelt Skerrit, it may prove to be very challenging to combat the political antics between the post-hurricane Maria recovery and the lead up to the next parliamentary general elections.
There are ways and means of measuring up with the game plan of the incumbent party, but such matters cannot be discussed within this essay. In fact, this is but a public version of a more detailed and methodological plan. This idea is presented in the public because if the public is better informed, the public will make better choices.
The first public move by the leader of Dominica’s government following hurricane Maria was a partisan political one. Someone who identified himself as the principal political advisor of Prime Minister Skerrit, Mr. Hartley Henry, was the first to report on the condition on the island after the winds and rain of the category 5 weather system, hurricane Maria, had subsided. This, to me, showed exactly how the recovery was going to be handled and most of what I have observed thus far confirms Mr. Skerrit’s motives.
He was going to stage-manage the recovery process with strategic political actions and strong public appeal and positioning. This view is more generally held than not and the evidence is contained in the several media publications and public discussions that have ensued. I would have certainly preferred to have heard from my Prime Minister (PM) instead of a fellow Caribbean brother and political strategist at this most crucial instance of my native land’s history. I am certain that Mr. Henry would expect nothing less of the Bajan Prime Minister.
Now, political games-personship (my word for the sake of striking gender equity) is a given in such conditions, so blame should not be necessarily levied against Mr. Skerrit. In fact, I lament the lack of strategic positioning of the opposition and other government members of parliament (PM) alike during the media-rich and politically sensitive period after the disaster – the first 72 hours.
The lack of appearance of the other leaders following that period also left a lot to be desired. The PM seized the initiative and never looked back. His antics which were thoroughly measured for sentimental effectiveness left very little room for the flourishing of the broader response which was and is still necessary.
This translates as a missed opportunity for national recovery but a moment of political glory for Skerrit. In fact, this post-Maria condition is tailor-made for his management style and ideological mindset; we may just see the flourishing of ‘Skerritism’ for another five-year term.
With this observation, I do not, however, suggest that the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), Skerrit or Skerritism is not necessarily suited. I instead present the view that a ‘change’ in political direction may better serve Dominica’s present sovereign democratic ideal at this juncture.
It is the responsibility of conscious thinkers to suggest inclusive ways for human progress, and mine is simply that the parliamentary opposition and those aspiring to govern and/or those who advocate for buoyancy in the electoral political business, should present a lucrative platform for such change.
This plan must be one which is clinically presented after a thoughtful process involving all the major players and this includes those who are currently affiliated to and/or serving in the incumbent regime and are prone to change. Public infighting and faux pas on the part of the opposition is like granting Skerrit an advance election victory gift.
So words of the leadership sparring within the United Workers Party, the Freedom Party’s “go-it-alone platform” and talks of a totally new opposition initiative(s) separate and apart from the existing established parties may be political endeavors in and for the interest of the incumbent Dominica Labour Party.
The Dominican electorates are inclined to change the political stewardship of the island. There is this general sense of incumbency fatigue among the electorates, but the strategic positioning and economic means of the DLP help stifle out those sentiments. Because of the gross indifference in Dominica’s electoral system vis-à-vis those of more liberal democratic territories, a system-wide overhaul is recommended.
If reform is not forthcoming, regime change is the only recourse and this would require an extraordinary effort. But it is possible. When the current governing regime is changed, the personnel which have clogged the electoral system’s operation will also be changed and the long overdue reform will be materialized – or it should.
The way to achieve this is for the message from the alternative to be broadened beyond their base and streamlined to the more pertinent issues confronting the masses. This means that such a message should become more inclusive and should be streamlined in a way which appeals to an overwhelming voting majority.
The majority, of course, includes a movement of support away from the DLP and this may only happen when the correct political strategies are implemented. Divine means may also feature in the electoral change as it sometimes does. Winning should be what motivates this strategic move (the divine means will work itself out), and the way to win in a political democracy is to capture the imagination of the overwhelming majority and get them to vote you in; it is that simple.
So, referring to the cabinet ministers as a cabal or criminal enterprise would not necessarily gain the sentiments of supporters of those individuals. The plan should be to elect an alternative government to manage the affairs of state. With the understanding that governance, does not solely mean one party, an alternative party or regime would best represent that badly needed all-inclusive approach.
I suggest a pre-election merger of the UWP and the DFP and other such political movements. This is not the conventional ideal because parties traditionally run independently, but such a merger would work best for Dominica in these times of inclusion which hurricane Maria has demanded of the system.
This is being suggested especially since the DLP which holds the governing authority in the Dominican parliament, is not inclined to include any element of the parliamentary and other opposition ideas in the recovery exercise; an exercise which screams for positive inclusion.
If this lack of inclusion is allowed to fester; if the DLP gets its way through the recovery process, the incumbent will flourish but the country could become worse off. If the opposition gets better organized, the DLP will be challenged to the core but the country may benefit. You could choose whichever option yields the best results but I believe that the latter may pay greater national dividends.
I believe that new energies and/or ideas should be injected into the next level of Dominica’s political stewardship. I make this call because we are in extraordinary times and the country now faces extenuating circumstances which merit such departure from the partisan norm. The people need to get involved. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. teaches us as follows: A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.1
Not wanting to be a dead man existing among the living, I chose to say just what I am moved to say and I solidify my professional political independence with this call. I am also encouraged by Shannon L. Alder who writes: Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for— YOU.2
So, why must I be silent? Why should you be silent? Why should anyone remain silent?
My conviction is that the DLP has a significant role to play in the governance of Dominica and that as an institution; it should be supported and applauded for its role in:
1. Silent About Things That Matter, King, M.L Jr., 1965.
2. Shannon L. Alder quotes – Shannon L. Alder is an inspirational author. Her tidbits of wisdom have been published in over 100 different books, by various relationship authors and in several online magazine articles (Psychology Today, Huffington Post, etc.). Her philosophy or Shannonisms are centered around celebrating your uniqueness and freeing yourself from your fears, so you can live your life purpose.
producing our nation’s leaders. Labour has produced four of the nation’s six political leaders since Dominica’s attainment of political independence on November 3, 1978. UWP and DFP must also be supported and applauded for steadying the ship of state both in opposition and on the governing majority of the Dominican government.
I should note that the DLP regained the leadership mantle in 2000 following twenty years in opposition, thanks to the DFP who colluded with the DLP to out-seat the UWP. So, my call for a DFP – UWP merger is justified and warranted at least as far as the island’s recent political history goes – ’tis poetic justice.
The future of Dominica’s political leadership is left to be seen but we ought not to leave it to chance. Some believe that we should go on as if it were business as usual while others ring out the ‘Skerrit must go’ refrain. And I ask, go where? Amidst it all, we have been losing track of a most crucial sector of the Dominica population who will hold the current electors responsible for our actions.
It simply cannot be the case that Dominica is such a unique nation that the people persist with one governing authority since 2000 with little to show as justification for their rational choice. In contrast, the electorates of Antigua and Barbuda have changed governments twice during the same period. Barbados has had two government changes, with each party (Barbados Labour Party ‘BLP’ and the Democratic Labour Party ‘DLP’ serving two terms in office since 1999).
Grenada changed its government twice since 1999, with the New National Party (NNP) claiming all fifteen seats twice in 1999 and 2013; the National Democratic Congress (NDC) formed the government for the first time since 1995. On December 3, 2001, St. Lucians voted in the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) into office, they changed the SLP on December 11, 2006, and placed the United Workers Party (UWP) in control of their government. St. Lucians voted the SLP back into office in 2011, only to turn around and vote them out five years later – that is four government changes on Dominica’s watch.
St. Kitts electors dismantled a powerful governing incumbent on February 16, 2015 when the ruling Saint Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SLP), led by Denzil Douglas, was defeated by Team Unity, an alliance of the Concerned Citizens’ Movement, the People’s Action Movement, and the People’s Labour Party, led by Timothy Harris.
Is there a lesson here for Dominica? The incumbent Anguilla United Front (AUF) ruling regime was defeated by the opposition in 2010, five years after they regain power. Five years after that, on April 22, 2015, the AUP retained power with a landslide victory. This victory signaled the third government change in the same time that we have been celebrating one regime, the DLP in Dominica.
Probably we should study what effect political incumbency had on Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and in fact, I have already begun to investigate this, but in the interim we may rely on the works of political observers and scholars who have already presented scholarly opinions on this topic.
Wong (2017) states that “the political challenge that former British colonies in the Caribbean continue to face is that changing the government very rarely creates a fundamental change in the way that those nations are governed,”3 and declares further that “often times these nations cycle back and forth between the same two corrupt parties.”4 Peters (2001) writes that “the problem with political parties in the Caribbean is not the disregard for political institutions but rather the abusive utilization of the existing institutions in order to further the individuals:
3. The Challenges With Regime Change in the Caribbean, Wong, 2017, 7.
4. The Challenges With Regime Change in the Caribbean, Wong, 2017, 7.
own interest and to establish a monopoly on re-election.”5 But what is probably most instructive about the author’s opinion is that:
The political parties are able to use their incumbency to hurt opposition parties, not because the parties are devious, but precisely because the constitution is flexible enough to allow it. Caribbean politicians like their British predecessors have demonstrated remarkable shrewdness in maintaining power. They operate on the very ‘grey edge’ of the constitution, careful not to overstep the bounds of constitutionality but bold enough to reach their objectives.6
The epistemology of Caribbean-Dominica political incumbency, as far as Peters (1992) sees it, is therefore identified and I shall later suggest possible ways around it. But there are promising signs. Jamaica, Trinidad, and Antigua & Barbuda have changed multiple governments – albeit just a reshuffling of political parties, but there have been movements. At least those countries, especially Antigua & Barbuda of late, have had some form of electoral reform.
If reform is not given, people will design their own reform by protest action. In Zimbabwe, we see the ousting of a 37-year-old regime, and elsewhere chronic rulers and regime continue to be changed with relative ease following intervention from the masses. So, you get the point – I hope?
The question is what is causing the Dominican electors to be so bullish and resilient to change? What do we have to show for such sustained support of one party? Why aren’t people discussing the stalemate in Dominica’s electoral politics? How much longer will this prevailing attitude continue? Why has political change become such an elusive dream in Dominica?
Is Dominica really a model nation among nations? Can the present regime not handle change just like other regimes? Is the opposition really aware that they may not defeat the present incumbent:
5. The Democratic System in the Eastern Caribbean, Peters, 1992, 112
6. The Democratic System in the Eastern Caribbean, Peters, 1992, 112
with the current slate of rhetoric? What will the emerging generations say or think of us if the political status quo continues indefinitely?
I continue to ask questions: why is it that Dominica must stand out among all nations as far as the peoples’ tenacity to tolerate political incumbency goes? Is it a people’s wish or doing or, are there other semantics at play in determining such results?
My work does not necessarily seek to identify possible reasons for the prolonged term of the DLP in political office. Instead, attention is called to it with the view to suggesting the possible effects of such political stalemate in such fragile a democracies as Dominica is. When one adds the variables of a couple natural interventions to the equation of the incumbent’s lack of inclusiveness, political wizardry ensues.
It is my view that classical electoral Moneyball – the strategic art of winning with an unfair advantage – is somehow featured in the overall winning legacy of the incumbent DLP. But do not take my word for it. A Commonwealth Mission report on the 2014 Dominica General Election concludes that:
The election was not necessarily fair, due to: the lack of balance, and in some cases lack of professionalism of the media; the absence of campaign finance regulations and the resultant lack of transparency on financing, coupled with the exponentially increased expense associated with campaigning; multiple instances of treating and bribery, including the transportation of electors to the island to vote; and the apparent abuses of incumbency, including a lack of impartiality in the provision of public services.7
By this token alone, my observation stands, but we should remember that this is simply an observation and there may very well be other facts which best explain DLP’s prolific streak of 7.
Report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, The Commonwealth – Commonwealth of Dominica General Election. 8 December 2014. Electoral wins. What is certain, however, is that the perpetuation of one party in power in any political system, let alone one which yearns for change and/or inclusiveness as Dominica, may yield negative overall results for the populace.
This statement is made without prejudice and reproach and I call for must needed change which would serve the best interest of the people. There are several things which violate the norms of democracy and the lack of change is one of those. So, my rationale for change is clear. Democracy flourishes where and when change is constant.
Change does not question to whom, or with what; it deals with the when. When the tides of change roll in and those who are washed by the spume refuse to observe the need to take heed, the tides become more forceful. When tides of change begin to rage, they could have a crippling impact on all who are washed by them; sparing none including and especially the few who spearhead and perpetuate the resistance.
I have heard the ‘change is a must’ argument, especially within the opposition UWP faction of Dominica’s political system, but this says little about the ideological mandate of change. To simply say change is a must in the absence of a reasoned and practical, people driven cause for such change is to fall short in the very call for change.
With that being said, the change which I call for is grounded in the narrative in this essay. A sort of change which has to do with political best practices in support of Dominica’s declared system of governance, democracy, and one which best captures the spirit of the people. To not want change is to deny the dreamers the opportunity to have a say in the political leadership of Dominica.
Dreamers here mean everyone – including el supremo – who is currently involved in the electoral system: ministers of government, cabinet members, members of parliament, senators, aspiring politicians, students, children and even the unborn child. Why should it be that one man, woman or regime should persist in office for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years?
This eternal sort of leadership takes us back to the times of divine rule and we have not come to this point just to voluntarily turn right back into these dark (or white) ages. Now, if this ‘perpetual power’ is achieved within standardized and fair benchmarks, I totally support it, but it is clear that the current electoral set up in Dominica is unfairly distributed.
This is plastered all over the Commonwealth Observers Report of Dominica’s 2014 general election, and there are other glaring facts to show that it is not – although this is not the focus of my discussion. This is the foundation upon which I stand to suggest that probably the people of Dominica should look towards change in the present political status quo. And, in fact, I know that there is a general tendency towards change, based on earlier research which I conducted on the electability of Dominica political candidates in April 2017.
I said then that “a great number of our respondents seem to favour political or regime change.”8 Change, in the context of which I speak, is, therefore, a viable and most constant part of human existence.
This is clearly stated in The Holy Bible, in Exodus 5 which reads, from verse 1: After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, says this: ‘Let My people go, that they may have a special supper to honor me in the desert.” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him and let Israel go?
I do not know the Lord. And I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. We ask of you, let us travel into the desert three days, to give a gift on an altar in worship to the Lord our God. Or He may send death to us by disease or by the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work?
8. A Nation-wide Scientific Survey of Dominican Electors, Bruno, 85.
Return to your work!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “See, the people of the land are now many. And you would have them stop working!9 We learn from the Holy Bible that the stubbornness of Pharaoh ended following a series of ten plagues. Now, I am not presenting this as a case which should be compared to the present because I simply do not have the academic rationale to so do. I, however, use this to show that change comes around harder when it is resisted.
Let me end with this never before released statement from the late Dame Eugenia, former Prime Minister of Dominica who expressed that “they wanted to stop me writing articles and I wasn’t going to stop because there were things to be corrected and I wanted them corrected so I wrote and they decided to pass a law which we call ‘The Shut Your Mouth Bill’ because they wanted to prevent you writing articles in the press.”10
Guided by the former leader, and with firsthand knowledge of the aggressive nature of the rebuttal which such essays normally receive, I present this with the sort of academic discipline and social merit which will help to teach present and emerging generations. I write because of the fire which burns in me for Dominica, a fire which burns hotter than any fire which may come by way of my detractors; a fire which was ignited by human resistance dating back to the times when such resistance began – and it will never go dim.
In fact, my work, though being presented at this time when some reasonable people seem to have lost their reason, is expected to inform the future on my particular political consciousness at a time when doing so is uncommon. Dame Eugenia teaches us that freedom of speech is the most fundamental tool to be used by people in any democracy and I am emboldened in that resolve. My major concern is that Dominica may be leaning closer towards political autocracy,
9. The Holy Bible, KJV.
10. Dame Eugenia – Unedited, Bruno, 1999, 19 (unpublished).
especially in the absence of change in governance. Political autocracy may be defined as a system of government in which supreme or extreme social and political power is concentrated in the hands of and generally directed by one person, and that individual’s actions are not necessarily subjected to legal restraint nor regularized mechanisms of control. Are we there yet? There is this early 19th century saying that goes like this: “coming events cast a shadow before them.”11
If we happen to be visited with autocracy or any form of authoritative tendencies in Dominica’s politics, we ought not to be surprised. To be quite frank, it would be very difficult for any observer to miss the trends in Dominica’s politics under the stewardship of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
A defense of the leanings towards autocracy would have to include truths that debunk my humble observation. Dominica may, however, never become an autocracy, but it is always good and proper to warn about or call attention to even the slightest sign(s), and the signs are there and some are not even subtle. Those signs are even more readily apparent in a post-hurricane Maria Dominica, hence this presentation of my parliamentary opposition political blueprint.
This brings me to the conclusion recommendation. Combating the politics of mendicancy in a system which is led by a regime which is poised to leverage its entrenched advantage, can be a spectacular challenge. The term mendicancy which has Latin origins basically means ‘to beg.’ Perpetuated by the mendicant movement in thirteenth-century France and Italy, where people in poorer provincial areas would be cared for by wealthy merchants, this sort of tendency has found its way in many governing systems as a means of control and influence. There is more than a vague shadow of this in Dominica. This social form is acceptable if and where there are established systems of checks and balances, where no one personality wields any sort of influence, interest in or control over such programs and when
11. Coming events cast their shadows before, Campbell, 1803, (Poem: Line 52 – 56)
people are honorably cared for without bias, allegiance, prejudice, and favour. I am all for social reliance programs, but they should be for the absolute destitute. Otherwise, there needs to be an enabling atmosphere which would encourage citizens to learn, work, build, manufacture and achieve. If you are satisfied that all is well within Dominica’s system, this essay is simply a proactive document; if it isn’t the essay should or could be a sound caution.
But I believe that change is needed and that very change could prove to be a test of the resolve of the Dominican spirit. According to Deutschman (1965): You have to be willing to jump into a hole with people. The leader has to be willing to do it with the people. ‘Change’ was a verb and it should stay a verb. It has to happen in action. You have to do it. I don’t think a leader can accomplish major change without being willing to slice yourself open and become part of the change.12
I am sure that there is one among us with that undaunted spirit. The antidote is changed; people driven change. Change from a status quo of fundamental control to one of more widespread growth-oriented, people-driven policies. Change from an elitist mentality to one where the wider populace plays a role in shaping the nation’s future.
Change from political affluence by a protected few to a situation where the proletariat sees hope in upward mobility within society’s strata. Change from being led to the prospect of leading. Change not because change is a must but because change is inevitably driven by one’s will and desires to engender, embrace and maintain such change. Change from being suppressed to a situation which allows you to grow. Change because you are consciously compelled to do so; the sort of change that beckons you to get up and go. Change from a know-it-all tendency to one
12. Change of Die, Deutschman, 1965, 90
which places credence on others’ competencies and innate strengths. We really must learn to trust each other and to identify our own weaknesses in others’ strengths and vice versa. We have arrived at this place in Dominica’s political history where serious attention must be placed on the nation’s future. Dominica is now on a leadership crossroads; a position where leaders must lead in the shadows of those great leaders who have helped to shape the nation, on the strength of the people whom they serve, and not in defense of the party or political organization that those leaders represent.
Until and unless measures are taken to cleanse the electoral system from the ambiguities of a bloated electoral list and paid public performers who, with prejudice, pander to one side or the other instead of focusing on the work of the people, the feeling will persist, the people will suffer strife in the system. A note to Mr. Skerrit and his ruling incumbent – DLP: power has a way of blinding those who have embraced it, and comfort is an enemy of progress.
You may believe, today, that your best bet is to remain in power for as long a period as possible, and using every means at your disposal to maintain it, but this can redound to your disadvantage. The time has come for the wheels of power to move again, not necessarily in a different direction but certainly with a different sense of purpose that traditional incumbent regimes just do not naturally possess the ability to do.
This is not a necessarily a rebuke or challenge of your political achievements, this is simply a frank opinion being offered, supported by reasoned academic application and it would not be in your interest, nor Dominica’s, for you to bluntly ignore. Your enablers may want to convince you otherwise, but at the end of the day it is you who ultimately decide and it is you who will be left alone to ponder on your activities as head of Dominica’s government.
It is time to take stock. Look around and see the other Caribbean and World leaders who enjoy the comradery, respect, and continuity in the states-personship of their respective countries, and look around and see those who do not. They who do not, arrive at this point, either because of malpractice in office or prolonged power syndrome (PPS). The long and short of it is that life goes on after politics, or rather it should. Why can’t you enjoy life out of office as everyone before you has?
My solemn advice is that you look to the future and make the best decision for the good of the future generations of Dominica. If you believe that you should continue to lead, indefinitely in the best interest of the people, please go on fighting to do so by any and every means. I beg to differ, however – I do not think that you should. There is no need to surrender power either; just create a level enough field and I assure you the power will be rescued from you.
To the opposition UWP and Mr. Linton, you have your work cut out for you. But it would help you to know that the opposition is not the few who occupy the halls of parliament as elected leaders and other appointed parliamentary officials. Instead, the opposition is everyone who must, at one point or the other, make a conscious effort to think independently and speak out against situations which affect the people – and they are endless.
It is your task to harmonize opposition support, magnify their voices and strengthen their will and determination. Ask yourself these questions: have you been trying beyond your own competencies? Have you been open and engaging to welcome other opposition elements, though matter how challenging? Do you see an all-inclusive opposition approach as the way to defeat the incumbent DLP? Are there political initiatives of yours that you believe could have been better executed?
What would or could you have done differently if you were given another opportunity or opportunities? Are you aware that most of your afflictions are system supported ways of using the statutes of state and of the letters of the law to humble you, and are you further aware that you – because of your manner of social interaction – have walked straight into the trap…too many times?
Whatever the answers are, I hope you are honestly satisfied with your efforts and are convinced that your better days are ahead? It is my hope that this essay be received as a symbol of the people’s hope. With the knowledge that the opposition includes you, this call knocks at the doors of your consciousness. It says to you that you should reach across the isles of our differences, not abandoning your own cause, but finding, crafting and creating new ways of harmony in the interest of the future generations of Dominica.
In redirecting the message, we may wish to omit terms like: Skerrit and the criminal enterprise, or the DLP government is a den of thieves, or a cabal, a criminal enterprise, etc. How do you expect to gain sympathy and support from the very people whom you denigrate to this extent? Subtle political commonsense and technically correct and qualified approaches should form the basis of an opposition campaign. Astute and capable leadership is therefore needed so ‘we the people’ must wake up the spirit of such leadership, grab the spirit and use it to fix the future for our children and their children and their children’s children and the children of their children’s children.
I have some recommendations which a new Dominica government could adopt. But they are only ideas in the vaguest forms. Formulation and implementation of ideas is a whole new endeavor and one may not simply grab an idea or ideas and expect that they will work in the absence of the visionary competencies which helped to materialize or are needed to see those ideas to fruition. What I am suggesting is that politicians do need help in crafting ideas.
Technocrats, bureaucrats and other such experts must be relied upon if politicians are going to be successful in the new era. One very rarely discovers a politician or politicians who are endowed with all the skills necessary to impartially guide their own work – this just does not happen. So, even if politicians think and believe that they have all the answers, as they generally do, they must rely on certain expertise because they do not, in fact, have all the answers.
The Dominican opposition politicians may wish to be guided by this, or probably not. If, however, they profess to be benefactors of proper political counsel, they probably need to look into their methods of manifesting those strategic initiatives. I am frankly not a fan of several of their public pronouncements and this is not to say that I necessarily support, favor or disfavor them.
I am a ‘Dominica first professional’ with my preferences and biases as anyone else, so I am not above the fray. My greater responsibility, however, happens to be to Dominica, especially at this crucial juncture and this is why I contribute this essay and other such works. I call upon fair-minded citizens to peek through the dense partisan smokescreen and see a hopeful Dominica with outstretched hands, calling you into action: “come ye forward, sons and daughters, of this Gem beyond compare, strive for honour sons and daughters, do the right be firm be fair, toil with hearts and hands and voices, we must prosper! Sound the call, in which everyone rejoices, All for Each and Each for All.”13 This essay does just that; I echo the words of W.O.M Pond and invoke his spirits of nationhood.
I also call upon all those brave and fearless Dominicans, in this life and the spirit of those in the past, to help guide our recovery. I look to the African concept of Sankofa which suggests that we need to look back but keep moving forward. It is my view that the regime which is going to be successful at the next general election is the one which adopts and best presents a national agenda of recovery and growth with a clear vision for a new Dominica (or it should).
A new regime may very well assume power or the DLP could continue to serve in the absence of this new Dominica Nationalist agenda of which I speak; this is quite possible. But from the lens that I am looking, it seems that Dominica will be better served by this new surge. These ideas which I now present should cause us to look to the past for guidance as we progress forward:
13. Dominica National Anthem, Pond, W. O, M, 1967, (3 rd stanza).
1. Dominica should enter into a reformative period (2018 – 2028): the decade of national rebirth, during which time the Constitution should be Suspend and reformed in a way that it is brought in line with the general attitude and rhythm of the people. This new brand should take Dominica’s founding principles into consideration, but we may first need to identify what exactly are the founding tenets of the Dominican nation because we cannot simply exist as a generic former British colony.
Dominica needs distinguishable mark among nations of the world and this is our perfect opportunity to build from Maria’s rubble (if Skerrit and the DLP regime would do this, it might become their legacy as the regime is yet to create a significant and a long-lasting, across the board initiative that will survive the test of time).
2. Change Dominica’s food culture; cut back on imports and encourage the procurement of food, including beverages and fresh water for local consumption and external export.
3. Help the manufacturing/production sector to grow by extending administrative fiscal packages of support that would enable them to employ more people.
4. Reestablish and/or strengthen existing social clubs and other such organizations like the social league, boy scouts, cub scouts, brownies, girl guides, 4 H Club, civic agencies and sports clubs.
5. Establish reliable international gateways to Dominica; fast speed ferry service and commercial-cargo air jet facility.
6. Train younger Dominicans (and Dominicans on a whole) on nationhood, national symbols, citizenship, cultural heritage and indigenous ways.
7. Reestablish the Dominica Defence Force that would engage at least 500 (or more) younger Dominicans in a self-sustaining army of professional defenders of our borders and also to serve as first respondents before, during and after natural disasters and non-natural upheavals. Among these would be specially trained tactical professionals: engineers, doctors, architects, negotiators and construction experts.
8. Depoliticize the police service; create expertise and provide the force with personnel and tools necessary to provide 21st century policing needs.
9. Establish a Dominican centenarian, longevity, natural-wellness and rehabilitation center to serve Dominica, the region and the wider world in the name of Elizabeth “Pampo” Israel. The same could be done in conjunction with a new and bold design for the re-development of the Picard area to encourage and promote excellence in medical training and research.
10. Invest heavily, meaningfully and strategically in agriculture.
11. Transform the residence of Edward Oliver Leblanc, first Premier of Dominica into a national historic site and cultural shrine. 12. Institute a Dominica Diaspora Constituency as an absentee overseas voting fraternity with the prerequisite being registration and contribution to the national social and cultural development fund named after a Dominican Icon, E.C. Loblack.
13. Re-commission the president’s house as a Hall of Cultural and Civil Engagement. A residence for The Head of State should be built at Morne Bruce.
14. Totally reform local government by placing power in the hands of the ‘locals.’
15. Establish term limits for heads of Dominican governments and by so doing becoming Caribbean leaders in that area.
16. Place greater emphasis on and invest heavily in early education.
17. Cleanse the voter list; reform the electoral system.
18. Establish a National Debate Commission and appoint a qualified, trained and independent commissioner to manage and direct its activities.
19. Create an avenue for equal access to the media for organized political parties.
20. Protect natural national resources, including parks, recreation areas and rivers.
21. Reintroduce skills training: mechanics, fishing, art and craft, dance and creative arts, woodwork, farming, culinary arts, pottery, ceramics, animal and plant husbandry and sewing.
22. Teach Creole at school; make the language a required and official medium of communication in schools, parliament, courts and other governmental and private enterprises.
23. Make sports an integral part of the Dominica educational and vocational curriculum.
24. Introduce election campaign finance reform and enact laws to guide the same. Make electoral debates a standard civil and civic responsibility for prospective political leaders.
25. Establish a Free Speech zone on the Capital, Roseau.
26. Grant the indigenous citizens, the Kalinagos, unfettered autonomy of their land and system of living where the Chief is a celebrated officer of the territory with all the amenities which go with it, including an office in the governing structure of the island and a financial budget geared at sustaining the originality of the people of the Kalinago territory.
27. Invest in a helicopter and Ferry service: ‘Nature Copters & West Coast Ferries.’
28. Declare and Establish Grand Bay and Marigot as provincial towns of the island of Dominica.
29. Bring or reintroduce the International Creole Language Symposium to bear the name of Ma Tutu which should be held in Dominica each year as part of the World Creole Music Festival.
30. Establish a National Heroes Hall of Fame and resource center in the name of Dame Eugenia, the first female Prime Minister of Dominica.
31. I will stop here for now… These are but a handful of ideas; some new and others may not be as new – although no idea is really ever new. But ideas are just ideas until they are implemented, and this is where things get a bit tricky. I could have gone on to mention a host of others, but you get the idea and I am sure that you may have some more of your own. Within the limitations of this essay, my ideas are meant to tease out some of your own ideas.
This forum does not allow for the sort of technical details and strategic means necessary for modifying these ideas into policy positions and matters of implementation; that is another thing altogether. But we are at this place and time where we could proceed with a stronger and more united approach. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we should know when to say what; when we can and where we can’t.
But what is certain is that we all should play some role in nation building. We need to speak with each other – not at or past each other. Oppose, but oppose responsibly. Lead but lead honorably. We must open up the floodgates of ideas because there are a great number of choked-up initiatives which are raging to get loose. Do not be afraid to make way to change, because that change may very well be your redemption.
We really should not take democracy for granted…what could pass for democracy may very well be subtle autocracy.
Alder, S. L. – “Quotes”. Sourced from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1391130.Shannon_L_Alder?page=2 on December 28, 2017.
Bruno, A. (1999). Dame Eugenia – Unedited, Bruno (unpublished).
Campbell, T (1802). Coming events cast their shadows before. Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore, and coming events cast their shadows before” (lines 52-56). Deutschman, A. (1965). Change or Die. Could You Change when Change Matters Most?
King, M.L Jr. (1965). Silent About Things That Matter. Unitarian Universalist Association. Sourced from https://www.uua.org/worship/words/quote/silent-about-things-matter on December 22, 2017.
Peters, D (1992). The Democratic System in the Eastern Caribbean. Contributions in Political Science, November 298. Greenwood Press.
Pond, W. O, M, (1967). Isles of Beauty – Dominica National Anthem,
The Holy Bible – King James Version, Bible Study Tools. Sourced from https://www.biblestudytools.com/kjv/exodus/5.html on December 21, 2017.
Wong, D. (2017). The Challenges With Regime Change in the Caribbean. The World Post – HOFFPOST.
Bruno (2017). Political Essay VI 24