Dynamic Dominica: The democratic process

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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

By Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

The following is the full text of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s second address to the Nation, in three days, delivered, December 4, 2019, amid ‘intimidation of voters’, ‘lawlessness’ and abhorrence behavior leading up to general elections on Friday, December 6, 2019.

Fellow Dominicans, I crave your indulgence, once again to reiterate my total abhorrence of the behavior of persons in positions of influence, who are causing the destruction of Dominica’s good name and image abroad. General elections will be held in the Commonwealth of Dominica on Friday, December 6, 2019. Let us be clear about this.

Let us be clear also, that the intimidation of voters and other law-abiding citizens in this country will stop, in the prelude to voting. I will not have lawless persons attempt to frustrate decent voters on their way to the polls or destroy the democratic process in Dominica. Local law enforcement officials have exercised as much restraint as is humanly possible. They have endured verbal abuse, physical abuse, threats of violence, injury, and even death.

Many law-abiding citizens have been harassed. We saw on video, on social media, His Lordship, The Bishop of Roseau, enduring the worst kind of vile and filthy, verbal abuse and quite frankly, assault, as persons in Marigot, got into his face to shout their abuse.

This is the constituency of the leader of the opposition, United Workers Party (UWP).  This is where the road blockage and burning of waste in the public road, started. The chief abuser of His Lordship, the Bishop, seen clearly on video, was Brian Linton, the brother of the leader of the opposition.

Getting to the airport via the main route of Marigot, is now akin to walking the gauntlet. The Bishop and other travelers, had to physically carry their suitcases along the streets, pass burning debris in Marigot, as they endured the abuse of the supporters of the leader of the opposition.

It is clear, that the leader of the opposition, Lennox Linton, does not have in him what it takes to publicly apologise to His Lordship, for the conduct of his brother [Brian] Linton and UWP supporters.

Even if [Lennox] Linton does not like the person, he should respect the office of the head of the Catholic Church in Dominica. He owes His Lordship, the Bishop, an unqualified apology for his brother’s conduct and that of his supporters who acted at his behest.

I, therefore, take this opportunity, on behalf of the Christian community of Dominica, to apologise, most sincerely to His Lordship, for what must have been a very frightening encounter and experience, as he went about his lawful business.

I am quite alarmed, that to date, other Church leaders have not found it necessary to lend their voice of concern, if not condemnation, to the campaign of hooliganism embarked upon by the leader of the opposition, and Edison James, the former prime minister of Dominica. James is seeking relevance at the expense of decency; and at the expense of his country. I am yet to understand Linton’s thinking in this matter, other than a love of violence and lawlessness.

The economy of this country is now being adversely affected. My dear people, we awoke this morning, to the hurtful news of the cancellation of some flights by Seaborne Airlines, due to the hooliganism of the supporters of the opposition. I must also inform you, that the cruise lines which visit our shores are now also contemplating whether they will suspend calls on Dominica, indefinitely. 

This morning alone, December 4, the Azamara Journey, a cruise ship with 1000 passengers, who were to spend the day in Dominica, turned back and will no longer enter our port. This ship visits Dominica once every two years, and such cancellation is a major loss. Executives of the cruise line felt compelled to take this decision, as a result of the negative feedback they have been receiving about the violence and scare tactics employed by the opposition in various parts of Dominica.

The United Workers Party and its leadership have publicly condoned the actions of these lawless pockets of their supporters.

We in Dominica have prided ourselves on the country’s reputation as one of the friendliest and safest in the Caribbean for our people and for our visitors. Dominica has spent years building and improving on our reputation as one of the best eco-tourism islands in the Caribbean. What it took us years to build is now being destroyed in the space of a few days, for the selfish gain of a single group.

The ministry of tourism has also received calls from other cruise lines querying the safety of their passengers in Dominica.

The actions of the leadership of the United Workers Party and its supporters are impacting negatively on the image of Dominica, and ordinary Dominicans are now beginning to feel the repercussions of the UWP’s callousness and indifference.

Hair braiders, vendors, tour operators, entertainers, artists, popular tour stops such as the Kalinago territory, clothing and souvenir vendors, bars, restaurants, shopkeepers, wholesalers, those who set up their tents last night, taxi drivers who lined up this morning, service providers at the various sites, all waited and looked forward to the arrival of the Azamara Journey. They were all very disappointed at the news of the cancellation. All these people, their families, and staff, will feel this loss in their pockets.

Dominica cannot afford to receive another black-eye at the hands of the United Workers Party. We have worked too hard, done too much, and come too far to build a solid, positive national reputation to have it destroyed by this lawless bunch.

Just imagine visitors trying to get back to the ship or airport and being stuck behind one of the blockades of UWP supporters. Imagine their fear.

This is a most unfortunate situation. But, as a consequence of the recklessness and immaturity of the opposition leader and his supporters in Dominica and after consultation with several key stakeholders it is my duty to inform you that our worst fears have been realized. All cruise ship calls to Dominica have been cancelled effective immediately and that cessation of service shall remain in effect until after the general election period when hopefully this madness would have subsided and we would bring an end to this unwarranted blotch on our otherwise pristine record for peace, safety and tranquility.

I hope the leader of the opposition, [Lennox] Linton, former prime minister Edison James and their foreign partners and advisors can sleep comfortably tonight, knowing that they have now left scores of families in Dominica penniless for the next few days and possibly weeks.

This is a sad, sorry day in the rebuild efforts of this country. The lawlessness and irresponsibility of a thoughtless few will now jeopardize the social and economic wellbeing of all.

They are seeking confrontation. Their wish is to be arrested. Their wish is for national unrest. But I urge law-abiding citizens to continue to display restraint. Let us get Friday’s elections behind us. Let us conclude this process peacefully and without strife. This lawlessness shall come to a screeching halt immediately thereafter. I give you my word.

Let me pause to assure all our people that we remain a safe island, as there have been no injuries to persons or deaths and we have just received additional manpower from the Regional Security System (RSS) to ensure all our people and visitors are safe and free to move around.

Please let me speak to this matter from the wider economic perspective. I wish to remind all Dominicans, that with the demise of bananas as the mainstay, tourism is now the lifeblood of our economy. The government is in the process of building a modern tourism plant, spearheaded by several world-class, international hotel brands. The construction of the new airport, which the Chinese have agreed to finance, is intended to strengthen the tourism sector.

After all that, Dominicans and the government have accomplished, to build this country back after the ravages of hurricane Maria, there could be no worst blow to our efforts than the suspension of airline services and now cruise line services; a suspension; which is not as a consequence of bad weather but, is a direct result of bad behavior. One wonders how any political party or leader could so uncaringly act against the interests of the people and country, they say they want to lead.

The recklessness, lawlessness, and hooliganism sanctioned by [Lennox] Linton and embarked upon by a lawless handful of his supporters, particularly his constituents, is now tearing away at the heart of the Dominican experience. If we do not have peace, safety, and tranquility, we have nothing to offer, as a tourism destination.

The behavior of Linton is also of tremendous concern to other world leaders, many of whom have been extremely generous to Dominica in recent years. It is not for me to articulate their future foreign policy decisions, but, I can assure you, that many leaders with whom Dominica currently enjoys very close and cooperative relationships have made it  clear, in recent days, that they cannot and will not be associated with an administration capable of behaving in the manner that we are now seeing from Linton and his cohorts.

And let me say, this lawlessness and hooliganism is not hurting the Dominica Labour Party, (DLP). To the contrary, analysts may one day reason that its impact on decent people and independent voters was so serious, that it might actually have helped the Dominica Labour Party.

What is of concern to me, as your prime minister, is that the recklessness of the opposition is hurting Dominica.

Next Monday morning, general elections would by then have been behind us, but there will be a massive clean-up operation ahead of us; clean-up of our streets and clean-up of our country’s reputation. Only Almighty God knows how long that clean-up will take.

Thinking Dominicans must ask themselves, “Should the very people who are creating this carnage on the streets of Dominica be entrusted with the task of national clean-up and national healing?” “Can they be so trusted? “Will they be interested in such a task?” What would be their style of governance?” 

Dominica must now rebuild relations with the outside world. Dominica has to re-package and re-market itself as a safe, peaceful and fun-loving place to visit and relax or do business. This will not be an easy task. The winter season has already started, given these present occurrences, it may now very well, be a bleak one for Dominica.

I am deeply concerned about the short- and medium-term impact of this lawlessness and hooliganism on safety, and on the social and economic fabric of our society. So concerned, that I requested sister nations in the Regional Security System to send us support for our police force, just in case the instigators and perpetrators entertain the idea of continuing their nonsense into [tomorrow] and Friday.

As a consequence of that request, both police and soldiers from regional law enforcement agencies, coming together under the ambit of the Regional Security System, have arrived in Dominica to assist in the preservation of law and order in our country. I am determined to keep the majority of the citizens of Dominica safe from the few opposition hooligans.

At this time, we are inconvenienced by the lawlessness and hooliganism of some, with the blocking of roads and burning of tyres. This burning is already taking a toll on many asthmatics, elderly and other persons who have adverse reactions to such smoke. It is clear to me that the leadership of the United Workers Party does not care what their lawlessness is doing to the health of the country, the economy, and certainly not to the health and wellbeing of ordinary Dominicans; some of their own supporters included.

I wish to assure residents that law and order in the country will be maintained. We have exercised considerable tolerance. We have tried to reason with these people. We have appealed to their leaders to change course. We have appealed to the Church and the private sector to lend a voice of wisdom and guidance in this matter. We have asked the opposition leader and his party to call for calm and restraint and to ask their supporters to stop their injurious behaviour. But all to no avail.

I say to you [today], law and order shall be maintained in the Commonwealth of Dominica. There shall be free, fair and peaceful elections in this country on Friday. I have given both the airlines and the cruise sector our assurance of safety and security for their guests while visiting our island.

I appeal once again to those misguided youths, acting on the direction of persons who should know better, to cease, and desist from their flagrant violation of the law. Please walk away from your lawless behavior. I have a duty, to ensure that law-abiding citizens can go about their business, free from fear and without intimidation, or unnecessary inconvenience.

As prime minister of this country, I met with the high command of the police force to make clear that law and order must be maintained, and that, as of tonight, perpetrators of lawlessness, who endanger the rights and wellbeing of citizens and visitors, must be dealt with, utilizing the full force of the law.

I appeal to supporters of the labour party, to all citizens, residents, and visitors to our beautiful country, to “turn the other cheek”. Ignore those who are bent on confrontation and provocation. Be assured, however, that in short order, what needs to be done to preserve respect for law and order in this country, will be done.

Dominicans living and working abroad, I wish to appeal to you to get involved in this discussion. You have as much at stake in this matter as those of us living on the island. You need to call your family and friends in Dominica and admonish them against continuing this silly behavior or sanctioning the actions of those behind it. It is serving no useful purpose. It is harming the image of our island.

To those of you who wish to come home and participate in these elections, you are most welcomed to do so. You have nothing to fear. Voting in Dominica is free and fair – Dominica, in spite of this lawlessness is safe. Dominica belongs to Dominicans. You are Dominican and you have a right to participate in determining the future direction of this country.

Fellow Dominicans, I am unlikely to address you again before the start of polling. I appeal once again, for peaceful general elections. I appeal again for common sense to prevail.

But I assure all Dominicans, that this lawlessness shall end, and it shall not be permitted to interfere in the democratic expression of will by registered electors in this country.

Thank you for listening to me and again, I give you my personal assurance, that an end to this unsavory episode is at hand and will be brought to a screeching halt within a matter of hours.

Law-abiding citizens of this country can rest assured of this.

I thank you.

ADDRESS TO THE NATION BY PRIME MINISTER HON ROOSEVELT SKERRIT, DECEMBER 4, 2019

Address by Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit on December 4, 2019 ahead of Friday's general elections.

Posted by GIS Dominica on Thursday, December 5, 2019

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