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Economics of Going Green
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Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
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DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
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Politics in Dominica 25 Years after Independence
Nov. 01/2003: - The political division that ripped through Dominica at independence time in 1978 continues today, Dominica's leading historian has contended. And, according to Dr. Lennox Honychurch, the culture of divisiveness is so pervasive that some Dominicans have been asking whether the country should have sought political independence from Britain.
"The playing field on which independence was obtained was one of political division and upheaval (and) it has continued to be very divisive," Honychurch told the Sun newspaper in an interview.
"Here we are 25 years later questioning whether we should have gone independent," he added.
Honychurch was part of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) team that took part in pre-independence talks with Britain. The DFP was opposed to independence and had demanded a referendum on the issue; however, Premier Patrick John would have none of that, recalled Honychurch and others involved with the DFP at the time.
"There were disagreements on the whole question of independence. The (Dominica) Freedom Party felt that there should be a referendum and PJ (Premier Patrick John) was adamant that there should be no referendum," said Pat Stevens, a former DFP member of parliament for Marigot.
The two opposing parties also fought an intense battle over what kind of constitution the country should have and the electoral system, resulting in Dominica being the first Caribbean state to become a republic at the time of independence and the only one to have a unicameral parliamentary system.
The battle over independence was a reflection of the bitterness that existed between the political rivals dating back to pre-independence days first between then premier Edward Leblanc and Eugenia Charles (now Dame Eugenia), and later, between Leblanc's successor, John and Charles, Honychurch contended.
The deep divisions and intense acrimony resulted in a popular uprising that led to the fall of the Patrick John regime less than a year after independence.
"When I reflect on the overthrow, my consolation is Moses; (like Moses I believe that) god probable had this job for me to take this country into independence and no further," the former Prime Minister told the Sun.
John himself was jailed for twelve years in 1985 for his role in the attempted overthrown of the Eugenia Charles government months after the DFP swept to power in July, 1980.
Now, 25 years later, the fractious politics of blacks versus mulattos and Roseau versus country that was practiced by these leaders, continues between the current leaders, Prime Minister Pierre Charles and Edison James, leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), the Dominican historian argued.
"There is some lingering undercurrent in Dominica that makes the political divisiveness more acute. It is so difficult, it's almost as if they look for little social and ethnic difference to exploit.
"What we have now is a situation where the UWP is attempting to take over the argument that the (Dominica) Labour Party traditionally made that 'we are for the poor' in an attempt to use again those social issues as a tool for political power. And it is very tragic indeed. We are still in the period of the 1970s. We are still using the language of (the late Grenadian dictator) Eric Gairy.
"There was a clone between the Gairy government and Patrick John and a lot of influence of Gairy's attitude was reflected in Dominica.
"The political divisions are so acute you can't get anything done under these conditions. There is a kind of primitive democratic tactic (of pulling down each other) and this is bad for the country," said Honychurch, adding that the geography of the country made political unity more complex.
Pat Stevens, a former colleague of Honychurch contended that the situation is even worse now than it was at independence time, arguing that tensions were not as high as they are today and expressing disappointment over the state of the country's politics.
"The standard and level of politics hadn't got that amount of tension as there is today. I am not happy over the state of politics. The divisiveness of the politics (comes from) both sides of the fence," Stevens told the Sun. "One accuses the other and if these allegations have to be going back and forth we are wasting time. One reaches a certain stage where things have to be brought to an end."
In 1978, when the country gained political independence from Britain - unlike countries like Barbados and Guyana, Dominica was semi-autonomous for ten years when it gained independence - there were some who felt that Dominica would better be able to negotiate for aid and that the international community would help support it as a small island developing state, Honychurch said.
However, 25 years later, things have changed radically with globalisation and trade liberalisation forcing poor countries on the brink of collapse and, according to the historian, "we are still having the hovering feeling that we have not moved."
"Ask yourself what ever happened to all the so called foreign investors over the past 25 years? How is it that none of these things has really been able to get off the ground?" he asked.
But Stevens argued that despite the political division the country had made progress in areas like education and health, citing an increase in the number of secondary schools, the education trust fund and the launch of the Dominica State College.
"Before we were independent we had five secondary schools, now we have 15 or 16 so at least more children are able to access secondary education within the area where they live. (Also) we have the education trust fund, the youth skills training programme and we have the state college
"In health we have improved. We have moved from four medical districts to seven. So the health system has improved. Although we haven't got where we want to get regarding hospitals, we have quite a few health centres around the country.
"In construction, a lot of buildings went up, people built better houses (and) there has been tremendous increases in vehicle ownership," he contended.