ROSEAU –– Controversy appears to be brewing among some members of the Dominica Hotel & Tourism Association after one of its members openly opposed a statement released by the organization, following a massive protest that took place in Salisbury last week.
DHTA board member Vanessa Prevost is one of two who voted against the issuing of the statement, which was released in conjunction with the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce (DAIC) last week.
In the statement the two organizations condemned what they described as “illegal actions” associated with the protest.
“Disruptive actions, such as roadblocks, pose a serious challenge to the economic activity of the country. The major highways, particularly the E.O. Leblanc Highway, serve as the main conduit for conducting business and for commuting to and from work and school for a large segment of our population,” the organizations said.
But in a lengthy statement to the DHTA, which eventually got into public domain, Prevost made clear her disapproval of the matter. She said the two organizations were making it clear that “it is okay for our government to treat its own people, its own citizens, with bullets and tear gas when they are protesting”.
She also said the statement was made after both the DAIC and the DHTA had been contacted by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to issue it.
DHTA president Gregor Nassief admitted that the organization was contacted by the prime minister, noting that it had worked closely with the authorities in the past.
“All of the things that the DHTA does, we work very closely with the administration to do so,” he noted, adding that the country’s head had in the past expressed that it should speak out on matters affecting it.
He said the matter was considered “thoroughly” by both the DAIC and the DHTA and the two saw it necessary to make a statement.
“We have been in touch with the opposition [United Workers Party] on this. So it’s not a biased approach per se,” he stated.
However, the United Workers Party said today that no direct contact had been made to it concerning the statement.
Party leader Lennox Linton said that on the morning of the protest action he received a WhatsApp message from Nassief asking him for his opinion on the protest action since hotels were receiving calls for “possible cancellations”.
The joint statement was released last Friday 12.
Yesterday, Linton said, he received a call from Nassief requesting a number for Salisbury’s MP Hector John. The number was given and that same day Nassief had a meeting with John in Salisbury.
Prevost had said in light of the statement that she did not intend to be a nominee of the DHTA board in the future because the association “puts itself above basic human rights and human safety”.
In response, Nassief said while it was Prevost’s decision to make, the DHTA hoped that she would “reconsider”.
“She is a very key member of our board, and we value her opinions very much,” he noted.
When quizzed as to why the DHTA never released a statement on the first protest that took place in Salisbury on May 11, Nassief said in hindsight, the organization should have done so.
“The thing is that as an organization, it’s not easy to be as proactive all the time as one should be,” he noted, “But in hindsight, we should have made a statement.”
He said he wanted to make it clear that the DHTA was “extremely sympathetic” to the plight of the farmers in Salisbury and “their grievances should have been dealt with a long time ago and that is a failure of the authorities”.
However, he noted that under no circumstances should “breaking the law” be the right thing to do.
The DHTA president also agreed that the statement “failed” to take into account the plight of the farmers and pointed out that both the authorities and the residents should get past the phase where they felt it necessary to break Dominica’s laws in order to “make a point and to get attention”.
DNO’s attempt to get the DAIC’s side was not successful.