Dominica nears its independence anniversary – and a possible snap election – as a nation on the rebound from hurricane disasters, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has told fellow nationals living here.
“We are back. Our country is on the cusp of a very exciting and dynamic period of consolidation,” he told Dominicans at the Black Rock Cultural Centre, which was specially decorated in the bright madras colours of the island’s national wear, three days ahead of the 41st Independence anniversary on November 3.
Skerrit said: “In just over 60 hours we celebrate our 41st anniversary of independence…
“In Dominica we have much for which to be thankful and to give praise.
“First and foremost, we are no longer the Cinderella sibling of the Caribbean family; we’re up there with the brightest and the best.”
Before an audience that also included Minister of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands and Parliamentary Secretary Neil Rowe, the Dominican Premier declared that he had not come to Barbados to promote the re-election of his Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government, but to give an account of his administration’s stewardship.
Like Dominicans at home, those in Barbados are awaiting the announcement of elections, constitutionally due next year but widely expected to be held before year-end.
The prime minister told the audience the poll will be held within “under 85 days”.
He said: “Dominica, to my mind, is on the right track and is moving in the right direction.
“We are not perfect, we have made mistakes.
“But I wish to place our record of our accomplishments on the table for all to examine and evaluate.
“This Labour Party government has performed. It has delivered.
“It has a clear vision and a plan for taking our country Dominica forward.
“Currently we have several major infrastructural projects underway or about to commence.”
Skerrit pointed to the new housing development projects across the island, the construction of new health care facilities, including the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, the first phase of which was recently opened.
There are also several hotel development projects in the works, funded by the Citizenship by Investment Programme.
Announcing a raft of hotel developments, he said: “The Kempinski 160 rooms will be opened officially on Saturday of this week.
“We have the Anichi Marriott Resort and Spa 133 rooms under construction; the Tranquillity Hilton Beach Resort 75 rooms currently under construction.
“The Jungle Bay has opened and an additional 55 villas will be available by the end of December 2019.
“The Secret Bay Hotel is currently expanding with 39 additional villas.
He also sought to assure Dominican students at the UWI at Cave Hill that the government in Roseau is addressing their concerns, despite challenges.
Skerrit said: “I acknowledge that there are a few chinks in the system from time to time.
“Even though we may institute policies and guidelines, it happens far too often for my liking where simple things like subventions and subsistence reach students way too late.
“We have no way of knowing this unless and until someone highlights it.
“But I wish to assure you this evening that your education in Barbados is catered for by the government of Dominica.
“We budget the funds, we sourced the funds, we authorise the funds, and there is no excuse for the funds not reaching you on time and in time.”
Dominicans are preparing to vote amid continued calls from the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) for electoral reform.
But while declaring support for reform, the prime minister accused the opposition of not cooperating with effort to change the electoral laws.
He told the audience: “We sought to go to parliament on two separate occasions.
“The first time we went to parliament there was a mob outside the parliament and to the point where they were prepared to storm the parliament.
“And I who [am] always a maker of peace and a promoter of peace, I decided to withdraw the bills from the Order Paper, and to allow for there to be further consultation with stakeholders across the country.
“We wrote to the opposition in Dominica for example and we said to them look, these are the amendments, tell us which of these clauses you do not agree with and which you agree with so that we can have a sensible discussion.
“They are yet to submit to us that which they do not agree with and that which they agree with.
“We sought to go back to the parliament a second time because we removed one, two clauses in the amendment and the same thing happened.
“The only people who have been the stumbling block in the issuance of National ID cards in Dominica for the purposes of voting, is the opposition.”
Stating that Dominica has had eight elections since attaining independence, Skerrit gave “every assurance that whenever this election [is] called, we will have free and fair elections that will allow everybody who is on the voter’s list to vote in Dominica and to protect his constitutional right to do so”.
Skerrit thanked the government and people of Barbados for their support over the years, particularly after the last two major storms to hit the island – Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017.
He announced the appointment of Calvin Alkins, Managing Director of Calvin Alkins Customs Service, as Dominica’s Honorary Consul in Barbados.
Skerrit said: “Alkins emerged from the rubble of our disaster as a reliable friend of Dominica.
“And during the post-Hurricane Maria food and supply crisis, he rendered yeoman service to Dominica in ensuring that the nation was fed during those early days when access to our ports of entry was difficult and even restricted.
“Alkins used his personal resources to guarantee supply and delivery of food stuff never once giving a second thought to the inherent risk of providing credit to a nation that was not then collecting a single dollar in revenue.”
He also thanked local developer Mark Maloney for assisting in rebuilding efforts since the passage of Hurricane Maria.
Said the Dominican leader: “Mark came to our aid when we were down for the count, he has not wavered.
“His company has been on the forefront of national clean up efforts and they have done a phenomenal job of cleaning up the country and restoring natural water courses for the easy flow of rivers and rain water to natural and man-made settlements as well as out to sea.”