Dominica’s former UN Ambassador Crispin Gregoire outlined to Dominicans that the difference between commanding a respected prime ministerial and presidential authority and the easily-dismissed petulance of Dominica’s constitution has far reaching consequences. Mr. Gregoire was the keynote speaker at the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) 32nd Annual Delegates Conference which was held on Sunday, August 6th, 2017 in Roseau. The late PM Dame Eugenia Charles founded the DFP.
Mr. Gregoire who remains highly popular in his home town of Grand Bay in the South, also spoke out about the last two questionable General elections in Dominica which were filled with irregularities. This was echoed in December 2014 by the former Chief Electoral Officer in Canada and Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat Electoral Observer Mission (EOM) to Dominica, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley. He said that electoral reform, campaign financing, women in politics and the size of the voters list are some of the areas that need to be addressed. The OAS also has similar concerns over Dominica’s electoral system and processes.
Gregoire implored elected leaders and law enforcement officials including the courts, to act and behave responsibly during the execution of their duties and in their roles. Gregoire was the campaign manager for the Dominica Labour Party in the 2000 elections which ushered the late Rosie Douglas into power after defeating PM Edison James and the United Workers Party (UWP). After Rosie died in office, he became the ‘chief Lieutenant’ of his successor, the late Pierre Charles, his childhood friend.
In 2002, Ambassador Gregoire who has a distinguished background in diplomacy, international development, and global civil society, was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Dominica to the United Nations by PM Charles. During his 8 years in that post, he served as Dominica’s delegate to the International Criminal Court, and as a Member of the UN Committee on NGOs, and the UN Decolonization Committee. He was active in trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and led the initiative for the annual UN International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery. Prior to joining the Office of the President of the General Assembly, he served as Chief, Strategic Monitoring and Support of Caribbean Country Offices, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at UNDP.
Ambassador Gregoire holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Columbia University and a Master of Education Degree from Howard University. His research has focused on nonprofit governance, Indigenous People of the Caribbean, and geothermal energy development in Dominica. Prior to joining the Dominica Foreign Service, Gregoire worked in Nigeria as a Program Consultant with the Ford Foundation’s Office for West Africa for six years. He later worked in global civil society development as Director of Global Programs at the BoardSource, Inc. in Washington, DC.
In 2010 Mr. Gregoire was separated from the UN Mission after he expressed frustration with the Skerrit led Labour party administration and its foreign policy posture and the strong allegations of government corruption. According to well-placed sources, Mr. Gregoire felt that the direction that the country was heading under Roosevelt Skerrit and the international image of Dominica was not representative of the original Dominica Labour Party ideals. The source continued by saying that the alleged sale of diplomatic passports to international crooks, criminals and vagabonds was deeply troubling and it was not something he could contend with and be party to. Another disturbing allegation is that there was very little or no proof that the lucrative proceeds from these diplomatic passport transactions were making it to the State’s treasury. The names of the ambassadors were allegedly not made public by the Skerrit government.
After the separation from the Dominica Mission, Gregoire has largely remained silent. In spite of his absence from the public, many informed Dominicans did not forget his invaluable contribution to Dominica’s foreign policy goals at the UN and what it meant to be a true statesman. His departure from this post was a great loss and an unfortunate development for Dominica. Mr. Gregoire stayed with the Labour Party during its 20 plus lean years in the doldrums. He was also the campaign manager when Skerrit contested the 2005 elections which result in his victory and consequently to his consolidation of power.
Gregoire was appointed United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Chief of the Caribbean Strategic Monitoring and Support Unit of the Regional Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean, following his separation from the Dominica Mission. In that position Gregoire served as the principal advocate at New York headquarters for the five Caribbean-country Offices located in Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. He provided oversight and management support to these country offices, served as a broker for mobilization of additional resources for their programs, built strategic alliances with donors and other resource organizations, and managed the Caribbean Regional Program undertaken with the CARICOM and OECS Secretariats. Further, he worked in the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly organizing the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
But Gregoire’s timely and poignant message at the DFP delegate’s conference stressed upon the fact that Dominica’s constitution needs to be respected, integrity of elections should be guaranteed, the rule of law should be ensured, and that a public servant’s role is to serve the public. He underscored that there should be a maximum two -5 year term limits for the Office of the Prime Minister and that the Integrity Commission Legislation should be re-amended to allow for civil society participation. He said that Dominica’s diaspora communities should be engaged and play more of a critical role in the island’s development, not just at election time. He contends that dual citizenship should not prevent Dominicans from seeking and holding high office, and expressed real concern about an economy which is largely dependent on the sale of Dominica’s citizenship.
The Ambassador also served a five (5) year engagement as Director of U.S Save the Children-Dominica Field Office in the 80s. His take-home message and reminder to the delegates and country is that Leadership is about good public policy, professionalism, competence, accountability and transparency, fairness, partnership and character. He strongly advised the DFP leadership that it is imperative that an accommodation and arrangement plan be implemented with the UWP to contest the next general election. His message was to motivate and inspire, not to rage and whine.
In a very sad development, the DFP General Secretary said that the state-owned Dominica Broadcasting Service (DBS) Radio did not carry the event live while both Q-95 FM Radio and Kairi FM provided live coverage. The Secretary said he made several calls to DBS to have the convention carried live, however, he was told that the party had to make available the address of the keynote speaker. Was it because the DBS General Manager found out that the Ambassador was the keynote speaker? It is understood that in the history of political conventions in Dominica, no DBS manager has ever requested an advance copy of the keynote speakers’ address as a pre-condition for carrying the proceedings live.
The following day after the DFP delegates conference, Ambassador Gregoire flew to Beijing with the UWP Parliamentary Opposition leader Linton as part of as a seven member delegation at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party. This is a poignant example that this statesman’s actions and positions are a refreshing testament of a true patriot who is undeterred by the disturbing political dynamics and depressing state of affairs in his beloved homeland. He is determined to stay the course in order to get Dominica back on its feet and on the right track again. He is showing a preparedness to work collaboratively with any one or party who puts country and conscience before the trappings of political power for profit or private prosperity, and enrichment of anyone or class of men and women.
Opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Dominica News Online or its advertisers.