It was a great night with no real sign of any rain as more than 10,000 gathered in the Windsor Park packing the temporary stands and grounds to be part of the most important moment in our nation’s history- when at midnight we would truly become a nation and a member of the United Nations Assembly of nations.
We were about to troll with the big boys and girls and change the name of the leader from Premier to Prime Minister which is the post enjoyed by all those who followed after Patrick John who was the first Prime Minister and who should be rightfully called the Father of our Independence whether you like it or not. Right is Right so do the Right and be fair. I am always astonished at the capacity of we the people to diss-down what we perceive as unworthy yet cover and uphold things and people we know to be worst. On that night we also became a Republic with the name Commonwealth of Dominica to differentiate us from being confused with the Dominican Republic.
I was on the broadcast together with Ferdinand Frampton and Jones P Madiera a guest commentator from Trinidad. I was the one with the microphone when the flag of Dominica was hoisted with great fanfare and cheers at midnight and I recall the pride of achievement we all felt as we stood there on the top section of the specially built huge two tiered stage and saw the Sisserou fluttering in the breeze. That pride I am sure was reflected in my voice and that of Ferdinand and even Jones as a Caribbean person. Yet it was more than a flag being hoisted, it was our new system of government being introduced, accepted and recognized through a new Constitution.
That Constitution had been negotiated in London between the British government, the government of Dominica including the Leader of the Opposition and her team. On that night in the spirit of a new beginning of unity the Leader of the Opposition Eugenia Charles was asked to write and deliver the welcome address to all the visiting dignitaries most of all the Queen’s representative her sister the late Princess Margaret after who our main hospital at Goodwill is named. Just after midnight in his first address to the nation as Prime Minister Patrick John said this:
“Therefore let us stop wounding and slandering ourselves and present ourselves before the world truly as we really are – as friends not masters, as apostles of principle not of power, ….”
On the anniversary each year we hold special events and ceremonies and we have done this for 34 years on November 3rd Independence Day and are about to do it again which is ‘present ourselves as apostles of principle not of power.’ So you might ask what is different this time around? Well apart from a bit of history for the benefit of those who were too young to know or who were born later and there are many, it is because this year “Aye Dominique something is not right” .
What do the police and armed forces do on Independence Day? Some will answer, “They march and parade and shoot blanks in the air.” No my friends they do more than that –they salute and do honour and homage and somebody stands in a position to receive such. It is not just the show it is the substance and while some come just to see, to cheer or to laugh and others may even perversely hope to see a police officer faint from the heat of the sun mostly the police and the other groups are just thinking of getting it right and perhaps even wondering that if those under the tents sheltered from the sun were placed to sit under the sun then the speeches and presentations might not be so long drawn out.
But all that ceremony has a greater purpose because Independence Day is a day of honour. What is honour? It is something that cannot be bought, sold, traded, or handed to one of the boys, but must be gained through the respect of your peers and the people in general. In some cases honour is displayed through feats of heroism in time of war, in other places there are honour killings of women who supposedly disgraced their families. The Bible tells of women being stoned to death for dishonouring their husbands and people still commit suicide due to loss of face. Honour is no small thing in the world from centuries back. Independence Day is our day of honour when locals are honoured for their work and the police and other groups honour with their salutes and their marching band. Whoever that person is who takes the salute of honour must be respected and accepted as honourable or the thing becomes a Ho, Ho, Ho Noh matter.
That is why I have a problem with Mr. Skerrit when he implies that the presidency is really nothing much so what is the fuss about Savarin being appointed to the post. There are those who will hasten to dilute for mostly political reasons and say that it is not the person that matters but that the salute is for the land or the day or whatever else. We do honour to our land by respecting our National Anthem and not ‘ beff-in’ and disregarding as many of us do when it is played. We honour our land by protecting our environment and sustaining our rivers, and other natural resources, but what we do on Independence Day is honour and salute the President who represents the shape, soul and unifying force of our nation which is the sum total of everything. Most importantly we honour the President as the guardian of the law which sets up the system of government – the Constitution.
However Savarin is under a cloud of being unconstitutionally appointed and his friends may rush to his defence and say this is just politics. Yet no matter how you tap dance around it the fact is that whoever stands on the platform to take the salute must be honoured and respected by the people. That is where this year is different because for the first time in 34 years the holder of the office of President is deemed by the majority of the people to be definitely un-honoured, un-respected and unworthy of such a post.
If you believe that it does not matter if the President is worthy of your respect Charles then all I have written is of little import, but if you think otherwise and still do him honour then you have surrendered to wounding and slandering yourself and that is damaging to you, the youth and our Isle of beauty. Perhaps when we sing the lines of the National Anthem we do not truly consider them. Some lines bear repeating here:
‘Come ye forward Sons and Daughters of this gem beyond compare
Strive for HONOUR…..do the RIGHT, be FIRM, be FAIR’