Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has announced that Dominica will sign the Samoa Agreement despite concerns raised by religious leaders in the Caribbean. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Skerrit said Dominica did not sign it because the island did not send a representative to Samoa but will eventually pen it.
“We intend to sign,” he said.
“We were not able to attend the Samoa Conference but we intend to sign. I believe overall it is a good document. It could be more refined…. it is a framework document that is not necessarily imposing any particular ideals or views on us in the African and Caribbean Pacific region.”
Since the Samoa Agreement was signed on November 15, there have been cries from some quarters that it is being used by the European Union (EU) to impose ideals and values that are foreign to ACP countries.
For example, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Trinidad and Tobago, Jason Gordon said it will be used to “impose abortion legislation, transgender, LBGTQ, comprehensive sex education, a whole range of values will be imposed because of the signing of that document.”
“(The) EU is imposing upon us an ideology that is not ours and a value system that is not ours. And if we don’t understand and wake up and smell the coffee quickly we will find ourselves with values, with laws, with expectations, and with things being touted as right that has nothing to do with us Caribbean people,” he stated in a recent homily.
His sentiment was echoed by Archbishop of Castries and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire, who said there are many things happening in the world today that are “snatching the faithful.”
But Skerrit said while he respects the views of the clergymen, many of the concerns that are being raised are not really part of the agreement.
“I believe that there are really two areas where there is an interpretation of the language that will give one thimpression that those things that have been pointed out are in fact in the agreement,” he explained.
To drive home his point, he quoted two articles in the agreement.
The first one, Article 29, Section 5 reads, “The Parties shall support universal access to sexual and reproductive health commodities and healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs.”
He also pointed to another article which speaks of Gender Equality and women and girls’ empowerment” which reads, “The Parties commit to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their
review conferences and commit to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in that context.”
“And so many things that have been pointed out that are in the document are really not in the document,” Skerrit stressed.
“And people are looking at those sections and articles and indicating that there may be an opportunity for some of the things that we have concerns with may find themselves being implemented in our countries.”
He said he respects the counsel of the church and he doesn’t think it is necessarily “misplaced”, but “I think what the church may want to say to us instead is to caution us against going that route but it is not in the agreement.”
The prime minister said he is giving church leaders the assurance that the concerns being raised are not part of the agreement.
“I give my dear leaders of the Catholic Church the assurance that this is not the case and we know that the countries and organizations will have particular views on these things and they would like for us to implement these things but I don’t think the population of Dominica [is] ready for these things and if we are to go into these areas, I believe we
should do a referendum on these matters,” he said.
Skerrit said he intends to discuss the matter with Archbishop Malzaire.
“I intend to speak to Archbishop Malzaire on this document and to see what other views he may have or concerns he may have to see whether they are well-placed or not necessarily well-placed,” he stated.