COMMENTARY: Transparency, Ross University and the national interest

Last week, on Friday August 3, 2018, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica announced the departure of Ross University Medical School from our island. Established in 1978, Ross was the single largest foreign investor with the longest tenure on island. The services provided by Dominicans in way of housing, hotels, restaurants, transportation, and employment to support Ross’ academic program represented an even larger share of the pie that constitutes our economy.  The news of Ross’ closure represents a cataclysmic event for our economy and the citizens of Dominica must have answers. The way this matter is handled goes to the core of whether we have transparent, governance on island.

Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency. In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.

Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood. This transparency allows good and just governance.

Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosurerequesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.

What do we see on Dominica?

Proactive Disclosure: The government has not disclosed any of its dealings with Ross. It has not published any emails, letter or agreements in the matter. It must do so now.

Requesting Public Records: Governance of Dominica is a public trust – not some secret mafia-like operation. Accordingly, we demand the disclosure of the records concerning Ross as it is in the public interest to know.

Campaign Finance Reform: While the Ross departure is not an election finance issue, we should always know the source of funds in our elections and no leader of our state must be heard to say “Where we get our money is none of your damn business” when asked. The reason such transparency on campaign finance is key is because those who pay for campaigns rarely do so out of altruistic national development motive. We were taught that whoever pays the piper calls the tune; funders oft times demand their pound of flesh. Especially in small vulnerable states such as Dominica, the nation may be sold from beneath our feet without our knowing by those who pay-off our politicians. Campaign finance disclosure must therefore become the law of our land.

I note the above three elements of transparent governance in way of civic education which is lacking in our schools and society. I posit that it is such ignorance of civic duty that has resulted in poor governance on our island.

Now back to Ross.

The loss of Ross on its own was catastrophic. However, considering our closeness to Barbados, it was astounding when the news broke that Ross was headed to that sister island and that the Prime Minister of Dominica said nothing of that prior. It has been complained about in the press, by our local contractors and others that Barbados based construction businesses already get the plum contracts on Dominica. Since the loss to Dominica’s national economy and overall welfare attendant to the departure of Ross for Barbados is so grave, the question that arises is:

  • What did the government of Dominica know about the Ross plan to leave for Barbados and when did it know it?

All Dominicans know, or should know, that the Government of Dominica’s principal advisor of many years is Hartley Henry of Barbados. Following Hurricane Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit appointed another Barbadian to oversee the island’s recovery. In a live October 16, 2017 broadcast, the Prime Minister said:

One expert he has helped move around is Avinash Persaud. Professor Persaud is the principal architect of our external funding and economic strategy. His formal title will be Special Economic Advisor on the Economic Recovery of Dominica. He has been working closely with my team over the past few weeks.

I got to know Avi when we were looking to establish a National Fiscal Policy Panel. He was the person I had thought might Chair that Panel.

When Maria struck it was clear to me that Avinash Persaud was the man for this job. You are going to see a lot of him over the next six months and so I just want to introduce you to him a little more. 

The full speech by the Prime Minister can be seen here  

We are kith and kin to Barbadians and we respect their history of relatively good governance. To question the Ross departure is not to be ungrateful for Barbadian aid nobly rendered at our time of need or to engage in any unseemly and anti-Barbadian campaign. Be it known that I am a proud advocate of West Indian federation. Yet the questions must be asked: What if anything did these Barbadian born, or linked, advisors have to do with the decision for Ross to go to Barbados? What advice did they give to the Prime Minister and his government? What did they know and when did they know it?  And, finally, what if anything did they do to ensure Ross stayed in Dominica?

It is a widely known fact that the Prime Minister of Dominica was one of the first, if not the first, foreign leader to meet newly elected Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Motley. The pictures of both Prime Minister Motley and Skerrit can be seen online, smiles on their faces. Did they discuss Ross? And if they did, what was the decision they took? When did Mia Motley know Ross was coming to Barbados? And what if anything did she say to Dominica’s Prime Minister in way of sharing that resource if Ross were to relocate to Barbados? For if the Prime Minister of Barbados knew of the plans to relocate Ross to Barbados from Dominica and said or did nothing to share that resource in the spirit of Caribbean unity and solidarity, one must question the sincerity of one or both leaders. Who is taking who for a fool here? 

There is no Democracy without Transparency:

There can be no democracy worthy of the name without transparency. Ultimately, the value of our democracy and whether we continue to sink into ruin due to inept and corrupt governance is a decision we must all weigh in the balance. Reasonable men and women on Dominica, or those in the Diaspora, cannot continue to give a pass to governance lacking in transparency. Too many go-along with the current political order on island because they fear for their jobs and cower in the face of the victimization meted out to critics of the regime. Too many of our citizens have become blinded by allegiance to party over country and bow in worship to a cult-like leader. Many are afraid to be called “enemies of the state” or “traitor.” Too many Dominicans quail at the prospect of being pilloried on government allied radio stations by the advocates of the regime. However, in the face of the current economic implosion when so many nurses and other skilled Dominicans are voting with their feet and looking to exit the island, we must call our government to account.

If we are to retain any semblance of democracy those questions must be answered and now! Ross’ departure – according to most economists and observers of our island’s economy – will rob the national economy of 1/3 of its gross domestic product. Considering that Ross was the largest single foreign investment on island did our government following Hurricane Maria:

  1. Constitute a blue-ribbon panel of experts dedicated to working-out prompt means to return the school to Dominica following what suppose to be a temporary departure?
  2. What delegation or lobby group for Dominica was sent to the head-office for Ross University School of Medicine in the USA to plead Dominica’s case? We know that the government of Dominica has hired lobby firms, and has an embassy in Washington, DC. In the past they have used those resources to defend their position on matters having to do with the passport sales scandal and the stench emanating from the many arrests of crooked diplomats. Based on the importance of Ross to our economy, were such lobbyists, friendly lawyers or advocates contacted to save Ross for Dominica?
  3. What did Ian Douglas – Member of Parliament for Portsmouth – do to mobilize his constituents to ready the facility for the return of Ross, or counsel/inform them of plans afoot to restore the school to normal operations? The same question can be asked of Reginald Austrie who represents a constituency in the north and himself worked for Ross.

The government ministers who quietly mutter their disgust behind closed doors must now speak openly. The parliamentary opposition, civil society and Dominicans at home and in the Diaspora should demand:

  1. That the Government of Dominica make public the contract or contracts which governed Ross’ presence on island;
  2. State clearly, and without delay, what was done to meet the Ross delegation, or delegations, which visited our island after Hurricane Maria. The government should further disclose the letters and email detailing what if anything was exchanged during those meetings or otherwise. As the government has had no problem using the good offices of its senior legal advisor to share all kinds of government documents on line and on radio, surely, they should not fear such disclosure now.

The lack of transparency in governance obliterates the public trust and destroys the self-confidence so necessary for national development and foreign direct investment. In the words of a senior jurist of Dominican origin with roots in Portsmouth: “The departure of Ross confirms the complete shutdown of Dominica’s bodily organs and illustrates for all to see that the forest fires of incompetence and corruption are razing Dominica to the ground. Strong words but that is exactly what is happening in Dominica.”

Therefore, the fullest disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the Ross departure is in the national interest. The Dominican public has an absolute right to know what job the government is performing on their behalf. The government of Dominica must answer all these questions. When a government is in office it must never be allowed in its arrogance to hold itself above its duty to be accountable to its citizens. The government of Dominica must not be allowed to become a tyrannical master and our citizens its pitiable slaves. In Emancipation Week 2018, we demand accountable, democratic and transparent government on Dominica and we want it now!  This is the freedom and democracy fought for by our ancestors and we must never jester with it. An enlightened citizenry is the best antidote to tyranny! Dominicans at home and abroad are waiting for those answers now!

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43 Comments

  1. Gary
    August 12, 2018

    Every time I hear Gabriel call for transparency or use the word transparency I shiver.

  2. ??
    August 11, 2018

    Gabriel can not be objective. He brings his bias political view into everything concerning DA. He will never be satisfied until Skerrit leaves office. He is one of the most power hungry man i’ve seem. Fortunately, Skerrit did not allow he and Sam to hijack the government which is certainly his plan for the UWP….

  3. playboy
    August 11, 2018

    OMG! I just realized it’s Gabriel Christian!!!!! Now I understand. How can we expect anything different? SMH!!!!!

  4. playboy
    August 11, 2018

    Can you or anybody analyse an issue in an objective, non-partisan way in this country?
    It’s people like you who are driving the vehicle leading this country nowhere FAST.

  5. mine
    August 10, 2018

    Come with the truth what happened with DASS, and if you brother did not get himself in a mess he would not be in DA go look at yourself mirror because God knows us inside out.

    • mine
      August 11, 2018

      You did not condemned the burning of Roseau and Salisbury street also the looting all these were damages on the Island but what to blame people on ROSS departure.

  6. Anthony P. Ismael Minister of Free Pmapers
    August 10, 2018

    Approximately one week ago, prior to the official closing announcement from Ross University, DNO was filled with all kind of projects that were promised by the Labor Cabal, in yet another attempt to fool the masses. The international airport in the sky was back again. A week and a half later the sound of crickets permeate through the island. It’s simply amazing how you can fool people and make promise that will never be fulfilled underneath this administration.

  7. Rupert h
    August 10, 2018

    Could Gabriel Christian have contributed to the creation of an impression of Dominica being an unstable country not attractive for foreign investors such as the shareholders of Ross University, when he encouraged the police to lay down their weapons on February 7, 2017 and thereby encourage mob rule in Dominica
    I do not recall Christian condemning the riotous conduct of the UWP mob at Salisbury which prevented Ross students from moving to and from their campus.
    I also find it strange that Gabriel would lecture us about transparency in governance when he is yet to explain the part that the former DAAS treasurer’s conduct played in bringing about the demise of that organization – reference unauthorized transfer of funds from DAAS bank account to his personal account, and securing title for land on Rosalie Estate bequeathed to DAAS while still treasurer.

    • %
      August 10, 2018

      @Rupert h. I think you condemned it, especially the stalled truck coup which took place only in Skerrit’s empty and vacuous head.Joseph Isaac was arrested.I want you to tell me where is he now?You all DLP Skerrit sycophants always walk on you all brains.Gabriel Christian is a well known Dominican patriot.
      I cannot say the same for anyone of the DLP MISLEADERS.
      This is a brilliant piece of writing.
      Where The Wicked Rule the People MOURN
      This DLP is a Wicked and Evil Party

  8. Original
    August 10, 2018

    democracy is govern through the constitution and adherence thereof but how many people here know the constitution, when we could quote from the American constitution, hence without knowledge of the constitution and its application how would someone understand the operation of his responsibility and rights to the society and governmental operations? In my opinion people need to be educated on what the power of the constitution and how it governs the land, which would result in transparency.

  9. Hank Snow
    August 9, 2018

    It might be helpful for the citizens to sponsor a private organization to assure good governance and transparency of government

    Soraya Diase Coffelt, JD, MJS, helped form the Virgin Islands Consortium for this very reason! Soraya Diase Coffelt is a lawyer and former judge of the United States Virgin Islands Superior Court.

    Quote:

    If our Legislature does not take bold, innovative action, then we the people must demand it of them. We can, together, bring transparency to our government and fight corruption if we have the desire and the strong will power to do it. It would be an amazing achievement for the Virgin Islands to be known as having one of the most transparent governments in the United States and the world. What a significant accomplishment that would be!

    http://viconsortium.com/opinion/transparency-the-most-important-characteristic-of-a-corruption-free-government-part-2/

  10. Joseph John
    August 9, 2018

    Yes we need transparency. We need an inquiry into the D Day activities who the Government was given 14 days to pack up and disappear. We need to establish the connection between the looting then and the looting re Maria, Cat 5
    Opposition forces maybe planning a repeat…..B Day….or C day ( Christian Day), and we have to be prepared.
    Dominicans….take worning, take warning and be prepared. Those greedy for power greedy people are coming out of the woodwork like wood ans.
    The are using Ross like a drum calling and trying to militarize the issue.
    So where were they post Maria, Cat 5, when Dominica needed all hands on deck.
    We are still waiting for the “chocklate” factory

    • waypapa
      August 10, 2018

      Joseph John we had problems before maria. right now a DDAY is what we need. Bear in mind those who were not involved in DDAY are now interested in joining so you better go and hide or tell SKerrit own up to his recklessness and move.

      • Joseph John
        August 10, 2018

        Thanks for the warning. Bring it on anytime. We are ready like Freddy. We have had a lot of practice thanks to UWP anti-government activities.

  11. Politics of Truth
    August 9, 2018

    (iv) When Colgate Palmolive was forced into shutting down after suffering severe infrastructural and financial damage from Tropical Storm Erika’s ravaging floods, Linton and the UWP celebrated. They were completely unsympathetic to the plight of the many Dominican employees who consequently lost their jobs.
    (v) When Jungle Bay got destroyed also by Tropical Storm Erika, Linton urged the owner Sam Raphael that he should not rebuild until the opposition UWP formed the government.

  12. Politics of Truth
    August 9, 2018

    Lennox Linton and his cabal here and in the Diaspora were so fascinated by conspiracies that they forgot to look into their own mirrors. At no time did they see, or even look to see, Linton’s calculated misconduct and Dox Quixote s campaign (before and after Maria) to maliciously bring Dominica into disrepute, and create a hostile environment for foreign investment. The indisputable facts of this misconduct and campaign include (i) Linton’s disgraceful appearance and mouthful of lies on CBS Television. (ii) Linton’s dishonest interview with Huffington Post where he was challenged to produce evidence to support his fake news and was embarrassingly exposed as peddler of untruths.
    (iii) (iii) Linton’s wayward trips to New York and Colorado where he sought to blacken our country’s name while it was on its knees, still reeling from Maria’s devastation.

  13. True Politics
    August 9, 2018

    Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) was with us for some 40 years. Sometime during the Freedom Party’s reign in Government, Dominica almost lost Ross over a tax dispute. The Dominica Labour Party was elected in the year 2000. In February 2013, Ross and the Government of Dominica executed a 25-year agreement whereby substantial concessions and privileges were granted to RUSM. In return RUSM promised to invest and expand the school and they did. On the 15th October 2014 the then Chancellor of RUSM wrote to Prime Minister Skerrit said: “… We believe the conversation was productive and your immediate follow-up with Dr. Shillingford shows significant commitment on your part to address the issues facing Ross University Medical School (RUSM)…… …. I want to personally thank you for your strong leadership as Dominica continues to advance in areas such as education, international investment, and infrastructure. Ross University values the partnership with your government.” Three years late

  14. Faceup
    August 9, 2018

    I think Skerro sold Ross and not run for another term. He might have made a killing..

  15. mine
    August 9, 2018

    everybody popping under the rocks to bash the PM, you promise chocolate factory nothing is done and furthermore you hate the PM cause you did not get what you demanded. God knows our mind and intentions.

    • %
      August 9, 2018

      You are straying from the topic.The issue in front us is that bad DLP leadership has caused us to lose that billion dollar company.I call it bad and abysmal leadership.
      Where The Wicked Rule the People MOURN
      This DLP is a Wicked and Evil Party

  16. August 9, 2018

    Dominicans blind or they just stupid people open all you eye all this party doing is selling dreams building bridge waste off money for now think of it ,all that was done was destroy the rivers the international air was to be build how long since up was there labor say it wasn’t needed now what they want build it Ralph tell it’s his time history people 15 years now all Dominica doing is going back in time

  17. ???????????
    August 9, 2018

    The original owner who loved Dominica has since passed. Those who succeeded – Devry and do not have to continue since they have their own opinion of things and may look at profiteering as a major thing. This is the real world – I know of an organisation here whose owner a loving and caring man and when he passed, his successors nearly sent some employees crazy when they went to work, without seeing it coming, were sent home. So all persons are not the same. Some stick to their rigid rules whilst others do business sometimes just for the love of persons etc. So stop that hatred thing against this country’s Government. After such a magnitude and destruction of the country , we should be focusing on rebuilding and suggestion on other ventures etc to mitigate what we loss because of Ross’s departure. Look at all the foolish comments which persons like yourself are causing. Be truthful with the facts. Have you visited Dominica after the hurricane? Persons out there are reading

    • %
      August 9, 2018

      Why are you so shamelessly the bearer of fake news? You don’t have the quality to spin information,don’t try.It makes you sound ………..
      This is the main reason why Ross left.I am quoting the CEO of Ross Quote:””We have found a government that is biassed to getting things done””””,referring to the Barbados government. So the Skerrit DLP is lazy,and failed to get things done.I will embarrass you until you speak the truth.Your DLP is responsible.
      Where The Wicked Rule the People MOURN
      This DLP is a Wicked and Evil Party

  18. ????????????
    August 9, 2018

    Gabriel you all again trying to use your so called intelligence to score points politically (you and your brother and all you party).
    I have said & said that no one & I mean no one could have prevented Ross’s departure. We live in a changing environment & when one era passes, the Lord alone knows what is coming next. So instead of trying to buy into persons who we all know are not adequately equipped to objectively analyse those situation, we are sometimes trying to put our opinions on them & mind you for political mileage. You should know most learned sir how the large Corporations operate. Favorable variances against budget is a must so they are profit minded. Not much time to go into this right now as I have commented time & time again on this. A question for you? From time past, are there not always changes? No ERI, No Clock shop, Banana peak days, L Rose and Lime days? As time goes by, changes happen. We grow too and die and younger ones take over. Stop the blame…

  19. Dalit
    August 9, 2018

    All the usual suspects come crawling out of the woodwork, like vultures looking for death.

    Dominica shall rise, despite you creatures of doom disguised as patriots.

    Long may you be exiled to these commentaries. Stay far !

    • Sue Donym
      August 9, 2018

      Amen and amen! Bunch ah Jokers!

  20. Ibo France
    August 9, 2018

    Mr. Christian, your article is a masterful piece of work. I commend you, firstly, for courage, secondly, for your brilliant articulation of truth to power. Every Dominican should have some sort of exposure to this scintillating, thought provoking critique of democracy, what it ought to be. Dominicans are much too docile, subservient and submissive. They are too easily satisfied, settle for far too little. Corruption terminates and strives in opaque places, only sunlight can cure it. The current regime is shrouded in complete darkness, regards public information as highly personal. This leads to the malfunctioning of a government and the eventual ruin of democracy. Rise and wise up people from your lethargy. Again, phenomenally done, Mr. Christian.

  21. LifeandDeath
    August 9, 2018

    In many countries in the World, Heads of State with decency and Humility understand their responsibility to their people and Nation and when they fail, they resign. Even for much less than what has happened and have been happening in Dominica. Now the question is why won’t no amount of mishaps, errors or pressure seem to bother the dear PM Skerrit? The answer is in the deeds he has done and not done for and against his Country.
    But surely, we must not be dismayed and a run of corruption and mismanagement must never be allowed to occur again in Dominica. A man can do more than his share but never ever more than his time. So this is just a case of delaying the inevitable..

  22. ned
    August 9, 2018

    Please understand, Dominica is not ready for their return and the students need stability, this will be my daughter’s fourth move since she started! She loved Dominca but they need a home!!! They can’t keep moving around til Dominca is ready!!

  23. news
    August 9, 2018

    Ross never made demands,,why dont ross post a letter or email they sent to the gov with demands,,

  24. August 9, 2018

    Where there’s a will, there is a way. Do not despair Gabu and Dominicans.

  25. Paul Rossnof
    August 9, 2018

    Very well stated, Sir. Skerrit needs to resign all his positions with immediate effect.

    • Sue Donym
      August 9, 2018

      Let that failure of a leader allu have resign before you ask for Skerrit to resign.

  26. Jacinta
    August 9, 2018

    ROSS is gone, time to move on to bigger and better things, stop crying about it , that’s not to bring them back move on and stay positive. Something better is coming.

    • %
      August 9, 2018

      That easy to say,but difficult to do.I call it bad and terrible leadership.
      Where The Wicked Rule the People MOURN
      This DLP is a Wicked and Evil Party

  27. jamie
    August 9, 2018

    Great job Mr.Christian but all our people have been bought by the leader,and are afraid to speak out,I s only God can free Dominica from this corrupt regime,Dominica is doomed and is being destroyed by Skerrit,and his henchmen Tony,the scum that hates the locals and has Skerrit like a little boy.I have given up on this once thriving country,and will sit back now and see how deep they can destroy Dominica,until an upring ends it.

  28. DC
    August 9, 2018

    Demands! Demands! Demands! Sounding like a bully. Our PM is well aware of the concerns of the people. He will not be intimidated by a few who think they should dictate to him what he must do. We are all saddened by the departure of Ross, however, we will not be fooled by those who are disgruntled. We have seen our PM in action during the most difficult times and he has stood up to every challenge, and so we have confidence in him that we will triumph. Be calm Gabriel, our Leader will find a viable alternative. We have hope in him. PM, we stand with you as you continue on the journey. There will always be hurdles, however, we will be triumphant! Keep the faith!

    • Iamanidiot
      August 9, 2018

      If you had a bar and your daily bread was selling to Ross students your reply would have been alot smarter than that. We are not on a plantation where we must accept, nor is the honorable Prime Minister a King. So yes we can “Demand” and say “Yes” or “No” you need to read your rights and learn how a democracy works. Continuing, you sound like you believe that the prime minister has a magic wand or you love empty promises. What have been the viable alternative found for so many other businesses that closed? We can approach another university and say “Hey we have this huge campus come” but would they really come? when getting to Dominica is so hard? And if you dont believe getting to Dominica is hard, you’ve never left a country, then go to Antigua, then to Barbados, then to St Vincent THEN BACK to Barbados before coming here. So it’s good to have your hope, but faith without works is dead, and, i’m not seeing the works.

    • RandyX
      August 9, 2018

      You want to stand with YOUR. Ok, go ahead but don’t forget you will drown with him as well. We will hold this regime accountable for the sake of Dominica!

    • ????????????
      August 9, 2018

      DC I do not know you but what kind of cadre of persons are those person who believe that they can come in now after all the PM has done? So he can resign and they just come in. Look some kind of persons. Where were you all when we were so devastated. We have made a lot of strides. Still more to do. Instead of those persons mobilising themselves & coming to do some tangible work, all they do is use their tongues to destroy & more depressing is the hatred leveled at the PM. The PM is a young man & he needs your support not your hatred. Talk, Talk, talk & no action. When someone thinks about the Recovery effort & makes an effort to help, they call him all sorts of names. Where are you all from – Mars? Of course no Testimony without a test. Hurdles yes but with God’s help. Trust in God, we will overcome. We have gone through testings in the past. Cocoa, Vanilla, Limes, Bananas , Mega CP , Ross – Father thank you for the 40 years but Lord we trust and believe you for the…

  29. Peeping Tom
    August 9, 2018

    Transparency is a nice concept. Every democrat or wannabe democrat speaks of it. It would be wonderful if Dominicans could have it at every turn. However, transparency is conditional; predicated on the pre-existence of a number of variables. The fact of the matter is that the Dominican society is simply not mature enough politically, not educated enough, and with a politico-legal structure that is too inadequate for the kind of transparency that the ever bombastic and histrionic Christian suggests.

    Let commonsense prevail.

  30. Dominican
    August 9, 2018

    How can someone who is appointed our leader not have any love for Dominica or Dominicans. These people in the government only have love for money, what a shame. They already have their money in banks and houses on different islands, Ross leaving won’t matter to them.

    Our country will definitely be sold from beneath our feet. China and the Middle East already own so much and all Skerrit will do is sell them the rest. How can Dominica not belong to Dominicans? Just breaks my heart.

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