EDITOR’S NOTE: In this feature, “New To The Slate” DNO takes a close look at new candidates, of all political persuasions, who have decided to brave the sometimes muddy arena of electoral politics.
He was one of the main architects of Roseau MP, Joseph Isaac’s election victory as a UWP candidate in 2014 but next time around, Derrick Glenroy “Soso” Cuffy will be directing all of his political campaign skills towards his efforts to replace the man he helped to elect. Cuffy will be the United Workers’ Party (UWP) candidate for the Roseau Central constituency, in the next general election, which is constitutionally due in 2020.
In an interview with Dominica News Online (DNO), Cuffy described himself as being “very passionate” about agriculture. Cuffy, who worked in the banana industry for over two decades, recalled the days of booming agriculture in Dominica, and insisted that the sector, if given proper attention, can greatly benefit Dominicans.
“Agriculture has had impact on the local economy, especially the rural economy, and it has played a role in shaping the lives and reforming social, economic and cultural lives of people,” he said. “I believe that agriculture needs to be given the attention that is well-deserved. I have worked there. I have seen farmers develop themselves from agriculture—send their children to school, build their houses, drive the best vehicles. So, of course, there is reward that you can derive from working hard in agriculture.”
During his decades of employment in the banana industry, Cuffy worked in several areas such as food production, food quality assurance, water management, and certification. He also coordinated the Leaf Spot Program at Dominica Banana Producers Ltd. (DBPL).
He stated that agriculture on-island is at an “all-time low” and “more can be done” with respect to organizing and modernizing the agricultural sector.
“It is not a blame game… because successive governments have actually placed budgetary allocations with respect to agricultural development… [but] it has not been so well organized… Too often we spend money, and we have everybody involved doing something that may not necessarily give you the results that you need… We have to organize our agriculture in a way that we can get results,” Cuffy elaborated. “Although farmers are capable of doing what they do, because they have been doing that for years; but as we grow, as agriculture becomes more technologized, you need people to lead people in different techniques.”
Cuffy, an alumnus of the Roseau Boys’ School and the Saint Mary’s Academy (SMA), holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Studies from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The River Street native spoke of improvements to be made within his constituency. He highlighted the need for the elevation of the wall alongside the Roseau River, and to improve drainage within the city, for citizens’ protection.
“…our city suffers a serious threat of flood. Any time it rains in the city, what you find is that we have flooding immediately and even sometimes, the stagnant water develops a stench, and obviously, that is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, we must revisit our drains in Roseau. Roseau has poor drainage, and we need to really try to address that,” Cuffy noted. “We need to ensure that we put a wall… We need to elevate the wall a bit, to protect Roseau.”
Cuffy, a fifty-year-old divorcee, has no children, but is quite involved in organizing football and domino matches in his community. He is also a member of the Roseau Improvement Committee (RIC).
The UWP candidate explained that while he is not affiliated with the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), he would not support the claim that the DLP government has done nothing for the country, “because it would be just misleading [to] anyone.” Instead, Cuffy concluded that the DLP has attempted good things, such as the initiative to harness geothermal energy.
After years of helping to launch the political careers of several candidates, Cuffy told DNO that his decision to enter the political spotlight is the result of consulting with family members, patriotism and a spiritual calling.
“I cannot see my country go down. We can do better with respect to bringing a better life to our people—a better quality of life,” Cuffy said. “You cannot rule out the spiritual aspect of it. The good Lord has directed my direction, and I’m certainly not going to say no to him when he says yes to me.”
Cuffy, a proud “Roseau man,” is certain that he will win the Roseau Central constituency, as he has the support of the people.
“The people will win. It’s the people’s victory, and the people, they have placed their confidence in me, and certainly they will be victorious. It’s not my victory—it’s the people’s victory,” he claimed. “I am very confident that the people will support me, and they will emerge victorious.”
Cuffy replaces Joseph Isaac as the UWP’s candidate for the Roseau Central constituency. Cuffy says that there is “no bad blood” between himself and Isaac, of whose campaign he was one of the main organizers.
Subsequently, Isaac sent shockwaves through the UWP when he left the party on April 4, as part of a decision, he said, to move away from “tribal” politics.
Isaac was subsequently appointed Minister for Environment, Climate Resilience, Disaster Management and Urban Renewal on April 12, 2018, in the DLP administration.
Cuffy referred to Isaac’s departure from the UWP, without discussion or warning, as “gross misconduct in attitude.”