Letter of Gabriel J. Christian to Prime Minister Skerrit – September 26, 2018
Prime Minister Skerrit:
This is year is the 40th year of independence from Britain. I speak to you as a patriotic Dominican; one who was involved in the independence movement as a student member of the Popular Independence Committee led by our Brother Roosevelt “Rosie” Douglas who died eighteen years ago. It is indeed telling that the government you lead, which Brother Rosie brought into office in 2000, forgot to do anything right, proper and fitting to commemorate his passing on the anniversary of his death – October 1st. It was Matt Peltier, the eminent journalist on Q95 Radio, who had the presence of mind, the requisite patriotic ardor, compassionate heart and commitment to national heritage to show respect and so commemorate the life of our deceased Prime Minister Rosie Douglas. However, such inattention to our proud heritage, erasure of our iconic leaders from the popular memory and callous disregard toward the civic protocols we cherish is nothing new. Indeed, the callousness of your government in its duty towards its citizens, our heritage and our democracy has escalated in recent times. And this is why I ask all well-intentioned and conscious Dominicans to speak out!
I take note here that Dr. Samuel J. Christian, the Chair of the Medical Board of the Dominica Academy of Arts & Sciences was viciously attacked on Saturday, September 22, 2018. A person, or persons unknown, shed his blood by striking him in the head with an object, when he was attending a meeting of the United Workers Party. Never in the short history of our republic was a civic leader, or political activist, publicly bloodied while engaged in exercising his democratic right: freedom of speech.
Up to this date, since the attack on Dr. Christian last weekend, you are yet to make a statement. The President of Dominica Charles Savarin has failed to make a statement condemning the attack. Your Member of Parliament for Soufriere made a statement and instead of extending sincere care and concern as due, chose to castigate the Dominica Diaspora as made up of “tin-pots with revolutionary rhetoric in air-conditioned offices.” That is the same Diaspora which broke its back-following Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters to rush aid to Dominica. That is the same Diaspora you have courted for votes, but now choose to condemn via your mouthpiece when we criticize your misconduct in office and the destruction of Dominica under your rule.
While I speak on my own behalf in this letter, let the record be clear that the Dominica Academy of Arts & Sciences which I have been a founding member of is non-partisan and has never once told Dominicans for whom they should vote. We act in the national interest. Our primary mission has been the aggregation of our human resources at home and abroad to undertake the development of our communities. Our people are intelligent and have scaled the highest heights of professional accomplishment the world over. Yet, you have failed to embrace our native human resources in the manner necessary to build the nation.
Our beloved nation is tottering on the edge of an abyss, and our very survival as a free and democratic republic is at risk. After forty years of independence, we have escalating crime, a government unable to attract or retain foreign investment, citizens who are afraid to speak truth to power for fear of victimization, arrest of democracy activists and personal injury meted out by persons who are not acting in accord with the values inherent to a democratic state.
Mr. Prime Minister: How did Dominica come to such a pass?
Governments and leaders in society set the tone. Is the tone of Government one of inclusivity or exclusivity? Do the leaders in church and state uphold the principles of civility, national concord, and unity of purpose of Dominicans at home and abroad? Does the government protect, preserve and promote the principles of freedom of the press, freedom of association, and the freedom of citizens to hold alternate views than those held by the ruling party?
The atmosphere on Dominica is now oriented toward one party-rule. Such an atmosphere has eviscerated our easy-going culture of family and personal friendships. Such liquidation of that spirit of amity threatens to make our beloved island an ugly place unfit for the return of those who left, and uncomfortable for the remaining population that deserves a comfortable life on an island rich in water and good soil.
We do not give a pass to anyone in opposition to government who may have said or done anything violative of the criminal law. Nor do we condone the pattern of coarse and vulgar language used as a means of communication between persons of opposing views.
The government leads, the citizens follow. Therefore, you and your government, with the power inherent in its control of the state apparatus, as in courts, policing, the education system, healthcare, housing, has the power to influence the course of events.
We seek a culture of civility, the use of proper English in communicating with each other – without resort to insult. We promote and seek instead to exercise reasoned judgment. We condemn the habit of attacking civic activists when they ask the government to be accountable and transparent in its conduct. Your government has adopted the regrettable habit of calling critics of government misconduct “enemies of the state.” As you know, the despots of the past, and present assassinate, so-called enemies of the state. Is this where we are heading on the Dominica you lead?
For those who are ignorant of what is going on Dominica, I will seek to recite here the facts which have undermined good order, discipline and democracy on Dominica and threatens our survival as an independent state.
- It was the government spokesman who likened our people in opposition to cockroaches and said they should be hit with a shoe. Or killed with a shoe. Did you condemn that statement then?
- When Charles Savarin as a serving Minister of Tourism and Industry called for a boycott of Jerry Brisbane’s supermarket Brizee Mart merely because Brisbane criticized the waste of money in moving forward with the Chinese built $26 million State Palace as a “State Malice” what did you do? You did nothing. You never publicly rebuked such lawless utterances and biasness by one sworn to discharge his duties as a minister of government without fear or favor. Brizee Mart closed down not long after. Your Government then promoted Charles Savarin to President of Dominica where he now sits in that very expensive palace doing precious little. That palace is more expensive than the old Governor House of British days and is the most expensive dwelling on Dominica while the Princess Margaret Hospital is dilapidated; the Portsmouth Hospital is dilapidated, and the Marigot Hospital is closed due to pest infestation and lack of upkeep.
- It was the elderly judge and Royal Navy World War II veteran G.O.N Emmanuel and his wife Greta who were almost killed on Christmas morning 2010 when their house was fire bombed. That happened right after Emmanuel brought a case of fraud, theft, and falsification of accounts against Stephen Isidore. We are reliably informed that Isidore had – in the past – done work for you, the Prime Minister. The case was never called. The crime was never prosecuted. No independent investigation was ever held to settle the public mind despite calls for same. Mr. Emmanuel died in 2018 without seeing justice. His case was never called. Is that what passes for justice in our Dominica courts?
- It was government leaders who called the lawful parliamentary opposition Al Qaeda terrorists. That your government would smoke them out. You never rebuked those calls likening the lawful opposition on Dominica terrorists.
- I am reliably informed that you, as the Prime Minister, told your supporters to confront the opposition members and call them traitors whenever they saw them anywhere. Our democratic tradition is to have a parliamentary opposition so Dominicans of alternate views from government can have a voice. When you call someone a traitor to their country you are saying that they have committed treason. Treason under our laws is punishable by death. Why did you do such a thing?
- I am reliably informed that you, as the Prime Minister, said Dominica is too free. Why such a verbal attack on the tradition of our freedom loving people?
- Your government last year arrested Dr. Sam Christian on the bogus charge that he incited burning the House of Assembly – our parliament. The bogus charge was laid almost two years after he gave a speech in Peebles Park in which he warned about lawlessness in parliament, abuse by the speaker of the House of Assembly on Dominica and Hitler’s use of the Reichstag Fire to destroy German democracy and consolidate himself in power. Did you ask the Chief of Police to arrest Dr. Christian? If you did not, who gave the order?
- In 2017 you went on national radio and accused the opposition of attempting a coup to include use of a sound truck in the plot. That coup claim was never investigated by competent authorities and report issued to the public for what is a most grave violation of law. Today you have almost the entire opposition in court on criminal charges and your legal spokesman called that event “A great day for rule of law” on Dominica. Never in the history of our country has any government sought to criminalize the parliamentary opposition through its vile misuse of the judiciary and the police power.
- In 2017 Dr. Thompson Fontaine, Claudius Sandford, Joseph Isaac, Johnson Boston and others were arrested by police under the direction of your police chief for exercising their democratic rights to protests government misconduct.
- In April 2018 military equipment was brought into Dominica after Hurricane Maria under your direction and control. Such receipt of military-type equipment took place when groups and individuals in our Diaspora were breaking our backs to bring aid to our afflicted people. This inconsiderate lack of prioritization was performed when our government was begging the world for relief aid, and many of our people were sleeping under the elements or with leaky tarpaulin for roofs.
- Democracy activist Dr. Sam’s tires have been slashed on more than one occasion and his windows bashed in. Dr. Christian is the Chair of the Medical Committee of the Dominica Academy of Arts & Sciences . The attack on him on Saturday 22nd September 2018 was only the most recent of many other acts of intimidation and harassment.
- Finally, your government most likely has the worst record on earth for the appointment of ambassadors later arrested for money laundering, tax evasion and embezzlement. Among the persons arrested in recent times who had diplomatic status from Dominica – at one time or another – is the United Nations sanctions buster Iranian agent Alireza Monfared, the disgraced Nigerian Oil Minister Allision Madueke who was indicted for embezzlement and corruption in public office involving billions of Nigerian government funds, the Italian Francesco Corallo arrested for tax fraud/evasion and the Chinese money launderer Ng Lap Seng who was arrested by the FBI for bribing United Nations (UN) officials. Ng Lap Seng was your friend Mr. Prime Minister. He was arrested shortly after the infamous cut caking cutting ceremony in Macau attended by the now deceased Antigua UN Ambassador Ashe who had also been arrested but who mysteriously died before trial. Ng Lap Seng has since been convicted for bribery in a US court and sentenced to four years for bribery.
- Following Hurricane Maria you did not embrace the parliamentary opposition and include them in the distribution of aid. Regrettably, we are informed that aid was distributed unfairly in a fashion which reeked of political bias. Hurricane Maria was a time to unite the nation. Your leadership or lack thereof further divided the nation.
Democracy activists, civil society leaders, and the United Workers Party all called on the Government of Dominica you lead to empanel a commission of inquiry to investigate the appointments of those diplomats and others, and other matters in controversy linked to your government’s conduct too numerous to mention. We called for the passage in Parliament of a Foreign Service Act to govern the conduct of our foreign affairs and foreign service personnel. All such calls for an inquiry into the diplomatic appointments of persons later arrested for criminal enterprise were rejected by your government. All such calls to pass a Foreign Service Act to better govern our foreign affairs, and so prevent the reoccurrence of such criminals serving as representatives of Dominica were denied.
We are committed to democracy on Dominica. We shall resist the destruction of our democracy and the sell-out of our independence by those who fail to disclose secret MOU’s signed on behalf of our nation with foreign nations.
We intend to assist the building and strengthening of democratic institutions on island and so enhance that democratic culture among our Diaspora communities in a fashion that respectfully embraces all our sons and daughters. We are committed to civic education and the creative crafting of a culture which promotes the merit of the individual not blind party-political adherence.
We condemn all efforts to foist one-party rule on Dominica and so destroy our legacy of struggle aimed at freedom of association, freedom of thought and freedom of the individual to enterprise and so create wealth that he or she can enjoy.
For the reasons stated above we call for a selective participation in the 2018 independence events. We do not subscribe to the dumbing-down of our nation by government’s focus on bacchanal events such as Fete Dwive Dwive, in Dominica’s French patois, means to walk-about the streets aimlessly. Such events are distractions which dull the mind and fail to advance our communities via science and technology education and/or sustainable development projects. Further, such celebrations are at odds with the grim situation in which the nation finds itself post the devastation inflicted on our island by Hurricane Maria. We ask that Dominicans, our students in particular, find creative and non-violent means to register their commitment to democracy on Dominica. In the spirit of our finest cultural attribute, the cooperative community self-help practice known among our people as Koudmen, we encourage the Community Day of Service as we believe it to be in the true spirit of nation building. We reject the culture of constant bacchanalia offered to our suffering masses as an insidious balm with which to blind them from the parlous state of the nation and the unemployment and poverty that now abounds under your leadership.
We shall promote during the independence observance period the following:
- A forum on the future of Dominica which embraces and advances democracy, rule of law, respectful partnership with our Diaspora, in the context of the best practices and programs in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
- Promote the replanting of fruitful trees to aid the recovery of our agriculture
- Promote local government leadership as a means to spur initiative taking, innovation, leadership at the grassroots leadership and the culture of governance as a respectful compact between the leadership and the led. We reject the current reality on Dominica where power is usurped by one man, or one political party which seeks to crush all others.
- Promote a sincere Community day of Service, honest spiritual reflection and prayer, the writing of essays, video documentaries, panel discussions on our laws, constitution and heritage so that the average Dominican at home and abroad can once again pride in their country.
Finally, Sir, we ask you once again to resign from office and allow for a caretaker transitional government made up the current government, members of the parliamentary opposition and technocrats to do the following:
- Reorganize the Dominica Electoral Commission with a technocrat from the Organization of American States at the helm to reconstitute our electoral commission, and to oversee electoral reform on Dominica with the assistance of the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and other friendly countries and reputable international organizations which promote democracy. The current Dominica Electoral Commission is a tool of your government and cannot be trusted to abide by the rule of law.
- We ask that no action be taken by you to provide voting to the passport citizens” in Dubai, Russia, China, Iran and other places. To allow such persons not resident in Dominica to vote would do violence to the spirit and letter of our electoral laws. It would destroy the nation and place the final nail into the coffin in which Dominica now struggles to exit; such action would eradicate any semblance of independence and freedom on Dominica. And, further, you must take no action in parliament, to facilitate the flying into Dominica at or about election time of non-resident voters; and/or the facilitation by electronic means of persons who do not now meet the residency requirement for voting; the voting by such “passport citizens”, or non-Dominica resident persons. We issue a solemn warning to you sir, that any such scheme to subvert the national independence and democratic heritage of our homeland will only destroy the now tenuous social peace, and further deepen the crisis of governance now afflicting Dominica.
- We support the call made by civic leaders at home and abroad for the institution of National Reconstruction Commission led by a competent non-partisan technocrat so that all Dominicans, at home and abroad, can make a meaningful contribution to the rebuilding of the homeland post Hurricane Maria and Tropical Storm Erika before that.
- Finally, we ask you directly: Was former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani hired by you, or Dominica’s government, to represent the nation in the United States? If yes, how much was he paid and for what purpose? We need total transparency and accountability from you in the national interest.
Prime Minister Skerrit you have been in office for more than fourteen years. During much of that period the Academy worked with the government on many socio-economic development projects in health, sport, education, tourism, the revival of the Dominica Cadet Corps, youth development and crime fighting to so benefit the nation. However, once we drew to your attention matters of misrule and/or which adversely affected the nation re misconduct in office, your agents did everything to sully the good name of the Academy. That, despite the fact that it was the Academy which provided the first internet platform for the Government Information Service, the Dominica State College and the Government Press Officer at the time when Sean Douglas was your Press Officer. Our devotion to the Commonwealth of Dominica and its best interest, over eighteen years of contributions and the unselfish service of the Academy’s late co-founder and webmaster Raglan Riviere can be found here. https://www.da-academy.org/achievements.html. Our work has been to build-up Dominica in all aspects not to destroy it as your partisans falsely claim. We are proud of our legacy of service to Dominica across the political divide.
Sir, you have failed to govern Dominica democratically. You, or persons acting under the powers inherent to your office, retained persons to represent our nation on the world stage who they knew, or should have known, were engaged in criminal enterprise. Those appointments brought our nation into the disreputable company of those engaged in criminal activity on the world stage. It may well be that Dominica, by your actions, is already suffering from the that damage done to our reputation as a law-abiding country among the family of nations.
Sir, under your watch we have seen the closure of major factories such as Dominica Coconut Products, the decades old Bello Factory, and the departure of the offshore U.S. school, Ross University. Ross University was in place for more than forty years – before Dominica became an independent nation. Ross University was the largest single foreign investor on Dominica. Its departure has left a gaping hole in the economic architecture of our nation and threatens to impoverish the second town of Portsmouth, many of whose residents depended on the school for their livelihood. Sir, not once did you ever convene a national committee post-Hurricane Maria comprised of the many Dominican academics educated in the United States – or those who serve on U.S. university boards – to find creative ways to maintain Ross University on Dominica. For the Ross debacle you should do the honorable thing and resign from office.
Sir, you have not listened to wise counsel where members of our Academy and others tendered same in the spirit of true friendship, concern and in defense of the national interest. Every effort to speak reason to you, or your government has resulted in savage attacks against all such persons. Such conduct has done severe damage to the national fabric and the unity of the nation unprecedented in the short history of our republic. Families and friendships have splintered, and you have set Dominicans at each other’s throats with vitriolic daily abuse of those critical of your rule by your party aligned media. It is that crescendo of attacking others which may well have morphed into violence in deed.
Sir do not do as others have done and fight to hold on to power at all costs. Now, is the best time to make a dignified exit from the position of Prime Minister, as your conduct in office has been unacceptable in any law abiding and democratic society.
We are reliably advised that your wife and children are United States citizens. You well know that your conduct in office, where committed in the United States, would have resulted in Congressional hearings, investigations by a special counsel and impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. We seek the highest standards for Dominicans as those available to U.S. citizens such as your wife and children. Please avoid the hypocrisy which you inflict on Dominicans by denying them good governance, due process and rule of law as your U.S. citizen family enjoys. Dominicans at home and abroad have a right to expect the same democratic standards found in the United Kingdom, the French Territories, Canada and the United States where the Dominica Diaspora (or most people of Dominican heritage) now live.
Kindly go now, before any more bloodshed and destruction visits Dominica. With your departure we can seek to meaningfully bind the wounds of a nation that continues to hemorrhage its best sons and daughters. Every day more and more Dominicans are leaving as they can no longer stand to reside in the current environment. That environment is rife with government ineptitude, a crumbling system of health care, political intolerance, bias in the public and police service, criminal actions and lawsuits as an instrument of political intimidation, the absence of justice in our courts, escalating crime and an overall lack of economic opportunity. Let us stop the bleeding of our nation.
We seek a return to a happier, healthier, democratic, and more united Dominica. We seek a Dominica which prospers from the aggregation of the best minds, talents and financial/other resources of Dominicans at home and abroad.
We call on all Dominicans, and friends of Dominica to work with us on this noble mission of saving Dominica and its democracy.
And we are so duty bound to ask that you – all those who love Dominica and are friends of Dominica – to join us in this call by endorsing this message!
Gabriel J. Christian was President of the Dominica Federation of Students at Dominica’s independence in 1978 and a founding member and Secretary of the Roseau Branch of the Popular Independence Committee (PIC) founded by Dominica’s late Prime Minister Roosevelt “Rosie” Douglas (1941-2000). The PIC was the primary non-governmental organization which advocated for Dominica’s independence from Britain during the period 1976-1978.