Residents of Portsmouth on Thursday, gathered near the Indian River Bridge and later, at Burroughs Square, to raise awareness about what they say, are serious issues that are affecting their community.
In an interview with Dominica News Online (DNO), one of the protest organizers, Pat Corbette, said Portsmouth is not getting a fair share of the national income to enhance the constituency and to provide jobs for the town’s residents.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of hotels around the Portsmouth area but there are just so many things that need to be put in place and the whole ambiance of the place, the vast unemployment issue in Portsmouth, a lot of the people aren’t working; they’re just sitting around by the roadside,” Corbette lamented.
The Portsmouth businessman said some residents have also been asking the question, “where the money gone,” in reference to the mounting controversy over an estimated $1 billion in revenue from the Citizenship (CBI) by Investment Programme which the opposition leader has said is missing from the 2019-2020 national budget and which has elicited a strong opposition outcry for accountability from the government.
“We have a lot of concerns so far as…it relates to Portsmouth. Some of the uses that money could go to, like for instance, right now, we’re building 5-star hotels and resorts in the Portsmouth area… but I believe along with that we need a 5-star hospital because you cannot bring in people here in a 5-star hotel and then you have a hospital which, in my opinion, if I had to rate it, would probably rate it as a [one] star, maybe less than a star,” he continued.
Corbette described the public turnout and support for the protest action as “very encouraging” and said they intend to continue raising awareness, however long it takes.
Meantime, a protest by UWP election candidate, attorney Ronald Charles, continued on Thursday in front of the Prevo Cinimall building.
Charles launched the “one man billion dollar protest” on Monday to add his voice to the call for government accountability in the CBI missing funds issue.
Dominica News Online (DNO) interviewed two people who were part of today’s gathering. They expressed their concerns and frustration with what they perceive to be government’s lack of accountability in the CBI matter..
“The purpose for coming out today is standing with senator Ronald Charles in solidarity with him in asking where is the $1.2billion of CBI monies unaccounted for in the national budget? We have find that this government has not been transparent enough with the people. We do not know where the funds are going, we do not know how much is coming in, we do not know how it’s being used. Enough is enough and whoever wants to join they are free to do so,” one of the protesters told DNO.
“I am here for the simple reason, standing in the defense of my country because monies are missing. Particularly having to see the people of Dominica struggle, suffer. We have police officers, teachers, and doctors, lawyers operating under a very low salary and as a result, you can see the effect that it has on the economy,” another protester exclaimed. “We want that money back into the treasury. This money [belongs] to the people, it does not belong to Roosevelt Skerrit. Hartley Henry or all of the operatives that seem to be manipulating the resources of Dominica. We deserve better…and it hurts us…there is pain in our heart seeing how we are struggling. “
Charles indicated that the protest will continue tomorrow but said that he had not yet decided a venue.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has said that the money in question has been used to build houses for Dominicans but the opposition is insisting that the government must provide a proper accounting of the total amount of CBI funds that was received for the financial year 2018-2019.