GIVE HONOUR WHERE HONOUR IS DUE- The life of a former Prime Minister
(Continuation of excerpts from the to-be-published memoir of Oliver James Seraphin)
OJ was appointed Justice of the Peace (JP) in 1975 and was appointed Director of the Agricultural and Industrial Development (AID) Bank in 1995 under the UWP Administration. He served as Director of the NDC under the Freedom Party administration and then Chairman of the National Development Corporation (NDC) from 1995-2000.
The NDC under the chairmanship of O.J Seraphin gave birth to the World Creole Music Festival in 1996 and the Festival Commission in 1997 which was in direct response to the need expressed by the Hotel Association for an increase in stayover visitors of which the chairman was also PRO and a founder member of the DHTA –Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association.
Interestingly the historians gave the genesis of the Creole Festival to Edmund Toulon who was appointed the first Executive Director of the Festival commission initiated by the Board of the NDC under the chairmanship of O.J Seraphin whilst Stanley Georges was Ag. Manager of the NDC.
The concept originally was to have a Cadence Festival recognizing the music genre of Dominican artists Gordon Henderson Exile One, Ophelia, Jeff of Grammax etc. but a committee was set up by the board to look into the concept and come up with an action plan. Their recommendations for a Creole festival to replace the Cadence festival was more culture encompassing. (More on this in another publication). The Government of the UWP accepted to finance the first and following festivals from 1996.
The success strategy of the NDC as being visionary and very effective was occasioned by the high level of resource capacity as Directors which transcended political subservience. Among members who served and appointed by the government from 1995 were Isaac Baptiste, Winston Warrington an engineer, Athie Martin, Sheridan Gregoire, Michael Pascal an entrepreneur, Proprietor of Cocoa cola Louis Gabriel, Ellsworth Carter –trade union representative, Thomas Baptiste, Janice Armour. Gregoire later upon the removal of Stanley Georges as Ag. GM after Charles Savarin in 2000 was appointed General Manager.
The appointment of former PM Seraphin as Chairman of the NDC under the UWP Administration though ostensibly a past leader of the then opposition Labour Party was an acknowledgment by government that he had been a feature as a Director at the NDC for a prolonged period as the candidate who represented the DHTA but his abilities to manage the affairs of investment and tourism at the board level with a competent group of persons was persuasive.
In 1996 Chinese Bill Cheoung, a millionaire, offered by negotiation with Chairman Seraphin to represent the NDC in Hong Kong with offices for an NDC linked personnel to be at that office and to be paid for by him. This was to seek and find investors and investments from those who anticipated that by 1997 they wished to escape the clutches of the incoming China government over Hong Kong which was British up to that date. That offer would have replaced the efforts of Grace Tonge who simply was an agent appointed by PM Charles to find investment for the Layou River Hotel of which she was a shareholder using the state diplomatic privilege and Diplomatic appointment provided by her as the PM! This offer of this man who agreed to have an extended NDC office in Hong Kong with paid for Dominica NDC representatives in house was disregarded.
The NDC championed the vision of an international airport and in pursuit of this meetings were held in Paris with European financiers with the Chairman who agreed to a 20 year BOT (build operate and transfer). This was coordinated with the very wealthy Ayot family of Guadeloupe who flew in from the Caribbean and the investors who came by train from Germany to meet at the airport leaving same day for discussions on the proposed MOU. This too fell by the wayside due to lack of response from the State.
A negotiated offer of the Chairman –NDC – the former PM, by wealthy Paris eminent Attorney Mr. Chastan who had offices in the Paris Champ D Elizee with an offshore NDC and a secretary paid for by his firm in exchange for an appointment as Honorary Council was not understood or approved.
However, the silent UNESCO office in Paris remains a mysterious elegant very official office with huge and large presence –with an Ambassador not known now to the general public of Dominica from 2000.The role and his function and benefits to Dominica remains obscure.
Efforts by Chairman O.J Seraphin to facilitate a high tech innovative initiative and use Dominica as a Broadband research and application of experiments to have an internet intranet platform at no cost to government but could have facilitated all government's international communications free of charges to experiment with fine tuning the then emerging internet was not seriously responded to.
The very aggressive effort was with Tommy James of Canada –son of former minister Mable Moir James and his associates, a Dominican of the highest eminence at the technological company in Canada (Rockwell). This too went awry without much support by the then government in the late nineties. Today these platforms would have placed Dominica at the forefront of modern internet communication.
An early effort to set up a community of super intellect resources and people in an affluent Silicon Valley style community to explore the facilitation of a smart card which would have had the dynamics of a one stop shop for all commercial and banking activity, then a novel idea and only now becoming in vogue, where the holders will have a card for all and sundry purchase connections and banking through a smart card was in very advanced stages of agreement and development with Dominica as an offshore banking and citizenship.
(To be continued)