UWP's new political leader is a true patriot
By Dr. Emanuel Finn
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a patriot loves and supports their country. It's a word that defines and engenders unification, joy, less division, and exclusion of people. Therefore, being a true patriot is one of the most significant rewards citizens can hope for and bestow on them. Well, if that is the case, the Grand Fond man who has just become the political leader of the United Workers Party (UWP) can be described as a real Dominican patriot.
Dr Thomson Fontaine profoundly believes that the "us vs them" attitude and selected mentality of patriotism in our small island home today should not be allowed to continue. Furthermore, he believes that if this new brand of patriotism is not checked and stopped, it will undoubtedly morph into a dangerous ideal. Unfortunately, this notion and belief often have far-reaching and irreversible consequences. Haiti as a failed state is a poignant example and reminder of how difficult that ideal has resulted 'scotch-earth' way of life.
Fontaine, the author of the highly acclaimed book, 'The Maroons of Dominica, Resistance, Rebellion and Freedom from slavery from 1764 to 1818, says his unconditional love and passion for Dominica is unyielding, uncorrupted, and uncontaminated. In his acceptance speech, he said that his tenet principles, leadership style, and plan would be based on honesty, accountability, and transparency. In addition, he promised to listen to the people and take on different and divergent views.
Thomson's victory was not only because of his vast and decorated academic and professional credentials and work experiences locally and internationally.
It was also because the members connected and 'identified' with the economist as a trustworthy and humble patriot who is a leader (and servant of the people) who is concerned deeply about current events in Dominica and its political and economic wellbeing and future.
An overwhelming number of Dominicans are elated that the economist will spearhead the team whose urgent task will be to rebuild the UWP. They have expressed great optimism and pledged to support the party financially and otherwise. They are confident that Fontaine will provide the necessary leadership to restructure the party's identity and brand and bring new people on board. This includes the younger folks who may have dropped out of society, lost hope and desire to participate, much less think about a viable future in Dominica.
I have known Thomson since we were high school students in the mid-70s. During the summer holidays, we worked at the banana boxing plant at Rosalie (now the site of the Rosalie Hotel) back east. Despite his high successes, he has always remembered his humble roots in the southeastern mountains. He has dined and wined with kings, presidents, emperors, generals, world-renowned poets and Nobel Laureate writers, highly acclaimed academicians, inventors, and others. In his current capacity, half a world away in South Sudan, he is currently the deputy chief of staff strategy for the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC).
As the deputy chief, he plays a crucial role in helping to build peace and capacity building for the world's newest nation. Being around the bright lights of power and privilege in Washington, Juba, Kabul, the UN, Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, and countless other foreign capitals has not changed this country boy' from Grand Fond. He will always want to spend more time in his mountain community, where he can farm and care for his livestock.
During our conversation, I asked him, 'Why do you want to walk away from this posh job where you travel worldwide and stay in 5-star rated hotels?
You reside in a comfortable upper-middle-class Washington DC suburb; why do you want to give this up, return to Dominica, and enter its vicious and vindictive politics of personal destruction and character assignation?"
I continued playing devil's advocate by reminding him that in Dominica's most mountainous village (Grand Fond), opportunities don't come knocking on one's doorstep. And often, there are numerous examples in our society that a 'prophet' is not always welcome, dignified, or respected and instead ridiculed. In 2014, he contested the Grand Fond Constituency, and after several recounts, he was 'declared' the loser by the narrowest of margins.
By all definitions, Dr Thomson Fontaine is a prime example of an unequivocal and unambiguous definition of a true patriot. He is a success story all Dominicans and 'Dominicans at heart' should be proud of. We should also wish him well and pray for the new leader and our country.