As the DLP celebrates another anniversary, many supporters are filing for separation
If the relationship between the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and its supporters from inception in 1955 had to be written down, the status would more than likely read "complicated."
"It's like being in an abusive marriage or one where you no longer feel in love with your partner, but because of all of the years invested, and knowing the qualities they possess you feel like it's an obligation to remain committed to this love/hate relationship," said one supporter.
Sixty-six years ago, the DLP was born through the efforts of Phyllis Shand Alfrey, a white creole Dominican whose clever use of patois helped her gain a large following, and Emmanuel Christopher Loblack.
But most of the Labourites, who had the opportunity to witness the ups and downs of the party, admit that Crispin Gregoire, the former Ambassador to the United Nations and past DLP stalwart who managed the party's 2000 and 2005 general election campaigns, was correct when he said in 2017 that the party had lost its way.
One, in particular, is Desmond Didier who revealed to the SUN that though he is a "Labourite" at heart, he has long felt a shift in the party, hence his reason to no longer cast his vote during the general elections.
"Many of us felt like P.J [Patrick John] was bad, but he's nothing compared to the one we have here today," he lamented. "The values which once hovered over this party have long been gone, and unless something dire is done, I'm saddened that we won't get back the party we all once held to a high esteem."
But his love for the DLP runs deep. Although labeling the current state of affairs as alarming, the elderly gentleman says that he would rather not vote than betray the party which gave his family their first home.
Another longtime supporter of the party is Frances Joseph, a former Labourite, turned Freedomite, then Labourite, who says that come next election, her separation from the DLP is inevitable.
Like an abused partner in a relationship, who has finally mustered up the courage to walk away, Joseph professes that she's given the party too many chances to change but things don't seem to be getting any better.
"For too long I have been sweet-talked into staying, and have been comforted with lies but not anymore. I won't allow my love for the party I grew up in to outweigh what's best for my children and grandchildren," she said.
A similar sentiment has also been echoed by several other long-time DLP supporters, who are ready to or have already signed the dotted lines, divorcing themselves from the party.
But while this is being done, there are still many others who are saying complicated or not, they're not leaving for anyone.
As it pertains to the history of the party, some suggest that in 1961, the DLP contested its first election, by which time Edward Oliver LeBlanc had been elected party leader.
The newcomers secured seven of the eleven seats.
After weathering a split in the DLP in 1970, LeBlanc became premier of Dominica and resigned from that post in 1974. He was succeeded by Patrick Roland John but soon after conflict returned to the DLP during John's semi-authoritarian rule.
Although he became the country's first prime minister following Dominican independence in 1978, John and his government were forced out of power in June 1979 when most of his DLP parliamentarians and ministers withdrew in the face of national protest which led to his arrest and replacement by an interim coalition led by Oliver Seraphine.
The following year, the party suffered a major defeat to the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) as its vote share reduced from 50% to 17%.
Succeeding the debacle of John's government, the party restructured in 1984. The restructuring of the party took place under the leadership of Michael Douglas, Oliver Seraphine, Henry Dyer (a former Dominica Freedom Party cabinet member), and, after 1988, Roosevelt ''Rosie" Douglas.
With four seats in parliament, the DLP was the official opposition party to the Charles-DFP government in the late 1980s. The DLP again took four seats in the July 1990 election but was displaced as the official opposition party by the United Workers Party (UWP), which captured six seats.
In June 1995 the DLP won five House seats on a third-place vote share of 29.6 percent. Douglas succeeded Brian Alleyne as leader of the opposition when a DFP seat was vacated in July 1995.
In the 2000 elections, the party regained power for the first time since 1975, winning 10 of the 21 seats and forming a coalition with the DFP, after which Rosie Douglas became Prime Minister.
However, on 1 October 2000 Douglas died suddenly after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles. On 6 January 2004, Charles, who had been suffering from heart problems since 2003, also died. After the death of Pierre Charles, Foreign Minister Osborne Riviere acted as Prime Minister until Education Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was named political leader of the party and sworn in as Prime Minister.
Under the leadership of Skerrit, the party has won four consecutive elections despite the opposition's claims of campaign improprieties.