Charles Severin: Hero or Villain but certainly not President of the Commonwealth of Dominica
Depending on whom you speak with about veteran politician Charles Angelo Savarin, the new nominee for the post of Head of State, is either a monstrous villain or one of the greatest statesmen in Dominica's political history.
On the one hand Savarin is described as the self-serving politician who in the Seventies deceived the Civil Service Association (CSA)-now the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU)-into supporting the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) in the overthrow of the democratically-elected Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government of Patrick Roland John. On the other hand many persons believe Savarin, as the general secretary of the CSA, may have saved Dominica from the tyranny of the DLP administration led by Prime Minister John.
Whatever point of view is closest to the truth, there is little doubt that without Charles Savarin and the CSA the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) would not have formed the government in 1980, 1985 and 1990 and Dame Eugenia Charles would then not have led Dominica during one of the most prosperous periods in the country's troubled history. Those of us who are old enough will remember that civil servants of the Seventies believed Savarin was the master negotiator, the God-like person, who, like Moses, led them through 47 days of strike action when Dominica was virtually closed to the rest of the world. They will also remember that Savarin, using his considerable negotiating skills, won the civil servants massive concessions from a weakened DLP administration. That victory for the CSA led to the defeat of the DLP and then Savarin and the DFP walked into the vacuum that the May 29, 1979 riots created. The rest, as we say, is history.
That Savarin used the CSA's position of strength to catapult his political career cannot be disputed. After all, some of Savarin's supporters argue, that the Portsmouth-born politician had demonstrated such considerable skills as a trade unionist that it would have been wasteful if those traits were not used for the development of the whole country. But when Savarin left the CSA and became a full-fledged member of the DFP some civil servants felt used, cheated and misled.
Similar sentiments were expressed when Savarin as political leader of the DFP again "saved" Dominica from the jaws of UWP tyranny, his supporters contend. This time Savarin decided that he would move in with his arch-rival party, the DLP, in a coalition arrangement to prevent the United Workers Party (UWP) from forming the government after the January 2000 General Elections.
Nonetheless, other persons argue that Savarin has sacrificed the much-weakened DFP to save the DLP and at the same time kept himself within the corridors of power.
But in his letter of resignation, dated June 20, 2006, Savarin contended that his decisions in 2000 and 2005 were based on a desire "to serve all of my people in justice, truth and genuine love".
Additionally, in his resignation letter, Savarin reminded the DFP Executive that it needed to "find itself" and to ask how the DFP became the government of Dominica after 12 years in opposition. "What happened in 1979/1980 to catapult the Freedom Party into government?" he asked. And how is the DFP going to criticise a government when the party was part of every major political decision since 2000, Savarin emphasised.
Interestingly though, Savarin conceded in the letter that he did not try hard enough to retain his seat in Roseau Central during the 2005 election campaign. That probably gives credence to Savarin's critics who contend that though he is a negotiator par excellence and a brilliant platform speaker, Savarin as a politician was probably too aloof and condescending to ignite support from the executive of the DFP especially as it tried to recover its glory days when it was the most influential party in Dominica and probably in the Eastern Caribbean. But those who asked then about the future of the politician Charles Angelo Savarin, did not anticipate that Savarin would be a nominee for the post of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
As one member of the DFP Executive which fired Savarin stated, the former political leader has been "a great politician and a great Dominican. But there's a time and place for everything under the sun".
Savarin has done more than his share of shaping the development of Dominica but for some time his days in active politics were probably numbered especially after a serious fight for his life that left him speechless for a long time. Like most persons, we thought Savarin would have taken a step back from politics, retire and write his memoirs. We admit we were wrong.
Since the Seventies Savarin has demonstrated that those who underestimate him do so to their peril. Although he has had tremendous impact on Dominica's political development over the past four decades, it for these same reasons we believe Savarin cannot be our best choice as the Head of State of the Commonwealth of Dominica.