Dominica is knocked down but not beaten
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addresses the nation on Dominica's 37th anniversary of independence
It rained on Dominica's parade today.
But it was a gentle kind of rain, the type that refreshes rather than sweeps away decades of development, like Erika's rains did on 27 August 2015.
Today's rain did not even interrupt the traditional Parade of Uniformed Groups at the Windsor Park Sports Stadium where Dr. Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) received Dominica's highest award (the Dominica Award of Honour) and Senior Counsel Anthony Waddy Astaphan flew on the wings of the Sisserou Parrot.
Astaphan received the Sisserou Award of Honour, Dominica's second highest Award, much to the irritation of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP). A severe critic of the UWP, Astaphan has emerged as the main spokesman of the ruling Dominica Labour Party. The UWP argues that Astaphan is too divisive a personality to be the recipient of a national award. But Astaphan has distinguished himself as one of the most prominent lawyers in the region.
After the rain had stopped and the sun had opened its arms warmly around the Windsor Park, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit presented his annual Independence address. Because of Tropical Storm Erika's disaster, Skerrit said, he was deviating from his usual ministry-by-ministry report to provide an up-date on Dominica's recovery effort.
Because of Erika, Skerrit said the country now has to find $86.2 million to repair the damage to the productive sector, $334.5 million for infrastructure and $60.09 million for the social sector.
"We have been forced to go back to the drawing board and rethink our entire strategy," he said. "The way forward is to review what was planned against what is needed and decide on priorities within those needs."
Skerrit said 49 countries responded to Dominica's needs after the disaster, ten multilateral organisations offered help and 52 non-government organisations, individuals and groups provided assistance.
"As of November 2nd 2015 government has received EC$16 million in emergency cash assistance," Skerrit said. "This is a mere fraction of the estimated $1.2 billion needed to address the damage."
Skerrit assured donors that "every dollar will be well spent and properly accounted for."
At the end of his address, Skerrit urged Dominicans to "put their shoulders to the wheel" in the "rebuilding of Dominica" after Erika and, quoting American President John. F. Kennedy, he told Dominicans that they must not ask what their country can do for them but what they can do for their country.
"We may be hard-pressed but we are not crushed," he said. "We may have been knocked down but we are not defeated".