GIVE HONOUR WHERE HONOUR IS DUE- The life of a former Prime Minister
By Anonymous (Continued from last issue) O. J. Seraphin in 1977 who was then President of the Labour Party was a member of the select Cabinet members with the Attorney General- Leo Austin, Vic Riviere - Minister of Finance and the Premier Patrick John which first held discussions seeking Independence from the UK with her Majesty's government and which led Dominica to independence on 3rd November 1978 .The Ministers met major demonstration and mob confrontation from the entrance at the E.C. Loblack bridge from the opposition Freedom Party who held a public meeting galvanizing opposition supporters on their return from London. He is a former treasurer, vice president and president of the Dominica Labour Party 1969-1979.
In his early 20's, he first contested the elections of the Roseau Town Council with Hugh White ,Flossie Joseph ,Thomas Baptiste and Bernard Cools Lartigue who represented the Labour Party at the then heavily contested Roseau Central party elections of 1971 under the leadership of Premier E.O. Leblanc . The struggle to take municipal political control over the city of Roseau was paramount at that time of which there was a constitutional challenge to the authority of Central Government by the opposition Freedom Party over the ownership of the Roseau market property of which the government of E.O. Leblanc sought to develop as a matter of state rights.
The first time arrival by Dr. Liverpool and Charles Maynard at the Bath Road Roseau city council public meeting near the Botanical Gardens at the Frank residence was a watershed moment of new alliances.
The former PM was founder and elected Political leader of the Democratic Labour Party (Dem Lab) during the period 1979-1983 and elected political Leader of the Labour Party through the clear mandate at resolutions of the now joint Labour parties of Dominica and Democratic Labour which came about by Central Committee meetings of both parties hosted by the National Workers Union over a series of central committee meetings following the 1980 elections. This subscribed to the principle that the matter of political leadership was closed for the forthcoming elections due in 1985 and was affirmed by resolution at the follow up Londonderry national conference and rally in 1983 which saw by election the emergence of O.J. Seraphin as leader of the Labour Party which united the Dominica and democratic Labour parties with Patrick John who was elected deputy political leader. The silence on this event by political sages and historians is instructive.
There was an unusual arrangement in a questionable non- constitutional Labour Party meeting of various individual political alignments at a small gathering in Mahaut at the home of Vic Riviere, a party member. At the meeting which was called to seek support and to find financial assistance for the looming privy council case of Patrick John for to financial assistance and to arrange US$8000 which payment was processed and facilitated by the Douglas brothers - Mike and Rosie. They then had connections in Jamaica for the payment of the US$ 8,000 to meet the expenses of PJ's attorneys - the African, McCauly, and Dominican, Williams, based in Jamaica.
This payment was made for the lawyers to leave Jamaica that weekend for the London Privy Council meeting, thus effectively being the base for the reciprocal purchase of the support from PJ and his associates at the meeting which then opened this up for a previously unannounced leadership contest in that setting. PJ, however, lost that appeal and shortly after began a jail sentence .The role of Algie Mathie, the key witness of the Crown which was the foundation of the case against PJ and who was a protégé of Rosie Douglas will be examined in a another publication. Rosie Mills later, who was the successor to PJ at the St Joseph elections, threatened to expose Michael Douglas ostensibly on that matter following his loss.
Seraphin was so subjected to a vote by this arrangement which saw Mike Douglas emerging with the few persons present as leader of the Labour Party by support of the few present including PJ and Douglas faction of personal supporters and OJ became deputy leader with Babs Henry Dyer formerly of the Freedom Party being installed as 2nd deputy leader and Jerome Barzey, a former Freedom Party supporter becoming the general secretary. Seraphin was unaware of the arrangements which predated and precipitated that meeting and which was prepared in his absence having just returned from meetings with the French Government agencies for campaign assistance and he had no members of the Labour Party executive present except persons from the Wesley constituency - Elford Henry and a Mrs. Alexander. Elford was convinced by detractors that OJ who had huge support in that constituency was in process of moving there for the forthcoming elections in his place and thus voted in favor of Mike Douglas.
Mike, who had never served in the elected executive of the Dominica Labour Party prior to the arrangements of the Mahaut meeting had a self-described United Labour which really by earlier consensus was an independent Labour constituency arrangement agreed upon to have him contest on an independent Labour banner at Portsmouth and brother Rosie Douglas in Paix Bouche to avoid fragmentation of Labour support in those constituencies.
OJ Seraphin as party leader had been in Guadeloupe the earlier part of the week of the meeting with very high placed persons of the French Government who had made arrangements to fully finance the Labour campaign for the elections of 1985. A contact person of the highest authority at Thompson International of France which had Government agency linkages was directed to meet all expenses of the campaign and deliver all campaign paraphernalia and finances based on the list of campaign items requested by the then political leader who returned with large amounts of posters promoting the upcoming campaign with his leadership. (To be continued)