Independence— the grand illusion!
From our Archives: November 2nd 2016
Attorney-at-Law Bernard Wiltshire makes his point with total conviction.
Dominica and other former colonies never achieved true independence.
As he sees it, the colonial powers duped former colonies. They simply replaced colonialism with "globalization" — a more scientific and indirect type of tyranny.
"Globalisation is a new form of colonialism!" Wiltshire declared.
Furthermore, he insists that there is no hope of true independence under the current policies of Dominica's President Charles Savarin and Prime Minister (PM) Roosevelt Skerrit. From what he sees of the leadership of these two gentlemen, Wiltshire contended that they seem determined to keep Dominica under the perpetual control of one neo-colonial power or another.
Perhaps Wiltshire's passionate views are based on his work at the forefront of Dominica's independence movement in the 1970s, eager for Dominica to break the colonial shackles of Britain.
"In point of fact, the original response of the Dominican government was to oppose it…both [former PM] Patrick John and [late former PM] Eugenia Charles…their first response was to oppose independence," he declared.
"Patrick opposed independence on the grounds that the British just wanted to shunt us off with nothing at all . . . Eugenia opposed it because she felt that would enable the Labour people to take over the land of her 'planter class'," he argued.
But Wiltshire was convinced it was high time for to Dominica break free from the exploitation of direct colonialism.
The 1970s was a season of radical social change in the developing world, he recalled. "Dominica's condition was abysmal…it was very important that we became independent … took our chances in the rest of the world and looked after ourselves," he said.
"When we realized — myself and Rosie [late former PM Roosevelt Douglas] — that the government was going to oppose independence, we decided to go to the public and to create a mass movement for independence," he recalled.
They set up the popular independence committees, which set about educating people about the meaning of independence and inspiring them to embrace the concept of national self-determination.
Wiltshire acknowledged that many older folks steeped in the colonial mindset did not readily embrace the independence movement, but the idea ignited and became a burning flame in the minds of Dominican youths.
He recalled lobbying the Jamaican Government for support and, at his behest; the Jamaicans sent a cable to the British Government supporting independence for Dominica.
Wiltshire also organised a demonstration in New York against the British Consulate, demanding independence for his native land.
During the demonstration, he said, the British consul invited the demonstrators inside to find out more about their demands, and then told glibly told them that they were "pushing an open door".
He said the anti-colonial movement was at its zenith when then PM Patrick John made the 'Salisbury Declaration' to pursue independence.
In the face of the popularity of the pro-independence movement, Eugenia Charles' only option was to follow suit despite her colonial inclinations, Wiltshire opined.
Wilshire lamented that E.O. Leblanc — former Premier of Dominica, co-founder of the Dominica Labour Party, trade union movement pioneer, and consummate nationalist — was not invited to the independence celebrations in 1978.
"Leblanc…told me that one of the things that hurt him the most, on the day of independence in 1978, he was compelled to go under the stage where all the dignitaries were…
"He and his wife had to shelter from the rain under the stage . . . because there was no room made for them on the stage," Wiltshire recalled.
He feels strongly about this slight because he thinks LeBlanc — a staunch anti-imperialist and strong 'working class' advocate — deserves great credit for Dominica's independence.
In Wiltshire's view, then PM Patrick John didn't understand what the modern world was about and made several controversial decisions that were not in the interest of Dominica.
Then came Eugenia Charles, whom Wiltshire described as an old-fashioned colonialist bereft of genuinely nationalistic ideas.
To Wiltshire, Dominica's situation has consistently declined since 'so-called independence' and the survival of the flagging economy is now dependent on passport sales.
Wiltshire is adamant that no form of capitalism based on rapacious exploitation of the working class will ever work in Dominica. Instead, he believes Dominica should focus on investing in its people, working towards food security, producing renewable energy and creating equitable distribution of resources and income.
Agriculture should be prioritized with the incorporation of modern, knowledge-based agricultural practices.
Good health care is important, in addition to tax reforms and redistribution of wealth to reduce the glaring disparities between rich and poor are also essential, he said.
"I am not a communist… but I certainly do think that it is wrong to have income disparities that are so huge," Wiltshire said.
Wiltshire said Dominica reflects a perverse system in which most of what small nations like Dominica earn is paid off in debt to neo-colonial nations.
Therefore, he is absolutely resolute in his assertion that the current socio-economic situation and its origins have nothing to do with genuine independence.