Revisiting 29th May 1979
By O. J. Seraphine. (From the coming book "-Stolen Legacy.")
The radio interviews convened by Cecil Joseph, the Manager of DBS Radio on the matter of the constitutional solution following the coup, overthrow or revolution against the government of Patrick John on 29th May 1979 was curious but sought, as it was advertised, to seek the truth.
However, the radio interview with me on that programme was explicit in its intent to seek possible irregularities in the installation of the O.J. Seraphine as the second prime minister as lacking due process. Nevertheless, later interviews with eminent past members of the Committee for National Salvation (CNS) which represented the Dominica Trade Union, labour union leader Bernard Nicholas and Waterfront and Allied Workers Union Kertist Augustus as well as the Clerk of the House of Assembly then- Jennifer White- with input from Felix Thomas, a former senator and Parliamentary Secretary, particularly reiterated and confirmed the position of the original statements I made at the earlier radio interview.
The most striking revelations, as contributed by Jennifer White, was the consistent view by all sections of our community leaders who became members of the CNS was that we had been through an unprecedented experience, following the atrocities of that period, which required extraordinary parliamentary action to redeem the constitutional process of government.
What, however, has been seemingly lost in the reconstruction of events by disinformation, was the initiation of the Democratic Labour Party. This was occasioned by me and in alliance with Eustace Francis, the representative of Roseau South then, and an eminent attorney who assisted in the draft of the resolution for the formation of the Democratic Labour Party commonly called Dem Lab. This was signed by seven members of the former PJ Dominica Labour Party which purpose was to announce their support for an interim government headed by me and to give parliamentary majority support for the formation of a coalition government with the independents as well as other elected members of the Freedom Party. This, therefore, was instrumental in giving the necessary constitutional mandate for my leadership as Prime Minister in the House of Assembly. This gave the authority to install a new Prime Minister as the CNS was unable to act as a constitutional body!
My singular effort at redeeming the constitution has been amnesia to the historians.
This feat of changing the course of our country which fell under mob rule -a coup by any reckoning and was an overthrow of a government-seemed like the 6th of January 2021 Trump US anarchy as a mere "palace coup" is a reconstruction of facts. That this came from within the Patrick John government is misinformation indeed. The country did face mayhem by outside forces through the machinations of trade union operatives that incited a mob with the support of the opposition party!
The temerity of historians to conclude that the economic situation was that which propelled the coup is blind sighting the reality that PM John had just a few weeks before in November 3rs of 1978 was hailed as a hero. The fact that this was stage-managed by Charles Savarin and Eugenia Charles leaders of the CNS is irrefutable and was a follow-up of a similar effort of 16th December 1971 by the same forces which was persuasive in the early retirement of former premier E. O. LeBlanc.
The contribution of Trade Unionist Bernard Nicolas in the DBS Radio interview on the 29th May experience was explicit that he and others had approached me as a person of the capacity to facilitate the transition from the morass of the destruction of our democracy. He did respond to the viewpoint of Cecil Joseph, Manager DBS Radio, that the names offered by Cecil in both interviews of the other possible names who Joseph, in his own opinion and calculation, thought to be more deserving of leading the country were dismissed. The trade unionist - Nicholas, the member of the CNS, confirmed that Mike Douglas had been earlier dismissed as a member of the Labour Party and was never considered by the CNS. He again responded to the query on attorney Eustace Francis who was not considered by the CNS. Nor was Eugenia Charles able to garner support from the Labour Parry elected parliamentarians needed to get a majority of elected members in the House of Assembly to create a constitutionally elected Prime Minister. The opposition then had only six members including independents.
The CNS inspired recommendation of my being PM was clarified as having been introduced to the people in the position for the office of the Prime Minister at the Parish Hall, Pottersville mass meeting. The Clerk of the House, Jennifer White, expressed an apolitical civil service pragmatic understanding of the proceedings, to declare that the decisions taken were based on response to the urgency for resolving a crisis that brought the nation to the need for action which by its nature may have been unusual.
Indeed, the creation of the CNS was called by that need for action by the sages and prominent personalities of the nation acting as leaders of the 26 various existing organizations and disciplines.
"We may never see a 29th May 1979 again"
The press erroneously applies a'' palace coup' to the fall of the Patrick John Government. My resignation very early from the John government was not in anticipation of the fall of the Government.
The party held 16 seats in parliament. I did resign due to internal conflicts with the Attorney General in particular who spearhead many situations which I was particularly demonstrative against in cabinet. In seeking his removal, I did give an ultimatum to the PM though ill, that I would resign by a date ascribed if he did not dismiss the AG by a letter sent to him through my father and another emissary -a confidante of the leader.
The PM then felt loyal to his own connection with the AG and did not act and so I resigned. I was then the president of the party. The executive later took the action to demand the dismissal of the AG, Leo Austin.
The cynicism of my being ill as a clever ploy was addressed and responded to by Bernard Nicholas (in a radio programme) which cleared the maligned view that my illness then was authentic. Nicholas confirmed that he did announce to me at my family residence in Goodwill of the decision of the Committee for National Salvation (CNS) to install me as the leader of the country and he was aware that I was ill. However, that information was already given to me the day before by Sheridan Gregoire and my associate parliamentarian attorney Eustace Francis who visited me at the Vena's Guest House in Belles about the decision of the CNS to handpick me as leader.
The earlier focus that in some way I had been in cohort with the CNS to disenfranchise Patrick John as PM was also cleared by Kertist Augustus who claimed to have been a lifelong Freedom Party member through his family roots. Augustus and Nicholas confirmed that I was not ever part of the decision making of the CNS and that I did not apply as a candidate for leadership; that this was thrust upon me was made very clear to listeners of the DBS programme.
I did agree to serve my country as its leader at a crucial moment of history when the armed forces were divided in their loyalties and when two presidents were forced to flee or were stoned and attacked.
I was not naïve and did accept the role with its attached risks.
This was exacerbated when the major most prominent persons of the opposition parties with Charles Maynard and Brian Alleyne, attorney and deputy leader of the Freedom Party, were placed as the coalition partners in my cabinet, as did Athie Martin, the leader of the left-leaning Alliance Party. My effort to bring attorney Eustace Francis in, who was the representative from Roseau South and a junior minister in the PM's office of Patrick John, was opposed vehemently by the coalition partners and the CNS.
I was left with Mike Douglas who was earlier estranged from Labour and thrown out of the PM John cabinet and who too held huge ambitions to lead and was a challenge to my leadership of the country.
It was only Luke Coriette who was left to support me directly in a cabinet of hostile persons to the resurgence of the Labour Party. So was the CNS representing the various organizations, all programmed with the express purpose to remove Labour Party from government with the only exception being the DTU.
It became crystal clear that in order to give integrity and rationality to my Labour Party leadership was to first get rid of the sword of Damocles, which was the CNS. So, following Hurricane David due to their conspicuous absence in the aftermath of the storm that I declared that "the CNS was blown away by the winds of David" and then the dismissal of the other partners which constituted the coalition in the persons of ALLEYNE, MAYNARD AND MARTIN (Maynard and Alleyne offered their resignation that very day). They were then members of Dominica's first coalition government in our history, ascribed falsely by historians to the Freedom/ Labour coalition of the Rosie Douglas government of 2000.
Nor was Lennard "Pappy" Baptiste and the Carib Chief Hilary Frederick ever mentioned or Lois Robinson as incoming senators of the NEW Labour Party government.
We may never see a 29th May 1979 again because the Freedom Party will never seek to rise out of the bosom of Labour as is evident today, nor will the trade unions ever regain its former status with the clout and aggression of CSA general secretary Charles Savarin, or out of the graves of Lois "Zarbocka" Benoit, or Anthony Joseph, or to reinvent a CNS which leaders were politically inspired giving truth to the saying of " politics being of strange bedfellows" and one emerging with the glorious gold award to became President of DOMINICA.