Revisiting 29th May 1979 - From the coming book "Theft of a Legacy"
The events of 1978 and 1979 in Dominica were memorable watershed moments. It was the womb of the birth of a permanent legacy which has been stolen by the sages and pundits who may wish to cast out these signal epoch moments as trifle, despite the profound nature and circumstance of a new nation.
However, the Dominica Sun Newspaper in an earlier editorial made the impactful statement (with which I totally agree) that among the greatest moments of Dominica's History which must be permanent on our consciousness as a nation are:
-Independence 3rd November 1978
-May 29th 1979
-Hurricane David 29th August 1979
I am blessed and graced to have been involved in these monumental moments of the nation and was in the room as a Leader of the nation. Indeed I dare say that I am the last survivor of the cabinet of 1978 and the last of the Leaders of the Labour Party with the exception of the current leader Roosevelt Skerrit.
However, it is obvious that the perception that it would have been desirous by some pundits of sweeping the events of 29th May 1979 under the carpet, would be a denial of the very basis upon which I emerged as the PM of Dominica. I continue to believe, however, that the stone erected by the Freedom Party Government on the grounds of the Government Headquarters is sinister. We should not as a nation maintain a monument of the stoning of a government out of office as a status of honour. Indeed, few persons are conscious of its existence. The UWP Government in their judgement chose to remove the mural of the shooting of the demonstrator Timothy on the wall of the Treasury building.
I am unable to discern, the rationale of the sages and historians who have been out of the "room" and have chosen to create their own version of the truth and reconstruct history giving strange hero worship to those who in my experience of having been in the room, fall so short of factual reality, that I am taking this opportunity to challenge the travesty of truth.
At radio interviews convened by the Manager of a local Radio on the matter of the constitutional solution following the coup, overthrow, or revolution against the government of Patrick John of 29th May 1979, he was curious and sought to seek the cover of cobwebs to combat the legitimacy of the truth which underpinned the principles of reconstructing our constitution following the fall of the Patrick John government.
The radio interview with me on that program was explicit in its intent to seek possible irregularities in the installation of OJ Seraphin as the 2nd Prime Minister as lacking due process. However, the later Interview with eminent past members of the CNS represented the Dominica Trade 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 an earlier radio interview
The most striking revelation as contributed by Jennifer White was the consistent view by all sections of our community leaders who became members of the CNS 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 of news, 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 7 members of the former PJ-Dominica Labour party, whose purpose it was to announce their support for a coalition government headed by me and to give parliamentary majority support for the formation of such a 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 who received the mandate by a majority of elected members as defined by the constitution. This gave the authority to install a new Prime Minister as the CNS Committee for National Salvation was unable to act as a constitutional body!
My singular effort at redeeming the constitution through effecting an alternative Labour Party in parliament has been amnesia to the historians. The casual dismissal by the public to a solution to our constitutional crises cries out for an explanation. The alternative of which was the possibility of all-out civil war through the involvement of the Army and supporters of John in retaliation for the damage done.
Guns buried in the hills
Parallel to that, we should not fail to contemplate the role of the leftist movement towards the revolutionary route of Grenada taken with Maurice Bishop and which had the country on alert. The fact of the weaponry of the left having arrived in Dominica was chronicled in a book by a St. Lucian writer Rick Wayne a former bodybuilder - who became Mr. Universe. So too, was information revealed to me which I received years later from Dr. Hilroy Thomas who claims that the guns are still buried in the hills, rotting away no doubt.
This feat of changing the course of our country which fell under mob rule resulted in a coup and an overthrow of a government. It seems similar but more successful than the 6th of January 2021 Trump motivated US anarchy which was a mere "palace coup'' attempt. 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 inciting a mob with the support of the opposition party, one of whom later emerged as President of the country!
The temerity of historians to conclude that the economic situation was that which propelled the coup is blindsiding the reality that PM John had just a few weeks before in November 3rs of 1978 been hailed as a hero. The unbridled adventurous approaches to governance in the months following Independence by Leo Austin gave facilitations to exploitation by opposition forces. 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 on 16th December 1971 by the same forces which were persuasive in the early retirement of former Premier EO. Leblanc and seem to have escaped the pundits.
Foreign Minister Leo Austin
Indeed, there was a truth that the economic plans which were largely concocted by the AG and Foreign Minister Leo Austin fell into questionable domains. The South African connection with their Minister Coetzee and Leo Austin at the height of Apartheid and of which the world nations at the UN had backlisted was hugely chronicled in the BBC drama series 'Panorama' whose contents require a book of its own.
These were the areas of concern expressed by me in cabinet and of which I did take the lead thereon to challenge the authority and indeed the presence of the hierarchy of the civil servants to direct our affairs which could and did bring attrition.
The contribution of Trade Unionist Bernard Nicholas in the DBS Radio interview on the 29th May experience was explicit that he and others had approached me as a person of capacity to facilitate the transition from the morass of the destruction of our democracy. He did respond to the viewpoint offered by the radio personality in both interviews who in his own opinion and calculation thought to be more of his liking. The trade unionist Nicholas, a 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 party 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 6 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 in a radio interview an apolitical civil service pragmatic understanding of the proceedings and declared that the decisions taken were based on response to the urgency for resolving a crisis which brought the nation to the need for action which by Its nature may have been unusual.
Indeed, the creation of the CNS was called for by the need for action by the sages and prominent personalities of the nation acting as leaders of the 26 various existing organisations and disciplines. The massive vote of confidence by 26 organisations led by the most prominent citizens of the land of DOMINICA representing all organisations of the nation of whom three later became Prime Ministers another one emerged President and others became Ministers of Government and leaders of the socio-economic community, was a huge vote of confidence unprecedented in the history of the region
The decision was made by that body in the absence of my direct involvement, and confirmed that I could lead our nation out of the anarchy and even against the tidal wave of violent political polarisation, that I could steer the country as Prime Minister into normalcy and reassert the power of our constitution. Having succeeded in so doing, due and deserved respect has never been given.
Oliver J. Seraphin May 21st 2022