The following article was written for publication in September2009. However, I have kept it back until now. Recent developments have forced me to release this article.
Again, most of us are familiar with the saying that "who steals my purse steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed."
*Although we are well aware of turning the other cheek, but the question is, how many other cheeks do we have, or how many times do we turn that cheek? *
Dominica! Oh Dominica! The land of my birth. Some time ago stories began as, "Once upon a time," or, "Long, long time ago." Presently, "it is NOW and it is real."
Most of us are familiar with the good old saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?" Some honourable' men and women in our society are well aware of it (the old saving) and instead of going down this avenue, they rather choose to travel the highway of pilferage.
I used to be very patriotic, but today, I cannot say the same. This great love of country and devotion to country seems to be diminishing. Sometimes, I reflect on the days of the I.R.A. and P.L.O where people felt that the cause was the driving force. Since I am obligated to be patriotic then I will be just patriotic and not VERY patriotic.
My belief in democracy is being seriously challenged. Sometimes, I ask myself, is democracy still of the people, by the people, and for the people? Or, is it now just for some of the people? Although we dare not to ask, what our country can do for us? Notwithstanding this limitation, we do expect that an enabling environment and the creation of opportunities for the citizens of the state. It is with this in mind that I felt obligated to exhale.
I have told the world that I started as early as age five years. What does a five year old know? The days spent on the farm of my grandfather most certainly helped in shaping my character. At age 19, I chose the noblest profession on earth, which is feeding the people. I was selected by the Ministry of Agriculture as an agricultural trainee. Two years later (1971), I became an agricultural instructor in the Giraudel/ Eggleston sub-district.
In 1974, I was selected to pursue a course of studies in tropical agriculture in Jamaica. In 1975, I received the school's top award in livestock production. In 1976 I graduated with honours on completion of the course. I received several offers to remain in Jamaica; however I chose to return to Dominica.
On my return to Dominica, I decided to use my knowledge and experience in pursuant of a national livestock development Programme. For eleven years, I worked island-wide as a livestock development officer. My contribution towards that sector speaks for itself. The people I worked for and with are the ones who spoke and are still speaking on my behalf.
In 1989, after 20 years of service with the Ministry, I resigned from the post and decided to move into the hostile world environment. My aim was to take on farming as a full time occupation. However, in 1990 there was a major change in plans. That was the birth of Antilles West Coast Limited. Note well that Antilles West Coast Limited must not be confused with Antilles Cement Lumber Limited. Both entities were separately duly registered companies, and I am certain that the people of Antilles Cement Lumber Ltd. are more than capable of speaking for themselves. Therefore, I will confine myself to speaking on behalf of Antilles West Coast Limited.
However, before embarking on this trail, it is necessary to retract to the year 1976. This is the year I got married to a wonderful young lady named Marcella Ambo. She started her nursing career in 1972. For 22 years she served the people of Dominica in all wards of the Princess Margaret Hospital including the Operating Theatre. The importance of this section is that out of this marriage came forth four children, three sons and one daughter.
The Government of Dominica is 'saying' that they would like to see at least one university graduate from each home. This may be so, but I do not think it refers to Salisbury and more so certain families. My four children are all graduates of the Dominica State College. On several occasions, we have approached the Government for assistance towards the children's goals, but to no avail. Although there are many instances, there is one which is worth mentioning.
Chris, my first son, applied and received a student visa to enable him to study in the USVI. His application was endorsed by Antilles West Coast Limited. Financing came from himself and the family. The first year went okay. Then in the summer of the second year, Chris realized finance was short, and therefore he embarked on helping himself by establishing a vegetable garden. He stayed away from classes in order to set up the project. At the end of the year, like the first year, he returned home on vacation. In the New Year, upon his return to the USVI he was stopped by the Immigration Department. His student visa was revoked and therefore in order to continue he would have to seek a new visa.
Antilles West Coast Limited by that time was experiencing problems of its own and therefore could not endorse him. We therefore wrote to the Ministry of Education asking for an endorsement. That was all! No scholarship was mentioned; no money whatsoever was mentioned or requested. The request was just to give the young man a letter of endorsement. The then Minister of Education, Hon. Vince Henderson, made several appointments with him but did not keeping any. The same thing happened with Senator Peter St. Jean who acted for the Minister of Education on several occasions. Time passed by and the weeks became months.
Alas! After about six months the young man became frustrated. Two years have elapsed and Chris is still awaiting a reply from the Minister of Education.
I was telling a man form Salisbury what happened; to my amazement he told me that his son met with the very same Minister of Education somewhere out of state and he (the minister) told the boy that anytime he wishes to study 'just check him'. The man said after 21 visits to the Minister someone in the office told him, "Since you are from Salisbury you will not succeed."
Most Dominicans are very familiar with the name Chris Vidal. For it is that same young man who sacrificed much of his school days playing cricket for Dominica. He played at the under 16 level for Dominica. Also, he played at the under 19 level for both Dominica and Windward Islands. Many people would remember the youth who battled for a day and a half at the Botanic Gardens against Rawle Lewis and his Grenadian Team to deny them the victory they badly needed. At that time of his life I am sure he did not understood the chivalry or what it meant to be patriotic. However, he stood his ground and indeed he was a knight in shining armour. Dominica will always need him. Is it too much to ask Dominica for the tools? (To be continued)