Dr William "Para" Riviere
Dr William "Para" Riviere

By Para Riviere, Historian

[Taken from forthcoming publication by the author entitled, Inside the Rebellion: Dominica, 1979]


On July 21st 1975, an Agreement was entered into between the Alleyne Mercantile Bank and the Dominica Government. Signatories were Sydney Burnett-Alleyne for the Bank and, Premier John, for the Government of Dominica; Attorney General, Leo Austin, acted as witness. The Agreement contained thirty-five articles. The following were agreed. The Alleyne Mercantile Bank, hereinafter referred to as "the Bank", would establish a company called the Dominica Development Corporation, also known as "The Corporation", as well as a subsidiary of the Bank, named The Alleyne Mercantile Bank of Dominica (hereinafter referred to as "the subsidiary"). The subsidiary would provide "the funding required for infrastructure projects "in the island, such as would be approved from time to time" by the parties to the agreement. These funds were to be repaid "by crediting the subsidiary Bank with such sums as may be payable from time to time by the Corporation to the Government by way of fees, licenses, royalties or taxes". Funding was to be made available for the construction of an international jet airport at Point Crompton in Woodford Hill village, "with terminal buildings, a hotel with casino, and service facilities". Supplies for servicing the Airport's equipment and "ancillary facilities" were to be provided solely by the Corporation. The Corporation, further, would undertake housing schemes for its workers and employees. It might also, if it wished, set up a pre-fabrication factory for housing construction. PROJECT ASSISTANCE

The signature project to be set up by the Corporation would be an Oil refinery with ancillary petrochemical and allied industries. In this venture and other Corporation projects the Dominica Government would participate in the equity "in such proportion to a shareholding as may be agreed upon" by the signatories to the Agreement. But Government's rights in this respect did not include any right to management of the Corporation's projects.

The Cabrits in the North of the island was the area preferred for citing the oil refinery and associated facilities. So as not to damage the historical "ruins" there, no building, land reclamation or other operations capable of causing any such damage would be carried out. Security measures on the site was left to the Corporation. Further, the Corporation was given responsibility for provision of security equipment and recruitment of security guards and other personnel, as was considered "essential to ensure the security and protection of the refinery and its ancillary installations". But arrangements for security were conditional on that access to the Cabrits for tourist or recreational purposes would not be hindered.

The Alleyne Mercantile Bank of Dominica would also provide assistance "to Government" in respect of its programme of building and surfacing the island's roads. Two specific projects were identified: one, the Roseau to Portsmouth road along the west Coast; and, two, "a road from Point Crompton airport to Portsmouth". Such assistance would be made available for building and surfacing "such other roads as may be agreed on from time to time".

It was a term of the Agreement that the Alleyne Mercantile Bank would purchase a minimum 25 acres of land for the purpose of construction of facilities for housing its staff and workers. But, where that minimum was inadequate to do so, the Bank might purchase "such further acreage". As to the aforementioned projects to be set up preferably in the Cabrits area, a "further 1,000 acres" might be purchased. These acquisitions were to be made "on such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon by the Bank".

As to the workforce to be engaged in the establishment of the proposed projects, the following was agreed. The Corporation was entitled to specialist labour of its own choosing while, in the recruitment of unskilled labour, Dominicans would be given priority. Nonetheless, the Corporation agreed to train local persons to enable them to hold supervisory and managerial positions in the venture. Government agreed to grant work permits to outsiders recruited to work with the Corporation. And it would further allow the immigration of outsiders with "adequate financial resources" and grant them permits to acquire land in "areas of their choosing" for the purpose of building homes.

Evidently, the agreed projects would be tax-exempt. An article of the Agreement stipulated that those reserved for the Cabrits area would enjoy "tax holidays and extensions" for "a period not exceeding 35 years". By another, the Corporation's workforce would be exempt from income tax.


In return for these unprecedented rights and privileges, the Bank agreed to pay to the island's Accountant General the amount of EC$50 million annually "for the revenues of the State". This was payable in advance in equal quarterly installments or by lump sum on January 2nd of each year. Further, the Corporation was to pay royalties to Gvoernment on each barrel of oil refined "as may be agreed upon by the parties" to the Agreement. For breach, the Bank agreed to pay Government at a rate of EC$1,000 per day during the period of breach.

The parties agreed that the Bank would commence "implementation" of its obligations under the Agreement within 90 days of its execution, that is to say, on or before October 19th 1975. But the Agreement did not materialize for the reason that in early 1976, following its electoral victory, the Barbados Labour Party Government of Tom Adams revoked the license of the Alleyne Mercantile Bank. The Bank went out of business as a result of which the relationship between Burnette-Alleyne and Dominica was put on the back burner.

The Dominica-South Africa linkage suffered yet another blow when, later that year, Burnette-Alleyne was convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Martinique for trafficking in arms intended for his homeland, Barbados; on appeal the term was reduced. But no sooner was he out of prison when he began planning an invasion of Barbados. The plan was to take effect in 1978. It was to mount a 350-man mercenary invasion of the island, following which the Administration of Prime Minister Adams would be overthrown, and a new two-island political entity named the Commonwealth of Barbados and Dominica would be declared. Premier John was to serve as Interim President. The plan was aborted. Not surprisingly, the Barbados Prime Minister said of Burnette-Alleyne that he was "a crackpot, but a crackpot of serious dimensions" (5). Like the period of imprisonment in Martinique, the aborted intended invasion of Barbados was treated as a mere temporary setback to the designs of the conspirators. But on release of the ringleader the plan would gain momentum.

Copyright ©William Para Rivière, 2017