A man stands in the crowd at the protest meeting with a sign in Roseau this morning
A man stands in the crowd at the protest meeting with a sign in Roseau this morning

Colton Paul

The defining characteristics of a democratic, progressive and enlightened society are freedom of expression and the freedom to flourish in whatever capacity we choose without fear or hindrance from the state or any other party as long as in the pursuance of these activities we first do no harm. These are our inalienable, God-given rights, enshrined in our constitution and in our soul by the almighty. We do not need approval from, nor do we need to apologise to, anyone for these natural rights. This is what it means to be fully human. By these criteria Dominica is far from democratic. Dominica has the semblance and the character of a repressive and oppressive dictatorial state in which freedom of expression is maliciously trampled underfoot and the dreams and ambitions of ordinary citizens are stillborn before they can be realised by a government and its agencies of power through the diabolical methodology of fear and control, lies and damn lies.

I state from the onset, before I am branded and demonised (although I am fully aware that what follows will not stop the ignorant from doing just that), I have absolutely no affiliation to any political party or to any leader of any party. I do not subscribe to the cult of party or personality. Justice is my cause, my flag is freedom's flag and my will and passion are to endeavour to fashion a just, loving and compassionate society in which I can be completely myself, fully human. These divine attributes are my birth-right, born with me and sealed with the first breath. These God-given qualities are also etched in the soul of every individual, and lest we forsake our humanity we must rage against injustice, against those who consciously and vindictively wish to suffocate them in outstanding, respectable citizens desiring only to express their freedom and speak truth to power. These are the elected men and women, whose arrogance blind them to the reasoned plea of others, and whose sole ambition is to exploit the vulnerability and innocence of the populace, misguidedly believing that the country they were elected to govern is their personal heirloom to do as they please and to pass to their children and their children's children when they have had their bellyful of the bounty.

Darkness has descended over Dominica. The storm gathers. An ill wind blows and speaks of the tyranny that has been, and warns of the tyranny that is and yet to come and demands that the regime listen, that it desist. But the ego is too overblown with the lust for power and sinful pride to listen to its own counsel or the wise counsel of its dying conscience to take a more enlightened path. Perhaps too the conscience is already dead and silenced to all reason and the course to hell, to oppression and repression, is much too mesmerising to resist. In this land in which our forefathers were forcibly brought, their freedom bludgeoned on the altar of profit and greed, their voices throttled by injustice and a corrupt morality, their soul beaten down by tyranny on a scale unsurpassed in human history, oppression and repression reigns once more, fear and deep anxiety are all-pervasive, whilst Justice sleeps, morality is dead, freedom and innocence are persecuted and prosecuted and fated for imprisonment and perhaps even death; the ultimate aim is to create a one party state in which all oppositional voices are effectively smothered.

The covenant between the state and its citizens has irrevocably broken down as Dominica moves inexorably towards a one party state through a systematic, orchestrated attempt to crush all political opposition. The opposition party, headed by the Honourable Lennox Linton, its supporters and other dissenting voices face, to an unprecedented degree, the autocratic powers of the state designed for the sole purpose of quashing their democratic and human rights. They are relentlessly pursued, victimised and prosecuted with a degree of venom that shock even passive observers. Arrests, lawsuits-gagging orders by another name- persecution with cries of treason, labelled as traitors and terrorists and enemies of the state, death threats or fatwas and political and social ostracism are meted out to democratically elected members of parliament and other political dissidents exercising their democratic rights to dissent from the hypocritical statements dished out to a gullible public, and who dare criticise the regime and wash Dominica's "dirty laundry" in public. What is more they are denied access to certain media outlets, and blamed for all the ills of the nation.

As a result of Lennox Linton's appearance on Passports for Sale, a CBS 60 Minutes documentary, he and other members of the parliamentary opposition have been held responsible for undermining the regimes Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme and sale of diplomatic passports, recently nominated the flagship of the economy. They stand accused of being busy political beavers who have engineered an imploding economy and short sighted, ad hoc, and lifeless social policies and programmes. If this is the case then they must also be held accountable for a failed agricultural and tourism sector, unparalleled levels of business closures; unprecedented levels of unemployment, crime and violence, child abuse, abuse of women, environmental pollution, drug and alcohol abuse and a debilitated healthcare system. The parliamentary opposition are held responsible for the failings of the regime and the dire state of the economy and social order all in an effort to bamboozle a naïve, uncritical public and empower them to judge the opposition guilty to relegate them to the political graveyard and effectively silence them.
At the same time unsavoury measures contrived to suppress and silence our freedom of expression, our rights to protest and to criticise injustice and other reprehensible acts to instil fear are being enacted by the state. Those who lawfully gather to protest injustice are confronted with unwarranted levels of surveillance, whilst guns stand at the ready in the hands of jackbooted police in combat fatigue to intimidate, to brutalise and to kill if necessary.

To ensure the success of the one party state, we, the citizens of this land are denied access to free and fair elections and the electoral reform that would make this democratic right a reality. Only through the ballot box the prime minister states will he relinquish the office of the prime minister, and yet through dubious practices, free and fair elections and electoral reform are a fanciful dream. Furthermore there are persistent efforts to silence the media that does not pass fairy-tale "alternative facts" as truth whilst using the other to broadcast hateful propaganda, to become in effect the mouthpiece of the ruling party, through which they are given the authority to use defamatory and incendiary language to insult, to viciously attack and malign the character of the parliamentary opposition and other political patriots who criticise without any condemnation from the churches and the rest of civil society, from the intelligentsia and the other elements-the private and public institutions and organisations-that make up the body politic. This is not surprising. This is the state of affairs in every dictatorial state in which citizens both fear speaking out against the oppressive regime impacting their lives and become complicit with it, finding their voice only when their interests are threatened, as is the case with the Dominican churches. The Dominican churches, the moral conscience of the nation, speak only when their personal investment in the regime is jeopardised.

If you are not yet sufficiently alarmed, secrecy and hidden agendas have become the norm. The affairs of state and of the people are conducted in the manner of a secret society, a dark and sinister masonic lodge in which accountability and transparency are the concerns only of its members. Neither the parliamentary opposition nor any other right thinking person in Dominica or outside are allowed to question, to demand these fundamental aspects of good governance be manifested and interrogated.

Keeping with the old adage divide and rule, a tribalistic, partisan culture, a "them and us" society has been fostered in Dominica. This divisive measure has been created by demonising the parliamentary opposition and their supporters, transforming them into enemies of the state, making them scapegoats for all the ills of the nation and ensuring that worshippers of the ruling party get all the benefits, all the resources whilst the opposition and its adherents are left contemplating their empty bowls. Through this tried and trusted approach to bring about social and political enmity the "us", who wish to maintain the status quo, inevitably turn against "them" who wish to bring about positive change, thus the entrenchment of the ruling party in Dominica is assured; in the process transforming this green, and once upon a time, pleasant land, into a state of fear, which is palpable, like the sludge oozing from the streets of the city, and a hellish place for those who wish to live in peace.

But the co-opting of law enforcement and the judiciary into the political arm of the ruling party stand as the greatest threat to justice and freedom in this land and a source of fear and simmering anxiety in an already beleaguered citizenry. Law enforcement and the judiciary seem to operate as the ruling party's personal terror force, their specialised Stormtroopers or Brownshirts and private judicial system undertaking their immoral, unjust and illegal bidding. Law enforcement and the judiciary are quick to harass, intimidate, arrest, detain and prosecute the parliamentary opposition and other oppositional voices on the whim of the ruling party whilst turning a blind eye to the unjust and criminal activities of the party and its acolytes. Through the media and on public platforms members of the ruling party denigrate our women and youth; are accused of all kinds of abhorrent behaviour in public and private spaces; disciples are openly encouraged to confront, even to attack, the parliamentary opposition and their supporters; and the prime minister has claimed to have knowledge of, and evidence for, certain criminal acts. Yet law enforcement and the judiciary remained unmotivated to act for the sake of justice. Only when the "knowledge" and "evidence" relate to the parliamentary opposition do we witness their full wrath and see the malignant cogs of the system fully operational. In all other instances, neither law enforcement nor the judiciary have subjected the prime minister, his team or his converts to the level of scrutiny, harassment, intimidation and prosecution that the leader of the opposition and his team and followers would have been subjected to had the utterances and nefarious behaviour come from them.

Furthermore the prime minister contravenes, with impunity, constitutional principles and law; denies selling diplomatic passports to known criminals and money launderers, yet Dominican passports magically materialise in the hands of these characters, whilst the prime minister himself appears in the presence of these criminals. Yet law enforcement and the judiciary are numb with inaction. Criticisms are greeted with calls of treason, of washing dirty laundry in public, and the political dissenters are either arrested or issued with gagging orders, and face imprisonment. The silence and paralysis of civil society, the intelligentsia, the media and other private and public entities, as well as right thinking members of parliament (if there are any left) who are elected to uphold the law are deafening and alarming in the face of such injustice and immorality. We cannot expect Lennox Linton or anyone else who is confronted by such a regime to get a fair hearing.

The dark night of the soul that has descended upon many Dominicans, the psychological crisis, the crisis of conscience has been resolved by selling their soul to Lucifer. Like Dr Faustus, Dominicans from all sectors of society, it appears, have sold their soul for gifts, in the case of Dominica the gifts are the mighty dollar, sheets of galvanize and other empty rewards. They have become zombies, dead men and women walking, mindless obedient slaves and automatons, without a soul. Within them God is dead. Within them the soul is dead, within them the higher self has perished. Within them love and compassion for themselves and their fellow Dominicans have become corrupted. The price for this sale is oppression and suppression of justice and freedom, of human rights, of what it means to be truly human.

The recent protest march in Roseau and the fallout from it are yet more evidence of the calculating and artful stratagems of the ruling party to bring the one party state closer to fruition. Lennox Linton and Team Dominica are accused of organising a coup to overthrow the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government. But to any reasonable, rational human being the story of a coup and its aftermath makes sense only in the context of an orchestrated political witch-hunt, the regimes, "Night of the Long Knives" intended to deal the final blow to all dissenting voices , and for the last time watch justice, freedom and morality lie bleeding, fatally wounded, as the Jackbooted force goose-step through the body politic and just souls are gathered in dawn's early light to sit in detention to await their fate, whilst the people are in a fete and bacchanal induced opium state- fetes and bacchanal sponsored, in many instances, by the labour party regime- becoming conscious only to party and return to their sleep, whispering the mantra: Dominica sweet oui, boy, Dominica sweet.

The despotic machinations of the labour party regime, their maniacal notion of statecraft and statesmanship, have not only created internal strife but have tarnished the image and reputation of Dominica in the international community and damaged its fragile and fledgling economy. The regime's involvement with known criminals and money launderers through the CBI programme and the sale of diplomatic passports and other questionable activities has created a major security crisis in the Caribbean region and the international community and instigated a serious diplomatic faux pas with Iran, when it was discovered that Iranian citizen, Ali Reza Zibahalat Monfared, fleeing from justice in Iran had been given sanctuary in Dominica. Through their banking activities with known criminals and money launderers, the regime has also violated international banking laws, resulting, reports suggest, in several major banks withdrawing their services from Dominica, which has further undermined the island's weak and delicate economy.

It can be argued that the kind of repressive behaviour displayed by this regime in this small island state with its provincial mentality may never reach the extreme terror of totalitarian regimes such as Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, China under Mao Zedong, Zimbabwe under Mugabe, Russia under Stalin, Romania under Ceausescu- where patriots are now expressing their inalienable rights to protest against injustice and corruption- and other totalitarian regimes where injustice and cruelty prevails. But the authoritarian script or the "how to" manual is not unfamiliar, and the regime is not short of models to emulate in our own backyard: Haiti under "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Venezuela under Chavez, Cuba under Castro, Dominica under Patrick John, whose regime was brought down by the President, Charles Savarin, who is now conspicuously apathetic given the nature of the crisis in which Dominica is embroiled.

The regime has also tuned in to the devilish philosophy and practices of the plantocracy during slavery, when our forefathers experienced one of the greatest holocaust witnessed by man, their freedom and rights stripped from them with shackles and the whip and muzzled like dogs, a savage, inhuman methodology of terror that shaped the psyche and character of our ancestors, whose intergenerational effects has insinuated itself, like a virus, into the very DNA of every Dominican, the regime now seeks to impose on us. But the fire of justice and the spirit of freedom could not be dimmed in the maroons, their soul could not be bought, their spirit could not be defeated and like modern political warriors, they fought for those inalienable and divine human rights, that we, their descendants are now called upon to exercise before shame bows our head and bend our back. "Where resides the rebel heart?" the civil rights activist, singer and actor Harry Belafonte asks. We must not be seduced by power and reward, by "possession, trinkets, and title", Belafonte suggests. Instead we must nurture the "rebellious heart". In other words, we must foster within us a revolution of the heart, mind and spirit. It is the moral and democratic duty of conscientious citizens, within whom the sacred has not yet perished, to hold the regime accountable for its actions, to say enough now! Enough! Nothing more and nothing less will satisfy the higher self within.

Dominicans are you not ashamed? Is there no indignation in you? Is not your heart and your soul troubled by what is taking place in our country, that country that you say you love? Is not your heart stirred by the treatment of your fellow Dominicans? The Honourable Lennox Linton and Senator Thomson Fontaine and other members of the opposition, like the maroons, before them, and like the patriots under the oppressive regime of Patrick John, are fighting for justice and freedom, for a better and just society, for their rights to be fully human in the land of their birth. They have consistently spoken truth to power, and have placed everything on the line, including their freedom and the wellbeing of their family, yet they face unparalleled, unjustified and irrational criticism from the very people for whom they fight, for whom they risk all, while the rogues and scoundrels are given laurel wreaths and anointed with blind devotion. I guess there is no shame or indignation in you, for you have become blinded by the cult of the leader, by the cult of the party, by the division planted in your soul and in your heart, by the virus infesting your brain. You do not see friends and you do not see family. You see blue. You see enemy. You see UWP. This allows you to keep in check your humanity. But nothing lasts forever. When demagogues and their regime fall what then is left except your soul. Will it be too late? Can we regain the peace that once was there? Or will the division, the cut be too deep? Is this the kind of society that you want to live in? Is this the society you desire for your children and your children's children? This you must ask yourself.

And if the answer is yes, then we shall all reap the whirlwind. Today it is the Honourable Lennox Linton, Senator Thomson Fontaine and other members of the opposition. Tomorrow it will be you and your kin, and there will be no one to speak for you, to cry for you when the Dominican Tonton Macoutes and the jackbooted police of this unspeakable regime come for you. In the words of the African American spiritual: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, but the fire next time".