Towards a truly resilient Dominica
New Year's Message from Leader of the Opposition Lennox Linton
My Fellow Dominicans at home and abroad:
As we leave behind a year in which the killer winds and flood waters of a category five Hurricane battered us beyond recognition, we are no doubt more mindful now than ever before of the necessity for unity of purpose behind the inescapable responsibility of fixing Dominica.
In this steep, long and painful climb to a more resilient state of affairs we have been assured of the assistance of the world community to the extent that we are prepared to be guided by the disciplines of good, democratic governance that have become standard in the civilized world
We thank our brothers and sisters at home and abroad, the international aid agencies and disaster relief organizations, the development cooperation partners and the entire global family of countries, people and governments represented by the United Nations. We thank them not just for rallying with empathy, purpose and commitment to assist us in this time of severe humanitarian crisis, but very importantly for demonstrating through their service on the ground the value of caring, transparent, accountable, professional conduct and procedure.
Nonetheless, as the Government of Dominica turns the volume up on the buzzwords - "resilience" and "climate resilient development" – let us keep it real and avoid getting carried away with fancy plasters for old wounds left to fester by corrupt, incompetent leadership. For make absolutely no mistake about it, there will be no climate resilient Dominica in the absence of government of the people, by the people, for the people that is resilient to the destructive forces of corruption and incompetence.
In our 2015 Christmas Message, based on the lessons the nation needed to learn from the dismal leadership failures in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika, we urged Dominicans from all walks of life to unite around the most pressing national responsibility of our time:
"We need to fix Dominica… we need to fix the governance of Dominica…
"Let us therefore accept the responsibility to lead ourselves into the disciplined lives of truth, righteousness and justice that will allow us to demand and secure from those who govern us achievement of the human development goals that characterize meaningful advancement of global civilization.
"Let us accept the responsibility to ensure that we live in harmony with our natural environment. (In other words, let's become climate resilient the only right and sensible way)
"Let us accept the responsibility to make Dominica an exemplary God fearing, rule of law society. Let us rethink and renew health care, education and other social services…
"Let us accept the responsibility to use our healthy land to feed our nation and the entire region… Let us not drag our feet any further on giving our magnificently green country the support of a model green economy growing at no less than five percent per year and delivering thousands of sustainable jobs".
Even so, 2016 was a business as usual year – government of one man, by one man for one man, mercilessly abusing the resources of the state and cynically trying to unite people with hate. There was no resilience. Rule of law, transparency, accountability, inclusion, participation, fairness, equity – all the foundation principles of good governance – were cruelly set aside by a government emboldened with the proclamation of its leader that "no law including the Constitution" (our supreme law) can stop him from doing as he pleases. There was no resilience. Diplomatic passports and diplomatic immunity were sold to international criminals in flagrant violation of international law. There was no resilience. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of passports unavailable to fund crucial aspects of Yet, with Dominica's resilience enemy number one continuing to dictate the course of governance we seemed to expect resilience in 2017.
Dominica's 2012 Low Carbon Climate Resilient Strategy were spent willy-nilly for the private benefit of friends and supporters. There was no resilience. In the abundance of millions, poverty rose and joblessness climbed higher and higher. There was no resilience. A ruling party's obsession with stealing elections deformed the backbone of our democracy. There was no resilience.
Then came Hurricane Maria. Our lack of resilience was exposed and the head of government concluded it was all about and just about climate change. Consequently, even from the ground zero state of hurricane devastation- with lives to mend; people to shelter; bodies to feed; a broken society to heal; farms to replant; an economy to fix; roadways and bridges to rebuild; health, education and utility services to restore and so much, so much more - a new round of anti-resilience business as usual took center stage:
1) Parliament – the country's highest decision-making body – was completely shut out of the relief, recovery and reconstruction process to facilitate the partisan political antics of a one man show by an I-man who told leaders at the United Nations he cannot do it alone, but insisted in Dominica it is all about him and him alone;
2) No accountability for the more than 400 million dollars of passport money that was sitting in the bank account of Government when Maria struck;
3) No accountability for the funds pledged and/or received from the World Community for post disaster relief, recovery and reconstruction;
4) No accountability for the 100 million US dollars debt forgiven by Venezuela to assist with post disaster financing;
5) No accountability for the break down in law and order and the widespread looting that seriously affected the business community immediately following Maria;
6) In full view of the international aid agencies and development cooperation partners, the distribution of food aid and other forms of post disaster assistance was disgracefully politicised;
7) Contracts were awarded for housing construction and other post disaster rehabilitation work without tender or competitive bidding to friends and supporters of the government overseas totally denying competent local contractors the economic opportunity to participate in nation building;
8) Ministers of Government were excused from their portfolios (some of them dealing with critical portfolios like health, housing and livelihood restoration) so they could take on the partisan sharing of relief supplies. Even ambassadors posted in important capitals who could serve as envoys securing assistance around the world were recalled to be involved in sharing relief;
9) Thousands of tons of relief supplies are backed up at the main port of entry, while needy citizens struggle to find food.
10) No transparent, publicized selection criteria for beneficiaries of post disaster assistance programs intended to reach persons in need wherever they are starting with the most vulnerable Our system of governance continues to be bent way out of shape to suit the dictatorship fancies of a one-man government. It cannot withstand the persistent attacks of incompetence and corruption. And it seems unable to bounce back from the injuries inflicted by those two partners in crime. There is no resilience.
We cannot continue like this. We need to stop it right now in the transition from 2017 to 2018. If we don't, we risk losing vital national development support from key donors in the global community who are protecting the resources of their people from corruption and incompetence and will not allow such resources to be abused by these two evils in Dominica.
If therefore, we have one single New Year resolution, it should be to ensure unity of purpose to build the structures and systems of a truly resilient Dominica capable of withstanding the savagery of corrupt, incompetent government and the disasters of our changing climate by extension. From our hearts to yours – best wishes for a happy, healthy, productive, prosperous and resilient New Year.