Fitz Shillingford, right and  Bird Island
Fitz Shillingford, right and Bird Island

The question of ownership of Bird Island will never go away and be forgotten. Prime Minister, Rosie Douglas fought to reclaim Bird Island, as belonging to the Commonwealth of Dominica but Rosie died before he could accomplish the fact.

Prime Minister Pierre Charles took up the baton and continued the fight; again Pierre Charles also passed away before the question was settled. The United Workers Party under Prime Minister Edison James also took up the baton but lost the election in 2000 before he could accomplish the fact. This present administration of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has not only refused to continue the cause but has never attempted to begin. Why?

There appears to have been a major difference between the Government of Roosevelt Skerrit and the Chairman of CARICOM on the issue of Venezuela's sovereignty over Bird Island. This government has refused to endorse a statement by Dr Ralph Gonzales that the Roosevelt Skerrit administration had accepted Venezuela's sovereignty over Bird Island. Why? Is the OECS softening its position with respect to the Venezuelan claim for Bird Island? If then why? Who was the foreign minister at the time? Why was his silence so loud? Who was our foreign minister at the time and where is that foreign minister presently? During all this the- loud-silence foreign minister returned to confirm whether Skerrit had indeed broken ranks with the traditional position on the status of Bird Island. Why? Instead the foreign minister said that the matter of maritime boundary de-limitation would be pursued jointly by the OECS including Bird Island. Has it? Why not?

Dominica supported by the OECS had in the past rejected Venezuela's claim on the island which Encyclopaedia Britannica states its position about 350 miles (560 km) north of Venezuela and 70 miles (110 km) west of Dominica. How can Skerrit sit back and allow Venezuela to come from 360 miles away and claim part of Dominica? The question must be asked again. Why? By recognising Venezuela's sovereignty would impede not only on the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Dominica but that of several OECS states as well. Why all this controversy over Dominica's Bird Island? Is there something being kept away from the Dominica people about part of their country? Again, why?

In the past Skerrit was among 11 ALBA Heads of State attending an emergency summit in Venezuela when they expressed solidarity and unconditional support for Venezuela and called for the US to cease immediately its harassment and aggression against the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan Ambassador to Dominica, H. E Hayden Owando Pirela Sanchez in a statement vowed that his country would not give up any territory that has been their own, referring to the dispute over sections of Guyana. So I would like to take this opportunity to ask our Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, what is your present position with reference to our Bird Island? Why is your silence so loud? We have an idea as to Skerrit's silence.

To conclude, I would like all Dominicans who confess to be patriotic to ask questions, make inquiries, write letters, do research. After all, Bird Island is part of our beloved Dominica. What seems to be beneath our Bird Island belongs to us, the Dominican people. Let us never give up the fight and as our now deceased Masterlyn Labad would say: time will tell.

Fitz Shillingford