Partick John and Mrs John arrives at Independence Day Ceremony
Partick John and Mrs John arrives at Independence Day Ceremony

In a few days, Dominica will celebrate 44 years of political independence from Britain, the country's former colonial master.

In fact, the island's independence celebration began weeks ago. Dominicans seem to have adopted the unique practice of participating in many weeks of dancing and drinking, partying, and dressing up for independence, an occasion that some people believe should be named "dependence" rather than "independence".

But it is what it is.

As we observe and celebrate independence in 2022, we need to be clear about what we celebrate and observe.

Indeed, we say that we celebrate, on 3rd November, freedom from the yolk of colonialism; since 1978 we have been free to choose our own government, levy our own taxes, and select our friends from amongst the wide variety of nations of the world.

But if that's true, why do persons unknown, entities unidentified, companies hidden, and "friendly" countries unnamed, provide hundreds of millions of dollars, to one political party, to contest general elections in Dominica? So, when this happens, for decades, can we turn around and claim that we are "free" to select, or elect, a government of our choice? Or are Dominicans living in a fool's paradise, in a state of perpetual self-delusion?

As the country celebrates its 44th anniversary of Independence, Dominica is undoubtedly enduring its worst crisis since 1978, when the island became politically independent.

Of course, this crisis has been exacerbated by natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. But before Hurricane Maria and COVID made the situation worse, Dominica had been virtually crippled by a practically dying economy; unbelievably high unemployment rates (especially among the youth and people in the Kalinago Territory); human-resources-hemorrhaging migration rates; escalating gun crimes; unproductive agriculture; shrinking exports and ballooning imports; and frighteningly high levels of non-communicable diseases.

Despite what our government tells us about the glowing state of Dominica at independence in 2022, we need to be clear-eyed about the real crisis that confronts us. Now is the time to put a stop to our self-delusion, to get in touch with the reality that we are facing the most severe economic, health, demographic, and political crisis in 44 years.

When we acknowledge that fact, we will have taken a major step forward toward finding solutions to our problems.

But, to answer critics that we are being negative, we would be foolish not to acknowledge that in some instances some Dominicans, and Dominica in general, have somewhat progressed over the past 44 years. This is most evident in areas culture, sports, music, and education.

So, as we reflect on the past 44 years of being an independent country, we need to ask a few pertinent questions: Is Dominica developing fast enough to satisfy the needs of its people? What are the reasons for our failures? Why the crisis of governance breakdown of civil society which is manifested in violent crime and the delinquency of our youth? Why do many citizens feel that politicians and others in authority have failed to represent them or have betrayed them? Why do many not trust the institutions of the State such as the police, the courts, and the cabinet? Why is there so much corruption that we have grown to accept and tolerate it? Why have the church and other civil society institutions turned a blind eye to the problems affecting the country?

Of course, independence celebrations generate a certain level of patriotism but patriotism is much more than raising flags on Independence Day or wearing the Wob Dwiyet.

Patriotism means respect for the views of others; it requires an acknowledgment of the current social and economic conditions and a conscious and unconscious determination to partner with everyone to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

In fact, many persons are of the view that instead of moving forward on the road to independence Dominica has taken more than a few steps backward towards dependence, towards loss of personal freedom, towards erosion of democratic rights.

Undoubtedly, we are at an important cross-road on this the 44th anniversary of our Independence. The point is, we can either grasp the opportunity for real change, for economic development, for justice, equity, and for fairness for all or continue to allow politicians and others to persuade us with tricks, with smoke, and mirrors, with a few dollars and some more sewo.

Indeed, we are at a crossroads: The road we choose as a nation will determine how we will celebrate our 50th anniversary of independence in 2028.