The late Roie Douglas and the late Pierre Charles
The late Roie Douglas and the late Pierre Charles

Pierre Charles, the sixth of nine children was born of the marital union of Francis Charles of Grand Bay and Theodora Francis of Fabre on June 30, 1954. He was born on the sixth month of the year; he was the sixth Prime Minister of Dominica and died on the sixth of January.

Pierre obtained his primary education at the Grand Bay Boys' School, from where he proceeded to attend the Dominica Grammar School from 1967 to 1960 and the St. Mary's Academy from 1970 to 1972.

Pierro, as he was affectionately known, undertook that commitment to service his community at an early age. He served as an acolyte and a cadet at the St. Mary's Academy. These early experiences and training laid the foundation for the man who subsequently emerged as a national leader.

On completion of his secondary education Pierre Charles returned to Grand Bay to begin a teaching career at the primary school. As a young teacher he earned the love and respect of the students and parents both in the school setting and the community at large. He also spent several of his after school hours assisting students who had difficulty at school. In 1978 he was selected to pursue the training offered at the Dominica Teachers Training College.

His love for community led to his involvement in both sports and culture. He became a member of the 'La Jeune Etoile Chorale" a folk group that revived and recorded several of Dominica's folk songs. In more recent times he managed one of Dominica's and Grand Bay's most well-known cadence bands, the Midnight Grovers. He was also a member of the once-popular Bata Pros basketball team of Grand Bay. It was well-known in basketball circles that once Pierro was defending there was hardly a chance of scoring a basket. He was a tough competitor. He, along with the other team members of his time, brought the Grand Bay basketball team to national prominence.

In light of his deep commitment to the development of the people of his community, a group of prominent citizens approached Pierre Charles and encouraged him to enter the realm of parliamentary politics. Thus began the journey that brings us here today. Pierro was an integral part of a community group called L'Echelle and became one of the pioneers of a community literacy programme in Grand Bay organised through this youth group. Their motto was 'Work and Study'.

The emergence of revolutionary politics and ideology in the 1970's brought about the formation of a new political organisation, the Movement for a New Dominica (MND). This organisation provided the opportunity for Pierre Charles to enter a political arena. As president of the National Youth Council, Pierre was nominated a member of the Committee for National Salvation (CNS) that brokered a solution to the constitutional impasse in 1979. When the new-reorganized parliament was established in June of 1979 he was appointed a Senator, serving until the following General Elections. He contested the 1980 general elections on the slate of the Dominica Liberation Movement Alliance. While he lost the election, his performance clearly showed that he had strong support in the constituency. He therefore continued to be with the people, farming alongside them and reviving the self-help or 'Koudmain' system of work to assist aging farmers. He organised a co-operative shop, and was elected to serve on the Grand Bay Village Council. He served in the council from 1982 – 1990 and again from 1993 – 1999. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Grand Bay Credit Union for many years.

Also for many years he served as a member of 'Farm to Market', an agricultural marketing organisation, which sought to promote the diversification of the agricultural sector securing markets overseas for Dominican farmers.

In 1985 Pierre Charles overwhelmingly won his seat on a Labour Party ticket and took his place in the parliamentary opposition under the leadership of the late Michael Douglas. However, as deputy leader of the Labour Party, Pierre Charles organised party branches and went on a highly successful national mobilization campaign.

Following the rise of the Labour Party into Government and the death of Prime Minister Rosie Douglas in 2000 Pierre Charles was the obvious successor and was thrust into the position of Head of Government, at the same time the economy of the island was slipping rapidly into crisis. His challenge was to find ways of stemming the slide. He faced the challenged head on until his sudden death.

Even some of his severest critics, while he was alive, now conceded that he was a committed, dedicated, honest, hardworking, methodical person who was not likely to give up a struggle.

Pierro was always concerned about the well-being of his people. In Grand Bay, there are many who can attest to his generosity and kindness in times of difficulty.

He was an individual who understood what it is to make a sacrifice. This was demonstrated countless times in his community.

It was further displayed in his decision to sacrifice furthering his studies while allowing his counterparts throughout the island to go on to Cuba. Today these students are back home and elsewhere contribution to the development of the country and the region.

Pierre Charles, a local hero, a devout Roman Catholic left behind three children, Faiza and Camilo from his union with Justina, and Tchidi. He was also survived by both parents, six brothers, twelve sisters, five aunts, one uncle and many other relatives and friends.

Christ made the ultimate sacrifice in dying on the cross for the sake of man. Pierro made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting selflessly to the end in the interest of his people on this tiny island of Dominica. Like a fighter in the ring he took the punches that were thrown at him and was still able to smile and radiate the love and kindness for which he is so well known.

Recognising the need to re-engineer the public sector, Pierre Charles accepted the reality of making the difficult decision to undertake structural adjustment. In so doing, he got the confidence of the international finance institutions and many governments around the world. The last reward for this courageous undertaking yielded concessionary financing for Dominica at the end of 2003. Thank you for Pierro for all your hard work.

So now that your work is done, I say so long my friend, so long my brother, so long comrade. Your journey on this world was not in vain. You contributed to the advancement of your people.

Let us hope that the pain of your sudden death will serve as a beginning of a new journey of reconciliation, of hope, of being each other's keeper, of turning a new leaf.