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29. Dominica (1978-present)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (November 3, 1978-May 28, 1979):  The Commonwealth of Dominica (British Dominica) formally achieved its independence from Britain on November 3, 1978.  Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue, the British Governor of Dominica, was elected as interim president by the House of Assembly, and Patrick Roland John was appointed as prime minister on November 3, 1978.  Frederick Degazon, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, was elected president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on January 16, 1979.

Crisis Phase (May 29, 1979-June 21, 1979):  Two individuals were killed in clashes between government security forces and protesters in Roseau on May 29, 1979.  The Committee for National Salvation (CNS) chaired by Charles Savenin organized a general strike beginning on May 29, 1979.  The CNS called for the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Patrick John.  President Frederick Degazon fled to Britain on June 11, 1979.  The House of Assembly voted to removed Prime Minister Patrick John from power on June 20, 1979.  Jenner Armour was sworn in as acting president, and Oliver James Seraphin was sworn in as interim prime minister on June 21, 1979.  The general strike ended on June 21, 1979.

Post-Crisis Phase (June 22, 1979-February 11, 1981):  Aurelius Marie was elected president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on February 25, 1980.  Parliamentary elections were held on July 21, 1980, and the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) won 17 out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The Dominican Democratic Labour Party (DDLP) won two seats in the House of Assembly.  Mary Eugenia Charles of the DFP was sworn in as prime minister on July 21, 1980.  Prime Minister Chalres proposed legislation allowing the government to suspend any military officer charged with a crime.  In response, members of the Dominica Defense Force (DDF) protested outside the House of Assembly on December 30, 1980.

Crisis Phase (February 12, 1981-January 10, 1984):  Two “Dreads” (Rastafarians) were killed and three “Dreads” were arrested by government police in the village of Giraudel on February 12, 1981.  Members of the “Dreads” (Rastafarians) kidnapped and killed Ted Honychurch from his farm near the village of Giraudel on February 12-13, 1981.  Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles declared a state of emergency on February 13, 1981.  Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles disclosed a plot to overthrow the government, and she ordered the dissolution of the Dominica Defense Force (DDF) on March 7, 1981.  Seven individuals, including former prime Minister Patrick John and former commander of the DDF Major Frederick Newton, were arrested and detained for their alleged involvement in the plot.  The British and French governments provided military assistance to the government of Dominica.  On March 16, 1981, the House of Assembly voted to formally disband the DDF.  Several right-wing mercenaries, including Mike Perdue from the U.S. and Wolfgang Droege of Canada, were arrested by U.S. federal agents near New Orleans, Louisiana on April 27, 1981.  The mercenaries had planned in Operation Red Dog to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles.  In an attempted military coup, former members of the Dominica Defense Force (DDF) soldiers commanded by Major Frederick Newton attacked the government police headquarters in Roseau on December 18, 1981, resulting in the death of one government policeman.  The DDF soldiers also attacked Stock Farm Prison in an attempt to free former prime minister Patrick John and others jailed for their involvement in the mercenary plot, resulting in the death of one prison guard.  One former DDF member, Sgt. Major Ashton Benjamin, was killed by government policemen in Roseau.  The government declared a state of emergency on December 20, 1981.  On January 10, 1983, the government announced that the state of emergency would be extended for another year.  In June 1983, Major Frederick Newton and five other former DDF members were sentenced to death for their involvement in the attempted military coup in December 1981.  Sir Clarence Seignoret of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) was elected as president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on December 19, 1983.

Post-Crisis Phase (January 11, 1984-April 25, 1994):  Parliamentary elections were held on July 1, 1985, and the Dominican Freedom Party (DFP) won 15 out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The DLP won five seats in the House of Assembly.  The DLP began a 18-month boycott of the House of Assembly.  On October 23, 1985, former Prime Minister Patrick John was found guilty and sentenced to twelve years in prison for conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1981.  On August 9, 1986, Frederick Newton, former commander of the Dominica Defense Force (DDF), was executed by the government for his involvement in the attempted military coup in in December 1981.  The death sentences of five other former DDF members were commuted to life imprisonment.  President Clarence Seignoret was re-elected by the House of Assembly on December 20, 1985.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 28, 1990, and the DFP won eleven out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The United Workers’ Party (UWP) won six seats in the House of Assembly.  Former Prime Minister Patrick John was released from prison on May 29, 1990.  Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles survived a vote of no-confidence in the House of Assembly on April 18, 1992.  Crispin Sorhaindo of the Dominican Freedom Party (DFP) was elected president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on October 25, 1993.

Crisis Phase (April 26, 1994-May 6, 1994):  Following anti-government demonstrations, prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles declared a state of emergency on April 26, 1994.  The state of emergency was lifted on May 6, 1994.

Post-Crisis Phase (May 7, 1994-present):  Parliamentary elections were held on June 12, 1995, and the UWP won eleven out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  Both the DFP and DLP won five seats in the House of Assembly.  Edison Chenfil James of the UWP was sworn in as prime minister on June 14, 1995.  Vernon Shaw of the United Workers’ Party (UWP) was elected president by the House of Assembly on October 2, 1998, and he was sworn in as president on October 6, 1998.  Parliamentary elections were held on January 31, 2000, and the DLP won ten out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The UWP won nine seats in the House of Assembly.  Roosevelt Bernard Douglas of the DLP was sworn in as prime minister of a coalition government on February 3, 2000.  Prime Minister Roosevelt Douglas died as a result of a heart attack in Portsmouth on October 1, 2000.  On January 15, 2001, the government of Dominica announced that it had established formal diplomatic relations with the government of Libya.  In September 2001, the Libyan government agreed to provide development assistance ($1 million grant) to the government of Dominica.  Nicholas Liverpool was elected president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on October 3, 2003.  Prime Minister Pierre Charles died as a result of a heart attack in Roseau on January 6, 2004, and Roosevelt Skerrit of the DLP was sworn in as prime minister on January 8, 2004.  The Chinese government agreed to provide development assistance ($12.3 million sports stadium) to the government of Dominica on March 25, 2005.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 5, 2005, and the DLP won twelve out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The UWP won eight seats in the House of Assembly.  A $7 million medical center funded by the Cuban government opened in Roseau on September 1, 2006.  Parliamentary elections were held on December 18, 2009, and the DLP won 18 out of 21 seats in the House of Assembly.  The UWP won three seats in the House of Assembly.  The Organization of American States (OAS) sent 16 observers from ten countries led by Steven Griner of the U.S. to monitor the parliamentary elections from December 9 to December 19, 2009.  The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) sent seven observers led by Hensley Robinson of Barbados to monitor the parliamentary elections from December 15 to December 19, 2009.  The UWP claimed election problems and boycotted the House of Assembly.   President Liverpool resigned due to ill health, and Eliud Thaddeus Williams of the DLP was sworn in as president on September 17, 2012.  The UWP members of the House of Assembly boycotted the presidential election. Charles Savarin of the DLP was elected president by the House of Assembly, and he was sworn in as president on October 2, 2013.

[Sources: Associated Press (AP), October 24, 1985, August 8, 1986; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), January 31, 2000, February 1, 2000, October 1, 2000, January 7, 2004, May 6, 2005; Christian Science Monitor (CSM), March 26, 1980; Dominica News, December 17, 2009, December 18, 2009, December 23, 2009; New York Times (NYT), April 29, 1981, June 7, 1981, December 20, 1981, December 21, 1981, August 26, 1982, June 5, 1985, July 1, 1985, July 2, 1985, August 9, 1986, October 2, 2002; Organization of American States (OAS) report, March 8,, 2010; Organization of American States (OAS) statement, December 17, 2009, December 19, 2009; Orlando Sentinel, August 9, 1986, January 15, 2001, September 5, 2001, January 8, 2004, November 19, 2004, March 25, 2005, September 2, 2006.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Phillips, Dion E. 2002. “The Defunct Dominica Defense Force and Two Attempted Coups on the Nature Island,” Caribbean Studies, vol. 30 (1), pp. 52-81.