Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, will speak to the Nation this evening, Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. AST (UTC-4).
Fellow Dominicans, friends, well-wishers….ladies and Gentlemen…
On Wednesday the 1st of February, my attention was drawn to a program announcement on Q95 Radio that a mass protest action was planned for Tuesday, February 7th in the City of Roseau. I immediately contacted the Minister of National Security and enquired whether permission had been sought as is normally done. As Prime Minister of the country, I would have been duly notified. I was informed that up to Thursday evening, even though repeated announcements and promotions were being made with respect to the planned event, no formal application had been made to the relevant authority for the hosting of such an event.
This was the first indication that Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 was destined to be a day that would go down in infamy. I monitored the continued promotion and build up to what was still, unauthorized activity. It was not until Friday afternoon that correspondence was received by the Office of Chief of Police, from the Public Relations Officer of the United Workers Party, seeking to hold “a public meeting” in the vicinity of the Financial Centre on Upper Kennedy Avenue.
From the outset the manner in which the leadership of the United Workers Party approached this matter was flawed. You ought not to promote an event and then seek permission for the hosting of that event.
Nevertheless, the Chief of Police and High Command of the Dominica Police Force, duly processed the application and convened a meeting of relevant personnel on the Morning of Monday, February 6th at Police Headquarters.
Note here, the persons in attendance at that meeting were the Chief of Police and the High Command of the Dominica Police force, Honorable Hector John, Honorable Joseph Isaac, Mr. Nicholas George of the United Workers Party, Dr. Samuel Christian and Mr. Johnson Boston of the Dominica Freedom Party. That puts an end to the idea of this being a meeting of civic society. The United Workers Party and the remnants of the Freedom Party were the joint architects of yesterday’s events and co-conspirators of all that ensued.
I am told that the meeting was respectful and cordial. The Chief of Police after discussions, instructed the organisers that the meeting would be permitted during the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 12 noon on Tuesday, February 07, 2017.
The organisers did not accept the times proposed by the Police for the meeting and further discussion ensued. They submitted a counter proposal of between 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The organisers then informed that the hours 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. would be for preparation of the site for the meeting. It was finally agreed that the meeting would be held between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. with the following conditions:
1. That the meeting must end at 3 p.m.
2. The provisions of the Litter and Noise Abatement Acts are to be adhered to where applicable.
3. The provisions of the Public Order Act particularly Sections 7 (5), 8 (1) and (2) which are reproduced hereunder are to be strictly complied with.
7 (5) Any person who, while present at a public meeting or on the occasion of any public procession, has with him any offensive weapon otherwise than in pursuance of lawful authority is guilty of an offence.
8 (1) Any person who at any public meeting or in any public
procession uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned is guilty of an offence.
8. (2) Any person who at a public meeting or in any public procession wears or carries any shirt, dress or garment, or any banner, flag or emblem bearing threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene words or slogans, with intent to offend public morality or to provoke a breach of the peace, or whereby a breach of the peace is likely in the opinion of the Commissioner to be occasioned, is guilty of offence.
4. Speakers at the meeting must refrain from making inflammatory statements to incite violence.
5. The meeting must be peaceful and adhere to law and order.
6. The Leaders and organizers of the meeting are responsible to ensure a peaceful meeting.
The Chief of Police also informed the joint UWP/DFP leadership that they would be held responsible for any violation of the conditions set for the meeting.
Representatives of the two Opposition parties agreed to the terms and conditions set in the permission for the meeting.
They left the meeting, I am told, expressing satisfaction with the professional conduct of the meeting.
Very important to note, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that although the members of the opposition agreed to the specific terms and conditions of the meeting, they were still promoting the meeting on Q95 and social media as a protest action. Indeed, it was promoted and billed as “D-Day” in Dominica.
So emotive was the language used, that the American Embassy in Barbados, you would recall, issued an advisory to American citizens in Dominica advising that they stay clear of the area earmarked for this event.
Perhaps now, on reflection, it is reasonable for one to speculate whether the US Embassy in Bridgetown had gotten wind of the intended action of the leaderships of the United Workers Party and the Dominica Freedom Party; for their advisory about the likely deterioration of social order, proved to be spot on.
So notwithstanding that the event had been promoted as a given, long before it had even been applied for; and notwithstanding that the opposition United Workers Party and Dominica Freedom Party were promoting this event as a protest D-Day action and not a public meeting, as was requested, the authorities set out to facilitate the event in the interest of the promotion and defense of democracy in Dominica.
The venue was demarcated to be on a section of upper Kennedy Avenue between Independence Street and Bath Road, west of Arawak House of Culture.
The area on upper Kennedy Avenue from the Arawak House of Culture to Bath Road was cordoned off.
The meeting started at about 11:00 a.m with approximately 20 individuals, and not the 5, 000 that were touted by the organizers that would attend. Indeed, at the peak time, sometime around 2:50 pm, the crowd was estimated at about a maximum of 450 persons.
Up to 2:50pm when the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Lennox Linton started his address, the event had proceeded peacefully and consistent with the intent and spirit of the agreement reached between the police and the leaderships of the two opposition parties the day before. However, when Lennox Linton took control of the microphone it changed the course of events and resulted in Dominica making world headlines all day today, and not for a good reason.
In his pronouncements during his address Lennox Linton, the Leader of the Opposition in Dominica and the man who fancies himself as Commander in Chief of the armed forces in Dominica made it clear that the Chief of Police had no legal authority to tell him when to end the meeting and therefore the meeting would not end at 3:00 p.m.
I expect that they will deny this, so I invite you now to hear Mr. Linton for yourself:
Transcript of Lennox Linton:
“We don’t need, we don’t need permission from the Police to have a meeting. But the Police is illegally dictating that we must start now and stop now. We can go up to 11 o’clock tonight if we want because we don’t want to offend the Noise Abatement Act. And we can stop at 3 o’clock if we want and we can start again at 4 o’clock or we can start at 3:30. We can do what we want, we are the people of Dominica and the power in people is greater than the people in power.”
At about 3:10 p.m, Superintendent (Ag.) Matthew CUFFY, the Ground Commander, informed Honourable Linton that the arrangement agreed upon by members of his party was that the meeting would have ended at 3:00 p.m.
Superintendent (Ag) Matthew Cuffy also spoke to other members of the United Workers Party to include Honourable Joseph Isaac, Parliamentary Representative for Roseau Central Constituency, and reminded him of the arrangement agreed upon to end the meeting at 3:00 p.m.
This notwithstanding, Lennox Linton continued addressing the gathering; stating that the meeting would continue until the business of the people was completed.
The Police repeatedly informed Mr. Linton and other members that the meeting should end immediately….But he refused to comply.
Again, I want you to listen for yourself:
Transcript of Lennox Linton:
“It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. It’s absolutely not going to happen. And this meeting will finish when the meeting is finished.”
Fellow Dominicans, friends, and well-wishers, this is where the breakdown of respect for law and order began.
This is where a clear signal was sent to supporters of the combined United Workers Party and Dominica Freedom Party that the law was not to be respected and that they could do as they please.
This is when and where the cue was given for persons to do whatever they deemed necessary to forcibly and unlawfully remove a democratically elected government from office.
Everything that happened in Roseau last evening, was as a direct consequence and a result of the decision by Lennox Linton to say, in effect, ‘to hell with the police, we shall do as we please’.
There were other aspects of Lennox Linton’s address to the mob that had gathered, that could be construed as inciting lawlessness and acts of antisocial behavior. But, this is all now part of a police investigation, which I will not speak to at this point as I do not wish to prejudice the matter.
What is a clear and undisputed fact, is that the decision to break the law and to disregard the rule of law was taken by the Leader of the Opposition Lennox Linton and his mob of supporters who, merely followed his lead.
Lennox Linton, against the wishes of the police and inspite of the pleadings of the police, spoke way after the 3pm cut off time, in fact until 4:15pm…in stout defiance of the order to stop.
Indeed, even after pausing, he invited a few members of the mob to themselves speak from the public platform, knowing it to be in violation of the accord agreed to with the high command of the police force and against the clear and specific instruction of the Chief of Police.
Now, under normal circumstances, with the meeting ended, the leadership would ensure that their supporters would disperse before they leave.
But, on this occasion, and consistent with a clear premeditated plan, a decision was taken by the leadership of the United Workers Party not to conform with the directions of the Dominica Police Force, but to seek confrontation.
Senior Police Officers approached the driver of the truck used as the platform for the meeting and instructed him to turn the truck facing west on Kennedy Avenue to exit on Independence Street. That truck had been permitted to enter as a platform for the meeting when it arrived at 1 p.m.
The officers were instructed to clear the crowd to allow the truck to exit. The Officers were in the process of clearing the area while the truck was moving forward. At that time the crowd and members of the opposition party including Mr. Thomson Fontaine and Mr. Claudius Sanford among others stood at the front of the truck and deliberately created an obstruction.
In defiance of the instructions of the police they demanded that the police remove the barriers, and allow the truck to travel east along Kennedy Avenue instead. That demand was denied.
Now it is important for me to share with you the plan, which was relayed to intelligence personnel in the Dominica Police Force. Fortunately, for us all, not every member of the United Workers Party and Dominica Freedom Party is supportive of the militant, irresponsible behavior of the leadership. So, details of the plan had already been shared with the police and security officials.
The Police had information that the intent of the leadership was to stall the truck in front the Financial Centre and storm the barriers with the intent of entering the building.
This was the intent of the leadership of the United Workers Party and the Dominica Freedom Party. This is how they intended to “seize the seat of power in the country. They would have stormed the Financial Center Building and seek to occupy the building until their demands were met.
The Police made several attempts to clear the road by removing debris placed in front and under the tyres of the truck so as to allow it to exit the area but that proved futile as the people continued to create an obstruction.
At about 6:20 p.m., Honourable Lennox Linton, Honourable Isaac Joseph, Honourable Ezekiel Bazil and Mr. Ronald Charles requested an audience with Superintendent (Ag.) Matthew Cuffy who spoke with them and advised them to take control of their supporters and to clear the front of the truck. They then left.
The driver of the truck was ordered to proceed due west but the truck could not be driven forward because the mob was blocking it, and the atmosphere of the crowd then started to deteriorate. At about 6:30 p.m. the crowd started agitating and started chanting “Skerrit Must Go.”
In all this, the leadership of the UWP and DFP said or did nothing to contain the emotions of their supporters indeed, the following image, from the Member of Parliament for Roseau South, says it all:
Photographs of Joshua Francis, Parliamentary Representative for the Constituency of Roseau South:
This is an elected Member of the Parliament of Dominica, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is a member of the gang of ‘wild boys’ who attempted to overthrow your democratically elected government yesterday. Not getting what they wanted, which was to storm and occupy the Prime Minister’s Office -and with no new instruction from their leaders to abandon the mission of destruction, the crowd proceeded to do as their leaders had been advocating.
The crowd set fire to some pallets and boxes on the southern side of the road. The Fire and Ambulances services were summoned and on arrival they were unable to extinguish the fire due to the aggression of the crowd.
The Riot Squad was activated and the crowd was dispersed. They broke into various pockets and started throwing missiles. They were pursued by the different columns of the riot squad, who were joined by police officers from the Drugs Unit and Task Force. The Police were attacked with stones, bottles and live rounds of ammunition. Yes, live rounds of ammunition.
The situation deteriorated further and a number of businesses were damaged and fire set to various locations in the city of Roseau. The following businesses were damaged by the riotous mob:
1. Dons and Divas on Cork Street
2. Valentine Stores on Great George Street and Kennedy Avenue
3. PIWI’s ice cream on Cork Street
4. Digicel on Great George Street
5. Entrance door to the First Caribbean ATM on Old Street
6. Out Door World on Kennedy Avenue
7. Shine Union on Old Street
8. Duncan Stowe’s office on River Bank
9. Building of Mrs. Maureen Blackmoore on Fields Lane
Looting took place at both Valentine’s Stores , Out Door World and Digicel.
The Muslim Store on Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard was also set on fire. Thankfully, the fire was quickly extinguished by the Fire and Ambulance Services. Additionally, Police responded to reports of vandalism to motor vehicles, malicious damage to the concrete slabs on the E.C. Loblack Bridge, flower pots, garbage bins and fires which were lit in different areas around the city.
Thirty-two male individuals were arrested for various offences in relation to the reported incidents. Investigations are continuing into the overall conduct of the meeting and protest action.
The situation was brought under control at about 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 08, 2017.
Fellow Dominicans, friends, well-wishers, Ladies and Gentlemen….Tuesday, February 7, 2017, will forever be etched in our minds and hearts as the day that our beloved nation and our freedom came under attack from Lennox Linton and his band of miscreants.
In a scene reminiscent of when Tropical Storm Erika wreaked havoc on our country, Roseau was a picture of destruction this morning, because of yesterday’s undemocratic onslaught from Lennox Linton.
The wild and deliberate attacks that he incited yesterday were a slap in the faces of all Dominicans, who tirelessly give their all, every day to keep the country moving forward.
Lennox Linton and his cohorts shall certainly no longer be called Honorable by me. Indeed, they are, a dishonourable bunch; given the callous way in which they systematically sought to undo the good work of so many, by destroying our beautiful capital; showing no regard for Dominican lives, their businesses, or the state.
This act of wanton destruction is the latest instance of how much of an anti-Dominican rebel Lennox Linton is. Every time he has had the opportunity to represent the nation, Linton’s obsession with destroying our country’s image has come to the fore.
Indeed I reflected last evening and said to myself, ever since the entry of Lennox Linton to public life in Dominica four years ago, wherever there is a gathering, to undermine the name and image of Dominica, Lennox Linton is in the midst.
As a result of his actions, Dominicans both here and in the diaspora, are ashamed and disgusted by the acts of barbarism that have now tainted the image of Dominica in the eyes of so many around the world.
Even though my Cabinet and I stuck to the Dominican tradition of seeking peaceful avenues by exercising considerable restraint, Lennox Linton continued with his reckless policy of intimidation, in the relentless, unlawful pursuit of political power.
Today, regardless of political affiliation, I implore you to join me in rejecting his style of leadership and all that it portends for Dominica. Once again, the Government of Dominica will have to look for money to aid the victims of, this time, a man-made disaster. Once again, the social and economic development of Dominica has been set back, as a result of our having now to repair and rebuild the damage that was done by Lennox Linton and his UWP/DFP mob of power hungry fanatics.
I wish to assure citizens and residents of this country, that law and order is restored. The Dominica Police Force handled the situation last evening with exceptional skill and forbearance. Were it not for the actions of the police this matter could have gotten much worse.
I am not in a position to discipline Lennox Linton or his fellow mobsters. You, the people of Dominica, must do that when the time comes. I said four years ago and I repeat this evening, Lennox Linton, as a person in public life, is not good for Dominica. We have never had such in the Parliament of Dominica before. He has become a national embarrassment to us all. But, the time will come when you, the people of Dominica, will have to pass judgement on his suitability to remain in a key leadership position in Dominica.
My fellow Dominicans, we shall assist business persons affected by this act of unconscionable violence and lawlessness. We shall meet with the cruise ship operators and with the airlines and other persons doing business with Dominica and assure them of our suitability to be once again considered as a port of call.
We shall intensify our marketing of Dominica as a peaceful and welcoming place to visit. We shall not be deterred by the reckless and irresponsible acts and behavior of those who crave political power.
I keep asking the question, what do they hope to achieve by destroying the very country they wish to lead? This riotous behaviour yesterday is more destructive to the name and image of Dominica than anything that has occurred in the last 15 years. This act of gross irresponsibility goes to the heart of the image of Dominica as a democratically stable and peaceful place to visit, live and do business. The perpetrators of this crime have done Dominica enormous damage. But, we shall prevail. We shall recover from this and we shall move on.
I salute the officers and Members of the Dominica Police Force and the Fire Service. They did us all proud last evening. They contained a situation that could easily have gotten out of hand to the point of major bloodshed on the streets of Dominica.
I say to you this evening, my fellow countrymen, go forth in faith and continue to believe in this beautiful country of ours. The time will come when you will get the opportunity to express to Lennox Linton and his fellow mobsters, just how you regard their behavior yesterday.
In the meantime, let us hold strong and keep the faith. Dominica is bigger and better than those who would seek to tear it apart. May God Bless, guide and protect you all. May God Bless and keep watch over Dominica.