Go here to see video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HpN-bpHbWg
I am no stranger to Dominica and It is a great pleasure to be in the Caribbean’s Nature Isle once again.
Comrades, I bring you greetings from thousands of Dominican nationals who have made Antigua and Barbuda their home. I also bring you fraternal greetings on behalf of the leadership and membership of the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party.
It is a special honour to be at this 2013 Conference of the Dominica Labour Party that has presided over the socio-economic transformation of your lovely country.
I particularly appreciate the invitation of your leader and Prime Minister, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, to address this very important convocation.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, which I have the honour to lead, congratulates the people of Dominica and the delegates to this Labour Party Conference. We congratulate you for the stalwart support which you have given to the Dominica Labour Party that has brought unparalleled economic growth, sustainable development and outstanding leadership to the Nature Isle of the Caribbean.
Our countries, our peoples and our two Labour parties have been intertwined long before the institutions of Caribbean integration were formally established. It is only natural, therefore, that as our political parties reach milestones in their labours on behalf of the people, we should reach out to each other to exchange ideas, to share experiences and to devise strategies as to how we could advance our respective countries and serve the interests of our people together.
That is why Prime Minister Skerrit invited me here today, and that is why I have come.
I have no intention of immersing myself in the domestic politics of Dominica. But I must take the opportunity to endorse my friend, your Prime Minister, the Hon. Roosevelt Skerritt and his Team as the most competent and experienced political team to preside over the continued advancement of Dominica and the Dominican People.
You have a proven governance formula that has worked. There is no need to risk a proven formula for a failed experiment. We made that costly mistake in Antigua & Barbuda and today we are reaping the bitter fruits of rampant unemployment, poverty, corruption, crime and violence. Mark my words: Leadership matters. If you don’t believe me, familiarise yourselves with the Antiguan & Barbudan Experience where the incompetent UPP regime promised much but instead destroyed our economy and our country.
The people of Dominica must be assured that there is always an open door to them in Antigua and Barbuda; and the people of Antigua and Barbuda must be equally assured that Dominicans stand with them shoulder to shoulder.
Comrades and Friends, we are living in trying times. There are some governments in our region that blame these trying times entirely on the economic circumstances in the United States and in Europe. But, while the winds of economic misfortune have swept through America and Europe, their impact is not the only cause of the difficulties that have been inflicted on our peoples.
They are also not the main cause. At the root of the economic woes that bestride many of our countries are incompetence, rampant corruption, failed policies and missed opportunities by some governments. In fact, many Caribbean Governments including the one in Antigua & Barbuda have been loafing on the job.
I am happy to say that yours is not among them. Dominica undoubtedly has made significant and measurable strides under the government of the Dominica Labour Party and the leadership of Roosevelt Skerritt. You and your leader deserve the admiration and congratulations of the people of the Caribbean.
Among the opportunities that many governments have missed, and the policies that should have been pursued are regional co-operation and integration. In this regard, your Prime Minister has shown the maturity to rise above the limitations of narrow nationalism to embrace the prospects of wider regionalism. He has done so in many ways but two of them stand out.
First, he committed his government to take up shareholding in LIAT while others unjustifiably sat on the sidelines, content to benefit from its service but selfishly refusing to contribute to its service delivery. This is a typical example where the commitment in practice of some leaders is incongruent to their espoused commitment to Caribbean integration.
Second, he has had the courage to speak out against those who pay lip service to freedom of movement of people in our one Caribbean. He has pointed out that while our Caribbean brothers and sisters are being denied entry to our countries to contribute their skills – work permits are being issued to persons from outside the region. Roosevelt Skerritt has stood up for regional causes, and in doing so, he has stood up for the rights and entitlements of Dominicans, of Antiguans, of Barbadians, of St Lucians and of every Caribbean man and woman. He has shown an example for other leaders to follow. He deserves our appreciation and our admiration for putting the people of the Caribbean first.
The insignificance, disrespect and discriminatory treatment of our Caribbean brothers and sisters in many of our respective member states is no trivial matter.
In fact, in many instances, our Caribbean brothers and sisters have been denigrated into an overwhelming sense of undesirable status of inferiority and unwelcome.
Even when they naturalise as citizens, they are treated as second class citizens.
This short-sighted, draconian, callous treatment of our Caribbean brothers & Sisters and its likely consequence is extremely worrisome.
Whereas we all have our individual destinies, as leader of the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party, I believe, that the collective destiny of our member states should be a federated Caribbean State - one nation one people, with a common destiny.
The time has come for us to commit ourselves to the concept of one nation; one people and to set a bold vision for a Federated Caribbean State. This necessitates that we work relentlessly to advance the economic union, in ultimate realisation of political union in the creation of a Federated Caribbean State. The naysayers will say that it will not happen – But today, I say to you that notwithstanding the past failures; with the full commitment of our people – It will happen.
There are many Prime Ministers including the one in Antigua & Barbuda, who other than lip service evidently, do not share this vision but, instead continue to show intolerance for Caribbean Nationals and encourages and practice wide spread discrimination against them.
In many instances, they conveniently utilise legal and administrative impediments to frustrate the integration movement.
Discrimination is a recipe for tribalism and conflict which our respective countries could ill afford, especially at this time of economic crisis. The reality is, we cannot build a meritocratic Caribbean society on the basis of discrimination. If we are seriously desirous of pursuing and realising a common destiny of one nation, one people, we must protect and where applicable enhance the civil infrastructure including our attitudes and behaviours to each other to facilitate full integration and socialization of our populations. Social intercourse and integration among all citizens and residents of Caribbean Member States should be encouraged in order to propel us to a federated state. This however, cannot happen without free movement. So today, I invite these Caribbean leaders to review and repudiate all acts of discrimination. To remove all obstacles to free movement and to commit themselves to the realisation of the policy of free movement, in realisation of our common aspiration for a federated Caribbean state.
Comrades and Friends, in Antigua and Barbuda, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party while in government respected and upheld the principle of an open door to our Caribbean brothers and sisters. That is why there are so many Dominicans who have made Antigua and Barbuda their second home – many of them commuting between our two countries. In Antigua and Barbuda, Dominicans enjoyed the full rights of residency. They worked, they contributed to the society and they participated in our democratic systems by a constitutional entitlement to vote in our general elections.
I regret to say that the present government in Antigua and Barbuda is hell-bent on removing that right from Dominicans and other Caribbean nationals who live and work in our society. Through a process of re-registration of voters that I have more appropriately, termed “de-registration”, the present UPP government is seeking to disenfranchise hard-working and decent Caribbean citizens and residents who have lived in the Antigua and Barbuda society for many years.
None of you should entertain the thought for a moment that the position of the government reflects the attitude of the majority of people of Antigua and Barbuda. In the event you do; Perish that thought. The people of Antigua and Barbuda are fair-minded. They know that Antiguans and Barbudans in Commonwealth Caribbean countries – including here in Dominica – are entitled to vote in general elections after a determined period of residency.
They also know that our Caribbean brothers and sisters who live with us in good times and in bad, in fair weather and foul, are entitled to a voice in how the country is governed.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party will not stand for this flagrant violation of our Constitution by the present government or for the inherent discrimination against our Caribbean brothers and sisters. We stand ready as soon as the government provides evidence of this malevolent intent to take it to the Courts for adjudication. We will always stand up for what it is right.
We will stand up against injustice.
Comrades and Friends, today the Caribbean exists in troubling times. To survive these times and to overcome them, political parties such as ours need to put our people at the front and centre of our vision, of our strategies and of our work. Our determination must be to empower our own; to give our people – every man and woman; the capacity to earn a decent wage; to give to young men and women the chance of higher education and the opportunity to own property; to endow our nations with the ability to compete globally, and to be successful. Nothing less will be acceptable.
To achieve these goals our political parties and our countries require visionary and vigorous leadership. Some of the challenges have to be overcome by national action – action taken by governments to attract investment, create jobs, improve education facilities for the young and health care for the elderly. Other actions have to be taken at the regional level, or at least in partnership with sister-countries to share burdens, to invest jointly and to reap benefits collectively.
I see the opportunity for member states to collaborate in seeking financing for public sector-private sector partnership project to develop, produce and market geo-thermal energy from Dominica and Nevis to other OECS countries.
I see the opportunity for the pooling of resources to achieve greater economies of scale and increased viability. The potential benefits that would flow from joint investments and production integration among our countries are limited only by the horizons that we place on our own creativity and our willingness to collaborate.
Dominica with its rich and fertile land could feed many of the countries in the OECS region and Barbados. I share Prime Minister’s Skerritt vision of acquiring refrigerated boats that could ply between the islands providing fresh fruits and vegetables thereby reducing the need for less nutritious extra-regional imports.
These are today’s dreams but tomorrows realities that will come to fruition with skilful leadership, cooperation and collaboration between member states.
Dominica and many of the other Caribbean States, especially Antigua & Barbuda need leaders with the vision to inspire, the vigour to lead, and the capacity to deliver.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party that I have the great privilege to lead is ready to inspire, to lead and to deliver, not only for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, but for our brothers and sisters here in Dominica and in the wider Caribbean. We must invest in our young people so that they have pride and confidence in themselves sufficient to raise them up, to provide them with the opportunity to operate their own businesses, and to contribute to their nation’s growth. We must build on the natural talent of our people in sports and the performing arts, so that they can lift our flags up high at international events and swell our hearts with pride. We must develop all sectors of our respective country’s economy and show the world that though we are small, we are their equal, deserving of recognition and respect.
In this undertaking, we are seeking alliances with like-minded organisations and competent leaders.
That is one of the reasons that I stand before you today. We look forward eagerly to working with you as a government very shortly, to develop a dynamic partnership between Browne in Antigua & Barbuda and Skerritt in Dominica. This will bring to fruition projects that will benefit our nations jointly and inspire respect and regard for our people in the global community.
We in the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party salute you the comrades of Labour in Dominica.
You have done much with little. Your capacity to survive despite the odds is an example to us all.
I urge you to stand up for the Dominican people. I encourage you to stand-up for the Caribbean people. I summon you to stand-up for the vision of a booming and flourishing region that I share with your great leader, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt.
Long Live, the Dominican People, Long live, the Dominica Labour Party, Long Live Prime Minister Skerritt and I wish you every success in the upcoming polls.