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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica


Your Dominica morning news roundup for Wednesday October 1st 2008:

A young man named Jerry Luke took his own life yesterday in his prison cell after being convicted of rape charges and getting a prison term sentence of five years. According to reports Luke hung himself using the string that he wore around his waist.

We allow prisoners to enter the cell wearing any material that could be used in a suicidal attempt …Wow!

Yesterday residents of Coulibistrie stood up against a mining company in order to stop operations. Villagers claim that they are fed up with the quarry industry, and the proximity of the quarry to the village poses serious threat to their health. Minister for Mining Reginald Austrie told the villagers that a Mining License was not granted to the US Company.

Meanwhile, the Physical Planning Division has confirmed granting a permit to US based company Agpit to establish a quarry at Coulibistrie.

Why would a company start quarry work if a Mining License was not granted? Is it just me – but I smell a rat.

Senior Council Anthony Astaphan is calling for the resignation of a Patricia Englis on the Integrity in Public Office (IPO) committee for what he says is conflict of interest. A few days ago, Judith Pestina was elected the new leader of Dominica Freedom Party. Astaphan says IPO member Patricia Englis is the sister of the new Freedom Party Leader Judith Pestina and that could undermine the work of the IPO committee.

Who with no sin – cast the first stone…that’s all I’m saying on this matter.

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Comment by Dan
2008-10-01 09:25:05

Shouldn’t the permit process be public, and open to citizen input as well? And why block the road and annoy innocent travelers when a peaceful informative protest by the roadside but without blocking the road might enlist the travelers’ support instead?

Comment by pete
2008-10-01 12:00:26

Good point Dan. Unfortunately the protestors only think about what brings results…and since it (road blocks) has worked before, they easily resort to it. I am not condoning what they did. But its is clear that these folks have been long suffering from similiar situations in the past and have been left to battle it out on their own before. They are wary about those issues escalating and having to live with that day in, day out. But there are laws in the books against things like road blocks and people should know that they are breaking the law.

But why is there so much confusion on whether the company was authorized or not! Is the government covering up or is the minister mis-informed? Either way it is clear that sufficient standards are not in place in terms of protecting the environment in this the nature Isle. There are many examples of this in the past. Too often you hear nothing from government even when its public knowledge that some issues were causing suffering to residents and others.

I am not sure which ministry is now responsible for permits for projects which have environmental repercussions. But last I knew, it was the planning and finance ministry. Whatever it is, there must be due deligence and stricter reviews of what is acceptable (read: tougher standards). Clearly other stakeholder’s interests (community, road users etc) are not sufficiently protected.

Consideration also has to be given to provide resources to to persons who can basically police those projects to ensure that standards are followed. They must respect not only issues such as containing and safeguarding against safety hazards, noise and effluent pollution, but there must be some conciousness regarding minimizing public inconvenience, damage to infrastructure (roads etc), but also, should unforseen incidents like accidental damage or spills occur the companies must have the level of organization and competence to deal with these and repair and make good in the fastest possible time. There should also be fines for violations, perhaps even deposits by such minining companies. Companies like these must be made to feel that they too have to have responsibility for their action and/or inaction.

Also, why can’t a local authority (such a village council) provide feedback that can be considered as part of the vetting process when these projects are in the approval stage? After all, they would be more intimate with concerns, eg. maybe a very vital footpath or playing field could be destroyed or rendererd useless through such activities. Something that can be overlooked by a planning officer sitting in an air conditioned office in the ministry!

In other words, I am convinced that the standards are not what they should be, and in addition, there is little enforcement. Too often, we give the green light to investors and worry about consequencies later! I am sure plannning gives their comments on what is required to be done, in the planning approval process. Is it sufficient? Are we selling out the community in the interest of possible finanial benefits form some investment whose profits may leave the country anyhow?

What price are we prepared to pay for investments? I am also concerned about how government reacts to issues that have been allowed to fester in the public spotlight. Dominica is a small country. People frequently voice issues in the media, so some issues are well known and things do not have to get to the boiling point to be contained or resolved.

To be fair, all parties have to maintain a good level of civic responsibility. It doesn’t fall on one shoulder only. The investors/organizations, government administrators and leaders, the workers (exercising due deligence), the politicians and representatives, the residents. My chief concern is: Are we learning any lessons? Or are some things set to repeat themselves?

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