Editorâ€™s note:Last week Dominicaâ€™s decision to abstain from taking part of the 60th International Whaling Convention (IWC) have been making headlines across most Caribbean news websites and local newspapers. On Friday 13th, 2008 The Chronicle Newspaper (a local Dominican Newspaper) also published an article surrounding the Government decision to abstain from this years IWC convention. The article is entitled:
Turnaround on Whaling
written by Carlisle Jno Baptiste.
Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit had indicated that Dominica will abstain and not send representatives to the 60th International Whaling Convention (IWC) in Santiago Chile Later this month. He gave no reason for his government sudden change of heart despite strong support from local and international environmental groups.
Dominica has in the past voted in support of whaling. Critics have alleged that the pro whaling vote was in exchange for fisheries development assistance from the Japanese.
St.kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines have also supported whaling while denying that their votes were bought by Tokyo.
Skerrit told state owned radio DBS that the government of Dominica supports the supports the sustainable use of all natural resources. He said Dominica is a member of the international Whaling Commission and every year, the government participates and takes particular decisions and supports particular matters which are put before the IWC.
Whenever a matter come before us, we seek to review it every year by looking at the information and also if it is the best interest of Dominica. I keep saying to the Dominican people, that our foreign policy is driven by our national interestâ€¦ and therefore, every year the government of Dominica reviews the position at the IWC and this year, the Cabinet took a decision, that Dominica shall abstain on the issue of commercial whaling. We are breaking a trend which we have maintained for a number of years since the government of Dominica has taken this year, Skerrit said.
Conservationist, Atherton Martin who over the years has been critical of Dominicaâ€™s voting pattern at the IWC, has welcomed the decision, even though he said it is late in coming. However, Martin is concerned that the Dominican leader stated that the decision was based on review of Dominicaâ€™s national interest.
What is confusing, is that, he is yet to identify what Dominicaâ€™s national interest are, that are not consistent with the abstention from the IWC. The peculiar thing is that for several years, the government of Dominica has argued that reasons that it has voted for Japan is that Dominica has reviewed the scientific data and that the science did not support the stopping of the commercial whaling, Martin said.
According to him, it is the same science that is prevailing today and it seems to him that the government owes the public an explanation. â€œHas the science changed? Has the national interest changed and if so how has it changed to allow for the government to actually eight year later decide that the IWC is no longer a high priority for it to be attending?â€
Also lending his support to the decision of the Skerrit led administration is senior programme officer with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) with responsibilities for the Caribbean, Dominica born Kelvin Alie. He labels Dominicaâ€™s decision â€“ a principled position and important and is calling on the other Caribbean islands to follow in Dominicaâ€™s footsteps.
I do hope that the principled position taken by the Dominica Government will see the other islands like St Lucia, Grenada, St.Kitts, Antigua and St Vincent will soon follow. It is also my hope that since Dominica is sovereign country, it will be accorded the necessary respect that it deserves because of the decision, Alie said.
But McIntyre Douglas, a strong advocate for whaling, says he was very surprised to hear that Dominica has changed it position at a time when the government was talking about harmonizing its foreign policy with sister OCES Countries.
We are taking steps that they donâ€™t feel that they can take at this time. My view is that we should have attended this meeting and even if we intended to abstain, be there and make our points absolutely clear and to marshal our arguments when we meet the Japanese delegation at the meeting.
Right not I think that we are relinquishing and some of the pressure that we can apply based on unbroken solidarity over a couple of decades on a matter of vital interest to Japan, Douglas stated.
In March 2007, members of the IWC met in London to look at ways of reforming the IWC and decided to continue that discussion in Chile. The issues of sanctuaries will come up again for further discussion and voting at IWC 60 and Dominica has always opposed Sanctuaries in the past. The IWC is chaired by the United States with Japan as it deputy chair.