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COMMENTARY: Student media should help tame the chaos in Dominica



The DGS Clarion Magazine Editorial Staff in 1978
Standing L- R: Renwick Val St. Hilaire, Norman Francis, Emanuel Finn, Colin Lloyd (deceased) Leslie Shillingford (deceased): Knelling from R-L: Merlin St. Hilaire, Erickson Garraway, Quentin Clarendon, William Cuffy (deceased)

Journalism and news reporting is chaotic and often times not an orderly job.  I learned that fact at the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) during my senior year in 1978 when I was the editor of the school’s magazine, ‘The DGS Clarion.’ My staff and I accepted the fact that we were Media and went about the task of covering our ‘school world’ and the issues that were affecting us in an unbiased manner.  At the Clarion, we ran and supported our operations by selling advertising spaces to Roseau merchants and from magazine sales. Of course there were no smart phones or the internet at this time.

We even gently tip toed into the forbidden, punishing, unforgiving and chaotic world of Dominican politics.  But real and authentic journalism is a tough business which requires hard work and courage.  We understood in a very fundamental way that that is the duty and responsibly of all organized forms of journalism to attempt to bring an understanding to the issues that concern people and our country. The DGS Clarion began the process of our understanding of this seemingly impossible task of responsible journalism in Dominica.

During high school we always looked forward to reading the publications of all the operating high schools on the island. There was the St. Mary’s Academy ‘Marion Messenger’, the Convent High School ‘Touch’, the Portsmouth Secondary School (PSS) ‘Bombo’, the Sixth Form College ‘SifoCol ‘Courier’, the Wesley High School ‘Eek’ and of course, the DGS ‘Clarion’. We learned many important and encouraging lessons from these student publications during those defining years.  Indeed this period was a golden era and renaissance of student enlightenment.

Our high school universe was small and we dealt with the challenge of trying to tame it. We reported on teachers who gave too many demerits and detentions. This was a problem especially for students who traveled daily to school in Roseau from as far away places like Grand Bay and points south and the west coast as far as Colihaut. Often times they arrived to school late and were punished for tardiness.

Being late on Monday mornings was also a problem for students who hailed from the far rural areas who went to their villages (homes) on the weekends. This was a frequent experience for me due to the fact that I either went home to LaPlaine or visited my grandfather and cousins in Jalousie, Castle Bruce on some weekends back east. At early dawn light on Monday mornings the 3- ton passenger trucks departed the villages arriving in Roseau long after the 8:00 a.m. school assembly. The terrible conditions of the pot –hole mountainous roads in the rain forests which lead to the east contributed to the lumbering trucks’ late arrivals in Roseau.

We also reported on teachers who were tough graders, who won the debate competitions, who got promoted in the Cadet Corps and who excelled in the GCE exams. We covered the celebrated, competitive, colorful and popular DGS Sports Day, the junior carnival calypso king and queen competitions. We would conduct investigative reporting on the conditions of the school bathrooms and the DGS sports grounds.

But as enlightened and diligent academically focused students, we viewed ourselves as the future leaders of Dominica and we used our platform (the Clarion) to get slightly involved in the hot button political debates and issues of the day. We quickly found out that reporting on political events in our island home was (and is) and maybe will always be complicated and challenging. That daunting task can be best described as an attempt to package chaos, confusion and nonsense. The real challenge lies in trying to organize people, government and opposing sides, ideas, positions and actions.

The big divisive issue in Dominica from 1976-1978 was Dominica’s political independence from Britain. In August 1976 at the Labour Party 21st annual convention in Salisbury, Premier announced the declaration of political independence. This was also the position of one of his nemesis, the left leaning (Grand Bay based) pro-independence Popular Independence Committee movement headed by comrades Rosie Douglas and Pierre Charles. Mr. Douglas and Mr. Charles went on to become Prime Ministers but met their unfortunate and untimely deaths while in office.

Premier John’s other nemesis, the Opposition Dominica Freedom (DFP) Party which was led by Ms. Eugenia Charles, called for a referendum on political independence for Dominica. The Labour Party’s leader third nemesis  the Trade Union Leader of the Civil Service Association (CSA) Trade Union leader Charles  A .Savarin. Mr. Savarin would go on to be the Leader of the DFP. DFP ‘s position was that whilst Dominica should get its political independence, Premier John and his Labour party were incompetent to guide and rule Dominica as an independent nation. Do you remember the bumper stickers that read: ‘Independence No: Referendum Yes’? Our island home achieved its political independence on November 3rd, 1978.

The significance of political independence to us was self-determination, realization and development for Dominica and our people. Whether we have achieved that noble goal is another question. The Clarion’s editorial in May 1978 was entitled, ‘Today versus Tomorrow: Independence must Come’. A few days after edition was released, the regional and well respected Barbados Advocate carried a story on its front page with headlines: ‘Students support Political Independence Movement in Dominica’. This acknowledgement by a respected publication convinced us that we were contributing in a progressive way to a highly sensitive and politically charged debate in our land.
Of course, the state radio (DBS) announcers who were political appointees and ‘spin-doctors’ for the government got some political mileage at our expense and efforts. We were unable to convey to the radio that we were nonpartisan and were only contributing to the public discourse in the most professional and respectable manner. Has anything change today with that radio station since 1978?

Today our Nature Isle is in a state of utter confusion and pain on a much greater scale than it was from 1976-1979. The recently held general elections where Labour party won added more controversy, questions, chaos and quagmire.  The Opposition United Workers Party has filed a law suit challenging that the December election results were not free, fair and people voted or (not) in fear with heavily armed foreign troops on the ground. That task of packaging that chaos is a long, and uphill climb. Now is an opportune time for future leaders (today’s students) to step and make their invaluable contributions like we did some four (4) decades ago with our student populations.
With the availability of computers and the Internet, there may not be any excuses for all the high schools not having any publications such as a student electronic magazine, online blog, and radio or television programs. Does any high school has a ‘student’ Facebook page, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter account or other social media platforms where students can debate and discuss these big issues facing our nation? It is imperative that our best and brightest young minds write, debate and publish on the various troubling and vexing controversies dealing with their school world and governance issues that are threatening our island home.

When young citizens of a democratic nation communicate (and engage) with one another in a respectable, intellectual and responsible manner, something simple but magical happens. We begin to see each other as human beings and not as mere political objects repeating what politicians and their die-hard supporters and operatives bellow out. They will begin to understand that we are all Dominicans and there is no need to fight each other for political reasons. The most invaluable lesson they will learn is that in Politics there are no permanent friends or allies, just permanent interests. The Trade Unionist who became a journey-man politician, Charles A. Savarin, went on to be the President of Dominica in a Labor Government is a living poignant example of that fact.

Such exercises will leave an indelible mark on our young minds (as it left on me) that political winners and losers are part of the process but the most cherished civic duty should be conducted in a fair and equitable manner following established democratic laws, rules and policies. Give our high schools youth the guidance, space, intellectual and professional journalistic nourishment and support and they will do their best to address our island affairs and its complex, yet solvable issues. In the end, they will be progressive and active participants in the development of our country. This we cannot afford to ignore because our future as a people depends on it.

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COVID-19: LIAT suspends passenger services




Passengers boarding a LIAT aircraft

The Leeward Island Air Transport reported Friday that it is suspending all passenger services for the next fourteen days due to the impact of COVID-19.

The airline will only operate charters and cargo flights during this period.

Chief Executive Officer of LIAT, Julie Reifer Jones says the imposition of travel bans and border closures had ground regional travel to a halt.

She says the company tried to maintain a limited schedule; however, the present conditions make this impossible.

As a result, the company has implemented a temporary suspension of passenger services from April 4th for a period of 14 days in the first instance.

Reifer Jones says the suspension will be reviewed after the first fourteen days.

The airline has also issued a travel advisory for all affected passengers.

They said passengers booked during the period of suspension will automatically have their bookings cancelled and will receive a full credit.

Additionally, passengers will be able to rebook as soon as the airline resumes services.

Reifer-Jones also acknowledged that this was an extremely challenging time for the airline, its employees and other stakeholders.

She says the airline had implemented several other measures including temporary layoffs and reduced working hours.

In addition, the airline’s Board of Directors is in direct communication with regional governments to secure a support package that would see the company maintain a limited schedule when the situation allows.

LIAT said it will continue to review the rapidly changing situation and remains committed to ensuring the region is connected.

LIAT operates in 15 destinations.

Dominica is a shareholder of LIAT with the majority being, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

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Dominica receives first batch of medical supplies donation from China




Chinese Ambassador, Lu Kun (left) and Health minister, Irving McIntyre at the handing over ceremony. To the extreme right is Foreign Affairs Minister, Kenneth Darroux

The first batch of medical equipment and supplies donated by China to Dominica was handed over on Saturday, April 4, 2020, at the China-Dominica Friendship Hospital.

The supplies, which were provided by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, arrived at the China-Dominica Friendship Hospital on Friday, April 3. They include 1,536 nucleic acid test kits and 30,000 surgical masks which will be used for COVID-19 epidemic containment efforts in Dominica.

Chinese Ambassador, Lu Kun, who spoke at the handing over ceremony, expressed China’s continuing support for Dominica, especially in difficult times.

A release from the Chinese Embassy in Dominica states that the Minister for health, Wellness and New Health Investment, Hon. Irving McIntyre and Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations, Hon. Kenneth Darroux, who attended the ceremony, thanked China for its medical aid and spoke highly of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

A release from the Chinese Embassy in Dominica stressed the sound friendship which exists between China and Dominica.

“When the epidemic was taking a heavy toll in China, the Dominican government and people stood in solidarity with China in its disease control efforts,” the release states. “Dominican Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, spoke in Parliament supporting China and headed all Cabinet members to the Chinese Embassy to express solidarity for China. Despite difficulties, the Dominican government managed to donate masks to China.”

The release adds that Leader of The United Workers’ Party in Dominica,  “Hon. Lennox Linton and other people from all sectors of Dominican society also expressed their support.”

“Reciprocating an act of kindness is a fine tradition of the Chinese nation. Though still in huge demand for medical materials, China has managed to make the donation to Dominica in a short period of time, fully demonstrating the deep friendship between the two countries,” the release goes on to state. “China wishes to enhance cooperation with Dominica in the fight against the epidemic and further strengthen China-Dominica relations and the friendship between the two peoples.”

It is expected that more medical supplies donated by the Chinese Government and Embassy including 15 ventilators, N95 surgical masks, medical protective clothing, goggles, disposable medical gloves, disposable medical boot covers and forehead thermometers will arrive in Dominica soon.

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COVID-19: Dominica Cancer Society advises cancer patients to be extremely careful




President of the Dominica Cancer Society (DCS), Yvonne Alexander, has advised persons diagnosed with cancer to exercise extreme caution in light of COVID-19 as they are considered to have weakened immune systems.

“We have asked them to take all precautionary measures, understanding that in the case of cancer patients, particularly those who are in treatment and those who have been recently diagnosed they are among the people considered to be at greater risk, because we are considered to be immunocompromised,” she said.

Alexander also advised these individuals to wear a mask if they need to go out.

“We are asking our members if they absolutely have to go out to use a mask, but we are encouraging everyone to stay at home and isolate themselves as much as they possibly can and if they absolutely need to go out to wear a mask,’ she stated. “We are also advising that if you do go out observe social distancing.”

Health authorities in Dominica have advised that people who have to be out in the public remain at least six feet from each other to prevent the spread of the virus.

Meantime, Alexander said the Oncology Clinic at the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital is still open to cancer patients.

“Those who are in treatment, they still keep their appointments to go to the Oncology Clinic. So, that is not too much of an issue,” she noted.

She indicated that the agreement was that if any individual was confronted with a situation, they should try to identify a medical person at the district level they could contact immediately.

“Let them know what is going on and let them make the arrangements from there,” Alexander advised.

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