President of the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce (DAIC) Kenny Green says that he has no issue with the praise and thanksgiving concert being held to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. However, he says DAIC members are concerned about the timing and way that the prime minister declared today a national holiday.
“No one will argue that the principle and purpose of a thanksgiving and gratitude event to commemorate Maria is a noble one, I don’t think any one in the country in principle, will be against. What it comes down to, is the timing and the process.”
Thursday 19th September 2019 was declared a national holiday to allow residents the opportunity to attend a concert to commemorate the passing of hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica two years ago (18th Sept 2019).
Green says that it is a bit disappointing and confusing as to how it was done. He questions “the principle of timing and lack of notice” and says that if this is going to be on the regular calendar of events, going forward, “we need to know so that we can be better prepared. I don’t think it was done in such a way that everyone was clear what was going to happen”.
The DAIC president believes that while some employers may not have an issue with the decision, there are some who are concerned about the financial cost to their business.
However, Green has come in for some criticism from the president of the United Workers Party (UWP) which has taken a decision that the Leader of the Opposition and other opposition parliamentarians will not attend.
Isaac Baptiste has called Green a “hypocrite” and said he should resign as head of the DAIC because according to him, Green is serving his own interest and not the members.
Baptiste told DNO that his party is “shocked by the insensitivity of the prime minister to the current economic situation facing the private sector in Dominica post Hurricane Maria”.
He said the situation was bad prior to Maria and post Maria, it became worse for the majority of business owners, particularly small businesses.
“The private sector has a right to be angered, because they are in a situation where the economy is not at the level that it should be after such a major disaster, in terms of growth and performance and to declare a public holiday to force them to pay wages for non performance of work , is insensitive,” Baptiste stressed.
He said the concert is not a national activity, not a government activity but “a Labouir Party planned activity, to try and bring people to the location, with the expectation that performance by the artists will help boost the image of the Labour Party” and pointed out that the event was announced as part of the calendar of activities of the Dominica Labour Party.
He referred to Commonwealth Observer Mission report after the 2014 general election which identified abuse of incumbency (Government using state resources to have an advantage in the general election) as one of the faults of the election process.
“One of the areas which they identified was the fact of “Abuse of incumbency – by trying to buy votes, by treating and bribery – this is exactly what is happening with this concert”.
According to Baptiste, if this was truly a national event in commemoration of the passage of Hurricane Maria, the clergy and church community would have been invited to lead the activity.
“They (government) did not do that!,” he stated. ……..in fact – the Catholic Church did organize a mass, one year post Maria and they invited all officials and none of the Dominica Labour Party Officials attended. So it is a hypocritical thing they are now doing!”
The Builders and Contractors Association (BCAD) and Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) have also expressed their opposition to the event.
Expressing concern about the lack of transparency and accountability with regard to the nation’s affairs, BCAD president, Anthony Leblanc, encouraged all workers and employees to go out to the concert with placards asking “where the money went because it did not go to the treasury!”
General Secretary of the Public Service Union (PSU) Thomas Letang lamented the fact that the country is being shut down for an activity which is scheduled to begin in the afternoon and said the union would not be attending.
“Had the PSU called it members out for half day protest, most Dominicans would call them wicked,” Letang noted.
Letang also has grave concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the governance of the country’s affairs.
“We are serious about this matter and my executive will be meeting as early as next week to take a decision as to how we are going to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with the missing $1.2 billion and to come up with ways where we can involve our members and rest of Dominica can see what our position is.”