Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 26 Mar 2009 23:35

The Commonwealth of Dominica, commonly known as Dominica - pronounced Dom-in-nee-ka, is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. To the north/northwest lies Guadeloupe, to the southeast Martinique. Its size is 754 square kilometres or 291 square miles and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of 1,447 metres or 4,750 feet. The estimated population of 72,500. The capital is Roseau.




Dominica has been nicknamed the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean" for its seemingly unspoiled natural beauty. It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as seen by the world's second-largest boiling lake. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, home of many very rare plant, animal, and bird species. There are xeric areas in some of the western coastal regions, but heavy rainfall can be expected inland. The Sisserou parrot, the island's national bird, is featured on the national flag. Dominica's economy is heavily dependent on both tourism and agriculture.




Christopher Columbus landed on the 3rd November 1493, in the next hundred years after Columbus' landing Dominica remained isolated, and even more Caribs settled there after being driven from surrounding islands as European powers entered the region. France formally ceded possession of Dominica to the United Kingdom in 1763. The United Kingdom then set up a government and made the island a colony in 1805. The emancipation of African slaves occurred throughout the British Empire in 1834, and, in 1838, Dominica became the first British Caribbean colony to have a legislature controlled by Blacks. In 1896, the United Kingdom reassumed governmental control of Dominica turning it into a crown colony. Half a century later, from 1958 to 1962, Dominica became a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation. In 1978, Dominica became an independent nation.

History. In 1635, France claimed Dominica. Shortly thereafter, French missionaries became the first European inhabitants of the island. Carib incursions continued, though, and in 1660, the French and British agreed that both Dominica and St. Vincent should be abandoned. Dominica was officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of British and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the 18th century. Largely due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years' War, the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure.




The familiar sight of a cruise ship docked in the capital Roseau.


In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free non-whites. Three Blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became the only British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most Black legislators were smallholders or merchants who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule. In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one that had one-half of members who were elected and one-half who were appointed. Planters allied with colonial administrators outmanoeuvred the elected legislators on numerous occasions. In 1871, Dominica became part of the Leeward Island Federation. The power of the Black population progressively eroded. Crown Colony government was re-established in 1896. All political rights for the vast majority of the population were effectively curtailed. Development aid, offered as compensation for disenfranchisement, proved to have a negligible effect.




Following World War I, an upsurge of political consciousness throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the Representative Government Association. Marshalling public frustration with the lack of a voice in the governing of Dominica, this group won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward Island Administration and was governed as part of the Windwards until 1958, when it joined the short-lived West Indies Federation. After the federation dissolved, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom in 1967 and formally took responsibility for its internal affairs. On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom. Independence did little to solve problems stemming from centuries of economic underdevelopment, and in mid-1979, political discontent led to the formation of an interim government. It was replaced after the 1980 elections by a government led by the Dominica Freedom Party under Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean's first female prime minister. Chronic economic problems were compounded by the severe impact of hurricanes in 1979 and in 1980. In 1981 Dominica was threatened with a takeover over by mercenaries.

Attempted Coup

In 1981, a group of right-wing 'mercenaries' led by Mike Perdue of Houston, and Wolfgang Droege of Toronto, attempted to overthrow the government of Eugenia Charles. The North-America mercenary group was to aid ex-prime minister Patrick John and his Dominica Defence Force in regaining control of the island in exchange for control over the island's future development. The entire plan failed and the ship hired to transport the men of Operation Red Dog never even made it off the dock as the FBI was tipped-off. The self-titled mercenaries lacked any formal military experience and/or training and the majority of the crew had been misled into joining the armed coup by the con-man ringleader Mike Perdue. White supremacist Don Black was also jailed for his part in the attempt, which violated US neutrality laws. Despite the amateurishness of the attempt, most students of the affair believe it could well have toppled the weak and ramshackle Charles government.





Since the 1980's By the end of the 1980's, the economy recovered, but weakened again in the 1990's due to a decrease in banana prices. In the January 2000 elections, the Edison James United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the Dominican Labour Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P. "Rosie" Douglas. Douglas died after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles, who died in office in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced Charles as Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister Skerrit's leadership, the DLP won elections in May 2005 that gave the party 12 seats in the 21-member Parliament to the UWP's 8 seats. An independent candidate affiliated with the DLP won a seat as well. Since that time, the independent candidate joined the government and one UWP member crossed the aisle, making the current total 14 seats for the DLP and 7 for the UWP. Skerrit has forged a close relationship with leftist leaders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, which has resulted in Dominica receiving substantial aid from Cuba and Venezuela. Dominica is set to play a major part in the Petrocaribe initiative; crude oil from Venezuela will be stored on the island for distribution to other islands. Further, the Venezuelan government has given Dominica a US$10.1 million grant for the expansion of the Melville Hall Airport and forgiven the island nation's US$1.5 million debt to Venezuela. On February 16th 2007 Chávez paid a state visit to Roseau, a rare visit by a major head of state to the island, where he inaugurated a fuel storage tank as part of the Petrocaribe initiative. Skerrit's administration agreed to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. In addition, Skerrit announced that his government had agreed to the construction of a $80,000,000USD refinery on the island. The proposed refinery has prompted criticism from some environmentalist

Geography and climate. Dominica has many waterfalls, springs, and rivers. Some plants and animals thought to be extinct on surrounding islands can still be found in Dominica's forests. The volcanic nature of the island and the lack of sandy beaches has attracted scuba divers. The island has several protected areas, including Cabrits National Park (own blog). Dominica has 365 rivers. It is said that when his royal sponsors asked Christopher Columbus to describe this island in the "New World", he crumpled a piece of parchment roughly and threw it on the table. This, Columbus explained, is what Dominica looks like - completely covered with mountains with nary a flat spot. Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a tropical forest blended with scenic volcanic features. It was recognized as a World Heritage Site on April 4, 1995, a distinction it shares with four other Caribbean islands. The Commonwealth of Dominica is engaged in a long-running dispute with Venezuela over Venezuela's territorial claims to the sea surrounding Isla Aves (literally Bird Island, but in fact called Bird Rock by Dominica authorities), a tiny islet located 140 miles (224 km) west of the island of Dominica.




The Sisserou Parrot


Dominica possesses the most pristine wilderness in the Caribbean. Originally, it was protected by sheer mountains which led the European powers to build ports and agricultural settlements on other islands. More recently, the citizens of this island have sought to preserve its spectacular natural beauty by discouraging the type of high-impact tourism which has damaged nature in most of the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea offshore of the island of Dominica is home to many cetaceans. Most notably a group of sperm whales, others include spinner dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Less commonly seen animals include killer whales, false killer whales, pygmy sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales, Risso's dolphins, common dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, humpback whales and Bryde's whales. This makes Dominica a destination for tourists interested in whale-watching holidays. Driven by ancient impulses, three of the world’s seven types of sea turtles come to nest on the beaches of the south-east of Dominica. From late March to October, Rosalie beach sees turtles, the largest of them, giant thousand pound plus endangered leatherback return to the home of their birth twenty five to thirty years older to lay their eggs. Between May and August, sea turtles to nest almost every night.

Dominica is especially vulnerable to hurricanes as the island is located in what is referred to as the hurricane region. In 1979, Dominica was hit directly by category 5 Hurricane David, causing widespread and extreme damage. On August 17, 2007, Hurricane Dean, a category 1 at the time, hit the island. A mother and her seven-year-old son died when a landslide caused by the heavy rains fell onto their house. In another incident two people were injured when a tree fell on their house. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit estimated that 100 to 125 homes were damaged, and that the agriculture sector was extensively damaged, in particular the banana crop.

Etymology. In Latin, its name means "Sunday", which was the day on which it was spotted by Christopher Columbus. Its pre-Columbian name was "Wai'tu kubuli", which means "Tall is her body". The Caribs (own blog) have a territory similar to the Indian Reserves of North America. The official language is English in consequence of its history as a British colony, territory  and state, though a French creole is spoken by many, especially people of older generations.




Government and administrative divisions. Dominica is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Unlike the majority of countries in the Caribbean, the Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the region's few republics. The president is the head of state, while executive power rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister. The unicameral parliament consists of the thirty-member House of Assembly, which consists of twenty-one directly elected members and nine senators, who may either be appointed by the president or elected by the other members of the House of Assembly. Unlike other former British colonies in the region, Dominica was never a Commonwealth Realm, instead becoming a republic on independence. Dominica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dominica is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the U.S. military, as covered under Article 98. In January 2008 Dominica joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

Economy. In 2008, Dominica had one of the lowest per capita GDP (gross domestic product) rates of Eastern Caribbean states. The country nearly had a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004, but Dominica's economy grew by 3.5% in 2005 and 4.0% in 2006, following a decade of poor performance. Growth in 2006 was attributed to gains in tourism, construction, offshore and other services, and some sub-sectors of the banana industry. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently praised the Government of Dominica for its successful macroeconomic reforms. The IMF also pointed out remaining challenges, including the need for further reductions in public debt, increased financial sector regulation, and market diversification. Dominica's currency is the East Caribbean Dollar.

Bananas and other agriculture dominate Dominica's economy, and nearly one-third of the labour force works in agriculture. This sector, however, is highly vulnerable to weather conditions and to external events affecting commodity prices. In 2007, Hurricane Dean caused significant damage to the agricultural sector as well as the country's infrastructure, especially roads. In response to reduced European Union (EU) banana trade preferences, the government has diversified the agricultural sector by promoting the production of coffee, patchouli, aloe vera, cut flowers, and exotic fruits such as mango, guava, and papaya. Dominica has also had some success in increasing its manufactured exports, primarily soap.




Dominica is mostly volcanic and has few beaches; therefore, tourism has developed more slowly than on neighbouring islands. Nevertheless, Dominica's mountains, rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it an attractive eco-tourism destination. Cruise ship stopovers have increased following the development of modern docking and waterfront facilities in Roseau. Out of twenty two Caribbean islands tracked, Dominica had the fewest visitors in 2008 (55,800 or 0.3% of the total). This was about half as many as visited Haiti.

Dominica is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative that grants duty-free entry into the United States for many goods. Dominica also belongs to the predominantly English-speaking (CARICOM), the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dominica offers tax-free status to companies locating from abroad. It is not known how many companies benefit from the tax-free status because of the strict confidentiality the government enforces, although it is known many Internet businesses utilize Dominica for this reason.

Infrastructure. Air. There are two small airports on the island. The primary airport, Melville Hall Airport (DOM), is on the northeast coast and is about a 45-minute drive from Portsmouth. The second is Canefield Airport (DCF), about fifteen minutes from Roseau on the southwest coast. Neither airport is suitable for commercial jets due to runway length, lack of runway lights, and lack of instrument landing system, but Melville Hall currently has regular service by American Eagle and LIAT using twin turboprop aircraft like the De Havilland Dash 8. A runway extension and service upgrade project began at Melville Hall around 2006 and is still in progress as of early 2009.

Roads. There is no major highway on the island. Before the road was built between Portsmouth and Roseau, people had to take boats, which took several hours. Now, it takes about one hour to drive from Portsmouth to Roseau. Minibus services form the major public transport system.




Demographics. There is a significant Mixed minority along with Indo-Caribbean or East Indian groups, a small European origin minority, descendants of French, British, and Irish colonists and there are small numbers of Lebanese, Syrians and Asians. Dominica is also the only Eastern Caribbean island that still has a population of pre-Columbian native Caribs (own blog). There are also about 1,000 medical students from the United States and Canada who study at the Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth. The population growth rate of Dominica is very low, due primarily to emigration to other countries. In the early 21st Century, emigrant numbers for the most popular countries are as follows: the U.K. (6739), the U.S. (8560), France (394), and Canada (605). It has recently been noted that Dominica has a relatively large number of centenarians. As of March 2007, there are 22 centenarians three times the average incidence in developed countries. The reasons for this are the subject of current research being undertaken at Ross University School of Medicine. About 80% of the population is Roman Catholic, though in recent years a number of Protestant churches have been established. There is also a small but growing Muslim community in Dominica as the nation's first mosque is currently being built.

English is the official language of Dominica and is universally spoken and understood. However, because of historic French occupation during different times in history, and the island's location between the two French-speaking departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Antillean Creole Patois, a French-based creole dialect, is spoken by many people on the island, especially from the older generation. Because of the decline in its usage by the younger generation, initiatives have been set up in an effort to increase usage and save this unique part of the nation's history and culture. The dialect of Dominica also includes Cocoy, along with Creole - French-based patois. Cocoy, or Kockoy, is a mix of Leeward Island English-Creole and Dominican Creole. It is mainly spoken in the north-eastern villages of Marigot and Wesley. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century the Rose's Company which had been producing Rose's lime juice there saw demand for its product outgrow the ability to available supply from Montserrat. Their response to the situation was to buy land on Dominica and encourage Montserrat farm labourers to relocate. As a result there came to be two linguistic communities in Dominica. Over time there has been much intermarrying but there are still traces of difference in origin.

Culture. Dominica is home to a wide range of people. Although it was historically occupied by several native tribes, the Arawaks and Kalinago. Carib tribes remained by the time European settlers reached the island. 'Massacre' is a name of a river dedicated to the murders of the Native villagers by French and British settlers, because the river ran red with blood for days. Each (French and British) claimed the island and imported slaves from Africa.




Music and dance are important facets of Dominica's culture. The annual independence celebrations show an outburst of traditional song and dance preceded since 1997 by weeks of Creole expressions such as "Creole in the Park" and the "World Creole Music Festival". Dominica gained prominence on the international music stage when in 1973, Gordon Henderson founded the group Exile One and an original musical genre which he coined "Cadence-lypso" which paved the way for modern Creole music.





Soursop, Sorrel and Paw Paw

Dominican cuisine is similar to that of other Caribbean countries. Common main courses comprise of meat usually chicken, but can be goat, lamb, or beef, covered in sauce. the sauces are either spicy pepper sauces, or concoctions made from local fruit. A huge variety of local fruit, from tamarind to passion fruit, are served on the island, usually in juice or sauce form. Soursop, is peeled and eaten raw. Sorrel, a red flower that only blooms around Christmas is boiled into a bright red drink.

Education. The island has its own state college, formerly named Clifton Dupigny Community College. Some Dominicans get scholarships from the Cuban government to attend universities in Cuba. Others go to the University of the West Indies or to schools in the UK, the U.S., or other countries for higher education. Ross University Medical School, in Portsmouth. The Archbold Tropical Research and Education Centre, a biological field station owned by Clemson University, is located at Springfield Estate between Canefield and Pond Cassé. In 2006, another medical school called All Saints University of Medicine opened in temporary facilities in Loubiere, with a permanent campus being constructed in Grand Bay. Currently All Saints is located in Roseau, Dominica. There is also a marine biology school in Mahaut, I.T.M.E (Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology), 15 minutes north of Roseau.




Athletics. Cricket is a popular sport on the island, and Dominica competes in Test cricket as part of the West Indies cricket team. On October 24th, 2007, the 8,000-seat Windsor cricket stadium was completed with a donation of EC$33 million (US$17 million) from the Government of the People's Republic of China.

Notables. Jean Rhys, novelist, was born and raised in Dominica. Test cricketers Grayson Shillingford, Irvine Shillingford, Phillip DeFreitas and Adam Sanford were born in Dominica.

Property and homes can be bought here reasonably easily. The first step, which takes four to six months is to get Alien Status. If you buy land there is 4% Stamp Duty, 2.5% Judicial Fees, 1% Assurance Fund and 3% Legal Fees, thus 10.5%. To buy a property the total costs come to 20.5%. Many people love the island because they see it and the people as unspoilt. There are no major hotels on the island. Tourists are made up of yachties and the day-long visits from many cruise ships. What will happen after airport expansion and the refinery is built we wait to see.




ALL IN ALL an island that has made us incredibly welcome.