Politicizing Hurricane Relief...


Oct 10, 2017

"The greatest human quest is to know what one must do in order to become a human being." Immanuel Kant

It’s been more than 3 weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica, yet relief  to  some segments of the country have remained  unpredictable and sketchy. Why? One  would think that an administration which experienced the unusual Tropical Storm Erica (TS Erica) that so severely affected segments of Dominica in August 2015, would have learnt a lesson and would have been  prepared for  what  was going to be a very active hurricane season in 2017. It can now be said that The Labor Party Administration was woefully unprepared for the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria. Never mind their mantra that 'no one can be prepared tor a category 5 Hurricane'! The current Administration  had no Disaster Management plan in place. Consequently, there were no stored rations in case of food shortage after a storm. There were No (regional) disaster preparedness committees in the villages nor any food distribution centers set up.  Can anyone explain why each police station was not equipped with a satellite phone or ham radio? This administration was caught flat footed.  Now, after a disaster has occurred, they are trying to set those disaster management tools in place with chaotic and embarrassing consequences. Notwithstanding, the Labor Administration has resorted to its true character - a Political cadre that knows no limitations in its selfish quest to maintain power and, which will use any means available to achieve that goal, including capitalizing on the suffering of fellow Dominicans.
 
Food as a Weapon
As if this utter lack of preparation was not bad enough, the Labor Administration sees no difficulty in using the Hurricane Relief sent by International Organization and Family members living overseas as a political weapon. This administration is so accustomed to using the country’s resources as if their own, to buy votes, that even in a disaster they can’t help themselves.
Many people in Dominica have complained that party supporters are being favored over others.  There has been widespread complaints of the Dominica Labor Party Administration playing favorites with the relief food and equipment.  Some sectors of the Dominican public receive scant food rations while tons of food were being taken to labor party members homes.  In particular, entire constituencies or portions therein, who are not supportive of the Labor Administration are disproportionately impacted by this willful inhuman behavior. Concurrently, the Labor Administration through its chief spokesperson, the egocentric PM Roosevelt Skerrit, continues to project an image of impartiality and equity in distribution of Relief supplies to International Donors, Relief Agencies and, as well, to the Dominican Diaspora. The reality on the ground is quite different and can be easily discerned by those who are willing to 'see, hear and believe their senses'.  

Uncontrolled Distribution
This Labor administration sincerely believes that because their party is in power that they and their supporters must receive priority, even after a disaster.  Consequently, supplies meant to be equitably divided are spirited away, with some of it ending up at the homes of Ministers of Government.   Other supplies are brought clandestinely to party supporters homes.  Why should Relief supplies be taken to individuals' home?That's inefficient. This should only happen if such persons are seniors or shut-ins.  When supplies are taken to Individuals home, as if purportedly coming from the Labor Party, that is wrong! How does this happen?  Why were there no distribution centers set up for food?  Or, even distribution locations for recently donated food. There are no lack of open venues that could have been staged as distribution centers.  For instance, in the capital city (Roseau) and immediate environs, Lindo park, Goodwill Savannah and Harlem plaza could all serve as distribution Centers where supplies are simultaneously disbursed in broad daylight.  How difficult can that be?

Whose Relief is it Anyway?
It appears that the Labor Administration does not understand that the Relief coming into Dominica belong to the people of Dominica and does not belong to the Labor Party. In fact, the Prime Minister himself should take some blame for the public not having sufficient food after the storm. On September 18th at 11:15 am, the Prime Minister  told the public that they should not worry about stock-piling food, because “this is not a system, based on advice, that will linger very long". Instead, they should concentrate on cleaning up their surroundings. How irresponsible?  Where did the Prime Minister get such erroneous information? Does this man understand that food and water are  basic and essential needs of all beings?  Everything else comes after!!  Where was the leadership in such immature behavior? It is not difficult to see that the predicament facing Dominicans today lies at the feet of poor Leadership who manage Dominica like it is a private home.  No long term planning, no foresight. It is true that we cannot prevent or adequately predict natural disasters like Hurricanes, but we can temper this inadequacy by being prepared. This administration failed to understand that Dominica is a country with citizens living all over very rugged and sometimes inaccessible terrain. They neglected  instituting rigorous, rehearsed plans  to access those citizens in a timely manner. This is negligence and Dominicans should not allow a repetition of such disastrous mismanagement. 

Caught in the Act, PM Skerrit Feigns Outrage
In-spite of challenges with communications brought on by destruction of Hurricane Maria, news of mismanagement and manipulation of Relief by the Labor Administration filtered out of Dominica into the International electronic media. Predictably, the response of Mr. Skerrit and his acolytes was typical. First, they denied knowledge of these misdeeds and Skerrit vowed to get to the bottom of the problem. Simultaneously, Mr Skerrit lashed out at those who criticized him as 'attempting to destroy Dominica' (aka Skerrit, aka the Labor Administration) in the International media. Finally, they sought sympathy. Specifically, Skerrit lamented that, as Prime Minister things are not better for him. Really! In times of need for an entire country, this individual believes it is all about him and his inner circle. How juvenile?


Relief Supplies and Material that are being sent by the International Community and Family members abroad should not be used to play politics and gain advantage.  Maybe the administration should do some soul searching and do the right thing for once. Stop the Charade and Pretense; People are more important than Political Power; Put Dominica First!! Humanity and Humility should always take precedence over self aggrandizement and political 'one-up-man-ship'.  In the next phase of this journey, that is recovery and rebuilding, Dominican, Diasporas and the International Donor Community must remain focused and hyper-vigilant. Unlike the immediate 'relief phase', recovery and rebuilding require more careful thought, additional skills and prescient accountability. Cabinet, Parliament, Technocrats, NGOs, International agencies and local bodies (Village Councils, Improvement Committees) must all synchronize and synergize their efforts on behalf of Dominica. Mismanagement of this aspect by an ill-disciplined Executive, focused on itself, can be catastrophic and have lasting consequences for Dominicans. We can't  afford to mock this up!



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