Dominica -- Geography --
Official Name: Commonwealth of Dominica
Capital City: Roseau
Official Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
Official language: English
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Evangelical Christian 15%
Population: 72660 (2009). Ethnic groups 86.8% African, 8.9% mixed, 2.9% Carib, 0.8% white , 0.7% other (2001)
Land Area: 754 km2
Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. To the north-northwest lies Guadeloupe, to the southeast Martinique.
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 evidenced by the world's second-largest boiling lake. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, home of many 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 (also known as the Imperial Amazon), the island's national bird, is featured on the national flag.
Dominica -- History --
Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it, a Sunday (dominica in Latin), November 3, 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.
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 because of 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.
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 African people 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 African-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most African 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.
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, 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.
By the end of the 1980s, the economy recovered, but weakened again in the 1990s because of 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.
Dominica -- Economy --
Dominica's economy is heavily dependent on both tourism and agriculture.
Current president, Nicholas LiverpoolIn 2008, Dominica had one of the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) 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.
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 neighboring 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, the capital. Out of 22 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 Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
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 15 minutes from Roseau on the southwest coast. Melville Hall Airport is suitable for limited use of commercial jets because of runway length, lack of runway lights, and lack of instrument landing system. Melville Hall currently has regular service by American Eagle and LIAT using twin turboprop aircraft like the De Havilland Dash 8, as well as Conviasa and Amerijet, which, using Boeing 727 Freighters, is the only airline with jet service to the republic. A runway extension and service upgrade project began at Melville Hall around 2006 and is still in progress as of early 2009.
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.
Dominica -- Culture --
Dominica's East coast territory of the Kaliango (tribe)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. The remaining Caribs now live on a 3,700-acre (15 km2) territory on the east coast of the island. They elect their own chief. This mix of cultures is important to Dominica.
A Dominican drumming band.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.
The 11th annual World Creole Music Festival was the first activity held there since its completion on October 27, 2007, part of the island's celebration of independence from Great Britain on November 3. A year-long reunion celebration began in January 2008 marking 30 years of independence.
Dominica is often seen as a society that is migrating from collectivism to that of individualism. The economy is a developing one that previously depended on agriculture. Signs of collectivism are evident in the small towns and villages which are spread across the island.
Dominican cuisine is similar to that of other Caribbean countries. Common main courses comprise 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.
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 United Kingdom, the United States, or other countries for higher education. Ross University, a medical school, is located at Portsmouth. The Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center, a biological field station owned by Clemson University, is located at Springfield Estate between Canefield and Pond Casse. 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.
Cricket is a popular sport on the island, and Dominica competes in test cricket as part of the West Indies cricket team. On October 24, 2007, the 8,000-seat Windsor cricket stadium was completed with a donation of EC$33 million (US$17 million, €12 million) from the government of the People's Republic of China.
Dominica has three major newspapers, The Sun, The Times, and The Chronicle. There are two national television stations and a few radio stations, including Q95 FM, the Dominica Broadcasting Corporation, and Kairi FM. Before 2004, there was one telecommunication company called Cable and Wireless. In 2005, Digicel and a UK-based company called Orange started to offer service to the island. There are a number of mobile networks operating on the island.
Dominica -- Political system, law and government --
Dominica is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations and, since 1979, a member of La Francophonie.
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.