Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dominica: More on the Dissolution of the Carib Council

According to an item posted by the Dominica Broadcasting Service on Dominica's news website at, dated 12 April 2006, the Government of Dominica has also announced the cancellation of elections for the Carib Council:

"Govt. have announced that there will be no new elections for the Carib Council. This after previously saying there would be elections after Carnival. There has been a long-standing dispute within the Council. Source: DBS Radio."

While the legality, not to mention the necessity, in making such a decision is open to question, we are at least able to address a question posed in an earlier post concerning the legality of the Government's dissolution of the Carib Council (ref:

The following extract from the Carib Reserve Act of 1978 was provided by Arthur Einhorn:


(1) If the Council in the judgement of the Minister, persistently makes default in the performance of the duties by law imposed upon it, or exceed or abuse powers, it shall be lawful for the Minister, by an order published in the Gazette, to dissolve such Council.

(2) In the case of such dissolution, the following consequences shall ensue----

(a) all members of the Council shall, from the date of such order, vacate their offices as such members;

(b) all the powers and duties of the Council shall, until the constitution of a new Council under this Act, be exercised and performed by such person or persons as the Minister may appoint in that behalf, and any payment made to such person or persons for his or their services shall be a charge upon the Reserve fund;

(c) all property vested in the Council shall, during the period aforesaid, vest in the person or persons aforesaid until the constitution of a new Council, whereupon all such property shall again become vested in the Council.

(3) No order for dissolution as aforesaid shall be valid unless in such order provision is made for the constitution under this Act of a new Council in lieu of the Council so dissolved within a period not exceeding four weeks from the date of such order.

Item 92

In the case of the dissolution of the Council under the last preceeding section the Minister may appoint a collector of rates (local taxes), who shall have all the powers and dutie conferred and imposed by this Act upon the Council or the Clerk.

Another site,, has posted a summary of the main points of the Carib Reserve Act, amongst these are the following:
  • The Carib chief holds office for approximately 5 years unless he or she resigns of his or her own accord or is removed from office.
  • The Chief may be removed from office before his or her term comes to an end, if (a) he or she steals property which comes under his or her control because of the office of Chief, (b) he or she is convicted of so doing, (c) the Carib Council has passed a vote of “No confidence” in him or her, (d) he or she becomes a bankrupt, or (e) approximately 5 years have passed since he or she was elected to office.
  • An Acting Chief may be appointed by the Prime Minister based on the advice of the Chief to perform the duties of Chief, when the Office of Chief is vacant or the Chief is out of State or the Chief is unable for one reason or the other to carry out his or her functions.

Of course, without more detailed information concerning the events leading to the dissolution of the Council, it is very difficult to ascertain whether the law was respected, or applied prematurely and heavy-handedly.

The cancellation of elections, as stated in the item above, may prove far more serious.

In either case, it seems clearer that the Carib Council possesses only minimal if not symbolic autonomy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"Developing" the Carib People of Dominica?

As readers will have seen in the previous post at, the Government of Dominica seems to have developed an instrumentalist and top-down view of the "role" to be performed by the indigenous population of Dominica. Added to the Government's recent overthrow of the elected Carib Chief, this seems to be more than just distant conjecture.

It seems clearer now that the Government desires to not only politically control the Carib population--a Government embarrassed internationally by Chief Williams' campaign to denounce the entry of Disney onto Carib soil in a venture that would feature Caribs, once again, in a colonial light as mindless cannibals--but the Government also clearly wishes to use the Caribs as an economic tool. The Caribs seem to be slotted as mere window dressing in a professed strategy of developmentalist diversification, thus reduced to playthings for foreign tourists, and reduced to "resources" in the calculations of economists.

This is not an unusual strategy for any government that has inherited and upheld the colonial heritage at the basis of the putatively independent state. "Recognition" and "celebration" of the Carib presence, by a variety of contemporary Caribbean states, are tactics revealed in the light of day as instruments of control and containment. While on the one hand they are useful for countering outmoded assertions of extinction, on the other hand they are equally useful for ensuring the centrality of the state as a legitimate arbiter of authorized identifications.

Unfortunately, if established and recognizable historical patterns are anything to go by, one will find a few indigenous collaborators who are willing to suck up to those in power and who hunger after the tourist dollar. What is lost in the process is consciousness of how the "development" process often is a mere gloss for older campaigns once referred to by terms such as "civilization" and "assimilation." Obedience to both capital and the state may appear to be a tactic of survival, at least in the short-term; in the long-term, it is nothing but negotiated surrender. One is reminded here of Peter Tosh's famous line, "peace is the diploma you get in the cemetery."

Dominica Government Overthrows Carib Chief

The following story was reported on Friday, March 17, 2006, in Trinidad's Newsday newspaper. It was headlined," Dominica Fires Carib Chief," the report itself follows below:


"A rift between the Carib Indian chief and the group's six-member council forced Dominica's government to dissolve the leadership body for the largest indigenous population in the Caribbean, an official said.

"The government's move came after months of infighting between Carib chief Charles Williams and the council following Williams' dismissal of two councillors, said John Fountain, the government commissioner who oversees the island's northeast where the Caribs live. Kent Auguiste, who was on the disbanded council, said that Williams acted as a "dictator" and made decisions contrary to their rulings. Williams said the council never wanted him to be chief and that his removal by the government one week ago was "illegal."

"The Dominican Government has appointed Garnette Joseph, who Williams beat during the 2004 election, to act as chief until a vote can be held to elect a new leader and council. About 3,000 Caribs live in Dominica, the only Caribbean nation to have a remaining Carib community [CAC editor: note to our readers, this statement is clearly erroneous, and like the statement above about the largest indigenous population to be found in the Caribbean being in Dominica, there is no incontrovertible evidence to back that assertion.]

"Caribs live and have collective property rights in rural communities in the island's northeast."

  1. What is the legal authority for the Dominica Government's overthrow of the Chief?
  2. What role did Carib Councillors play in seeking the intervention of the state?
  3. Why could this division not be resolved by Caribs themselves?
  4. What will the councillors do if the Carib electorate re-elects Charles Williams?
  5. Does this have anything to do with the fallout from the filiming in Dominica of "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" which alllegedly features scenes of Carib cannibalism, which Williams opposed and which some of the councillors supported?
  6. What precedents are set here in terms of (further) loss of Carib autonomy?
  7. What is the proper division of authority as set out by the constitution of the Carib Council?

More on Dominica's Carib Cultural Village...

More news coverage is available at:

Calls to Change Dominica's Name

DOMINICA: Change country's name, say Rastas
published in The Jamaica Gleaner: Monday March 6, 2006


THE RASTAFARIAN community in Dominica is calling for a name change for the island, a move being supported by a former Tourism Minister.

Speaking at a conference on the environment in Dominica, Ras Adama Taffari said she believed that Dominica should be called by its indigenous Carib name 'Waitukubuli', which when translated in English means 'tall is her body'.

"Bring forward the name of Dominica to Whitukubuli so we won't sound like dummies under the devils. We as Rastafarians ask our leaders to consider a change so the word, sound and power of Waitukubuli will relate to the Creator, and not to the devil," she said.

The executive member of the Rastafarian community in Dominica also called for a name change for some of Dominica's popular mountains Morne Dyabloten (Devils Mountain) and Morne oh Dyad (Mountain of Devils).

Carib Cultural Village Opens in Dominica

18 February, 2006
From the Office of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica

"There is great anticipation and heightened interest in Dominica and the Carib Territory in particular, for the official opening of the Kalinago Barana Auté (Carib Cultural Village by the Sea) next week.

"Initially called the Carib Model Village, the project was first conceptualized over 20 years ago, but it was not until 1994 that the Freedom Party Government put it to the Caribbean Development Bank for funding. The total estimated cost of the project is in the region of EC$2.5 million.

"The Kalinago Barana Auté is built on 4.2 acres of land and boasts a number of structures, including an Administration and Interpretation Centre, a Craft Shop, Demonstration Buildings, a Snackette, and a Karbet. Situated close to the sea, the site has a waterfall and a river flowing through it with a series of trails running through it.

"The Kalinago Barana Auté honours the diversity, history and heritage of the Kalinago people by presenting their customs and cultural traditions and by providing an opportunity for visitors to experience, learn about and appreciate their way of life.

The Project is expected to offer many opportunities and services to the Kalinago people. Some of these are:
  • Provide an opportunity for visitors and the people of Dominica to experience, learn about and appreciate the uniqueness of the Kalinago culture;
  • Develop programs so that the Village can host special events, education and community programs and facilitate research;
  • Provide ongoing economic benefits of heritage tourism to the Carib Territory by providing work, small business opportunities and the sale of crafts, traditional foods and herbs;
  • Reintroduce plants from the pre-Columbus era by developing a plant restoration program to restore the area with traditional trees, herbs, grasses, berries and traditional food plants.
"Since the 2000 General Elections, the Government of Dominica has placed the development of the Carib people high on its agenda. In September 2000, the Coalition Government led by Prime Minister, Hon. Roosevelt Douglas, established a Department of Carib Affairs.

"In 2003, the Government of Prime Minister Hon. Pierre Charles formally endorsed the Carib People Development Plan.

"On May 12th 2005 history was created, when for the very first time, Prime Minister, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, named a Carib, Hon. Kelly Graneau, as the Minister for Carib Affairs.

"The official opening of the Kalinago Barana Auté next week is another manifestation of this Government's strategy of economic diversification, through the development of the tourism sector. The development of the Kalinago people of Dominica is an essential component of that strategy. "

For more on the Carib Cultural Village, see Kelvin Smith's chapter in Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporary Caribbean (Peter Lang, 2006).