ROSEAU: Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described the celebrations commemorating the nation’s 36th anniversary of political independence on Monday as a time to showcase the achievements of Dominicans.
“It is an occasion to recapture and project our folklore, our song, dance, music, dress, cuisine and many of the other traditions that make us unique,” he said in his Independence message to the nation. “But it is also a time to pause, to reflect on the progress we have made, to assess where we are, where we want to get to and determine how we can get there, remaining united, peaceful and strong.”
The celebration was held under the theme “Our Nation, Our Responsibility”. Skerrit said it was a time for citizens to question whether or not “we have been faithful in discharging our responsibilities to ourselves, our families, our communities and to our country”.
Skerrit said although Dominica has a lot to be proud of, there is still plenty to be accomplished.
“One of the characteristics of a truly independent nation, is to be found in the recognition it gives to citizens who have blazed a trail of excellence and who have made profound sacrifice in service to the country and to the global community,” he said.
In addition to the traditional presentation of meritorious awards, the independence celebration featured two events honouring three renowned Dominicans.
Skerrit said the renaming of the Melville Hall airport to the Douglas-Charles airport, and the opening ceremony of the newly-named Nicholas Joseph Orville Liverpool highway, “not only adds one more chapter to the Dominica story, but also represents the writing of Dominican history from a local perspective”.
He said the two former prime ministers after whom the airport had been renamed “fought for and gave their lives in trying to create a new and free Dominica, free of the shackles of colonialism and at a time when the world was split into two ideological camps, allowing little wriggle room for small states like Dominica”.
Skerrit said that Dr. Liverpool, through his achievements in academia and the law, “has been one of the stalwarts in the development and modernization of Caribbean jurisprudence.
“He has discharged his responsibilities as law professor, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of the West Indies, legal consultant and ambassador, with distinction”.
Skerrit said the names of the three Dominicans “will now be immortalized in the pages of our history”.
In addition, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth Affairs and Sports, Jennifer Wallace-Lafond and prominent medical practitioner, Dr. Hendricks Paul, have been conferred with the island’s second-highest award, the Sisserou Award of Honour for their work in education and medicine, respectively.
The two are among 20 Dominicans recognized by the country.
The island’s third-highest award, the Meritorious Service Award, has been bestowed on Winnifred Valencia Webb for her work in youth development; former parliamentarian, Anne Timothy, for her public and community achievements; Jean Joseph for her work in the Diaspora and promoting Dominica in the United States; Bernadette George-Francis for early childhood education; and Darnley Guye for culture.
Journalist Morris Cyrille is among seven people and organizations that have been awarded the Services Medal of Honour.