May 29th, 1979
Man shot dead in Dominica clash

CANA story:
Prime Minister Patrick John faced a major crisis tonight after a big demonstration against two controversial Bills resulted in the death of one man, injury to nine people and union demands for the Government to resign.

Patrick John Five of the islandís main unions, representing some 8,000 workers vowed to strike until the Dominican Government stepped down, today soon after Defence Force members and demonstrators clashed violently outside the House of Assembly.

That clash left 23-year-old port worker, Phillip Timothy dead, felled by a bullet that went right through his lower abdomen from side to side.

Nine other people were shot and are in the Princess Margaret Hospital. Three of them, including a man and a thirteen year old school boy were categorised by hospital sources as serious.

A detachment from the eight-three strong Defence Force resorted to live bullets after blanks and tear-gas failed to complete subdue the demonstrators who hurled stones and jeered some Government Parliamentarians as they entered the Government Headquarters building to attend a session of Parliament.

The Government was reported tonight to have passed the amendment through the Industrial Relations Act and the Libel and Slander Ordinances changes which critics said would emasculate trade and unions and muscle the press.

Debate on the Bills continued in the absence of the opposition who walked out when the Government defeated their motion for an adjournment because of the troubles outside.

Prime Minister Johnís Labour Party Government holds fifteen seats in the House of Assembly.

The new Labour amendment sough to prevent strikes in the Civil Service and Essential Services such as telephones communication, water, Electricity, customs and airports. But all except electricity and water were affected today by the unionsí protest action.

Melville Hall Airport and the Seaport were closed and Cable & Wireless closed their telephone communications section three hours early.

Labour unions are also objecting to a clause providing for an arbitration tribunal. They say it is only an industrial court to which they had earlier objected in a new guise.

Opposition politicians also deemed as objectionable a new requirement that newspaper Editors disclosed the identities of anonymous writers who refrain from publishing articles critical of a person in his professional who official capacity.

The relevant clause read: "An Editor of a newspaper shall not publish in his newspaper an article which directly or indirectly offers criticism of any person in his professional or official capacity or which ascribes to any person conduct which may have the effect of lowering that person in the estimation of others unless the article carries an indication at the top therefore as to whether the article is a political or other commitment or purports to factual together with the actual name of the correspondence or writer of the article.

May 29 photo An estimated thirteen thousand people gathered this morning outside government headquarters in Roseau to stage their protest as Parliamentarians entered the building which houses the House of Assembly on the fifth floor.

A Government MP Culand Dubois was mobbed by the crowd who cornered him at the gates. Police came to his aid and had to repeat their rescue act for the External Affairs Minister Luke Corriette.

Just before Prime Minister Patrick John was due to make his appearance, a Defence Force detachment drew up and fired tear-gas to disburse the crowd.

Demonstrators retaliated by throwing stones, smashing the windscreens of three cars, one belonging to the defence force and another belonging to the Police ad, the third to Deputy Prime Minister Henckel Christian.

Under a hail of stones, the Defence force members opened up with blanks. Then they resorted to live bullets. People scampered and the situation was shortly afterwards brought under control.

Four people including Dominican freelance reporter Elsworth Carter (writer of this article) were arrested and kept in custody inside the Government Headquarters for just over an hour.

May 28th 1979

Following the clash, union leaders held a massive meeting at the Goodwill Parishhall and speaker after speaker announced strike action until the Government resigns.

The Unionsí involved were: The Waterfront and Allied Workers Union which claims to represent eight thousand workers ; The Civil Service Association , about three thousand; The Dominica Almagated Workers Union; under six thousand; and the Dominica Trade Union, one thousand workers.

The DAWU and the DTU represented workers in the countries vital Banana Industry.

Supporters for the strike action has also come from the Dominica Farmers Union.

Editors note: The May 29, 1979 demonstration and other events preceded it, lead to the toppling of the Patrick John Administration less than a year after he led Dominica into Independence from Britain.

The May 29 incident led to a constitutional downfall of the Patrick John regime on Friday, June 22 1979. The general strike called by the unionsí on the island paralysed the country for nearly one month.

Dominica remembers today, a day which those who witness will never like repeated in history.

This page © CaKaFete 1996
Created: Thursday, September 19, 1996, 7:10:42 AM