Dominica

Dominica

[dom-uh-nee-kuh, duh-min-i-kuh]
Dominica, officially Commonwealth of Dominica, republic (2005 est. pop. 69,000) consisting of the island of Dominica (290 sq mi/750 sq km), located in the Windward Islands, West Indies. Roseau is the capital and chief port. The island, of volcanic origin, is mountainous and forested, with a wide variety of flora and fauna and an extensive national park system. Dominica is subject to frequent destructive hurricanes. The population is largely of African or mixed European and African descent. More than three quarters of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics, the balance mainly Protestants. English is the official language, but a French patois is also widely spoken.

Bananas are the chief commercial crop and export. Citrus, coconuts, and coconut oil are also exported, and mangoes and root crops are raised. Industry is generally limited to food processing and the manufacture of soap and other coconut-based products. Tourism is a growing industry, but Dominica remains one of the poorer Caribbean nations. The main trading partners are Great Britain, the United States, and China.

Government

Dominica is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1978. The head of state is the president, who is elected by the House Assembly and serves a five-year term. The head of government is the prime minister. The members of the thirty-seat unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly serve five-year terms; twenty-one are popularly elected and nine are appointed. Administratively, Dominica is divided into ten parishes.

History

The island was sighted by Columbus in 1493. English and French attempts at settlement were thwarted by the Caribs, who had taken it earlier from the Arawaks. An Anglo-French treaty of 1748 left Dominica in Carib hands, but both powers continued to covet it. In the 18th cent. Africans were brought in as slaves to work plantations. The island definitively passed to the British in 1815. Hostilities between the British and the Caribs led to the slaughter of large numbers of Caribs. Today, however, there are around 3,000 Caribs who occupy a reservation on the eastern side of the island.

Dominica has been a fully independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations since 1978. In 1981 there were two failed coup attempts. In 1980, Eugenia Charles and the Dominica Freedom party came to power; Charles, who survived two coup attempts in 1981, remained prime minister until she retired in 1995. Edison James, founder of the opposition United Workers' party (DUWP), succeeded her after a win at the polls. He remained prime minister until early 2000, when Rosie Douglas led the Labor party (LPD) to a narrow victory over James and the DUWP. Douglas died in 2000 and was succeeded by Pierre Charles, who died in 2003. Roosevelt Skerrit succeeded Charles as prime minister. Labor was returned to power, again by a narrow margin, in 2005, but won by a landslide in 2009.

officially Commonwealth of Dominica

Island country, Lesser Antilles, Caribbean Sea. It is located between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Area: 290 sq mi (750 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 69,000. Capital: Roseau. The majority of the people are of African or mixed African and European descent. Languages: English (official), French patois. Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar. A mountainous island, Dominica is broken midway by a plain drained by the Layou River. It has a warm tropical climate with heavy rainfall. The main crop is bananas. Dominica is among the poorest of the Caribbean nations. A developing tourist trade was helped by the establishment in 1975 of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a unique tropical mountain wilderness, but the country was ravaged by hurricanes in 1979 and 1980. With financial help from Britain, it is trying to protect its coastline. It is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. At the time of Christopher Columbus's arrival in 1493, it was inhabited by the Caribs. Because of its steep coastal cliffs and inaccessible mountains, it remained in the possession of the Caribs until the 18th century; it was then settled by the French and later taken by Britain in 1783. Subsequent hostilities between the settlers and the native inhabitants resulted in the Caribs' near extinction. Incorporated with the Leeward Islands in 1833 and with the Windward Islands in 1940, it became a member of the West Indies Federation in 1958. Dominica became independent in 1978. Seealso West Indies. Offshore banking, a controversial boom to the Dominican economy in the late 20th century, was discontinued early in the 21st century.

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The United Workers' Party is a centrist political party in Dominica. The party was founded in 1988 by Edison James, Julius Timothy, Norris Prevost, Dennis Labassier and others. In the 1990 elections the UWP won 6 of the 21 seats and became the official opposition. In 1995 the UWP won 11 seats at the general elections forming the first UWP government headed by Edison James as prime minister. At the 31 January 2000 elections, the party won 43.3 % of popular votes and 9 out of 21 elected members of parliament. Though it captured the most popular votes, it got fewer seats than the Dominica Labour Party. The party was therefore once again in opposition. James continued to lead the party, which set up a tough campaign for the May 5 2005 elections, but lost 1 seat. After the election, this time receiving less votes than the Dominica Labour Party, the party held 8 seats in Parliament and remained in opposition.

In December 2005 James stood down as political leader and was replaced by Attorney Earl Williams, Minister of Communications and Works in the last UWP administration. Williams defeated founding member and then Deputy Leader Julius Timothy who also sought the leadership of the party. As a result Timothy, the Minister of Finance under the UWP government, left the party and crossed the floor to join the Dominica Labour Party government. This resulted in the UWP being reduced to seven seats in Parliament.

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