Organization of American States ..............................News Release


January 21, 1998

Dominica's new permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Edward Alexander, presented credentials at the organization's Washington headquarters this morning, calling for attention to Caribbean countries, especially to deal with the plight of their vital banana industry.

The ambassador, who will remain resident in Dominica, told the organization's secretary general, CÚsar Gaviria, that "our banana industry, which received a serious setback with the challenge mounted last year in the [World Trade Organization ] WTO...has suffered a further blow because of the problem." The problem in question he had explained to be an "ecological mini-disaster" affecting agriculture in Dominica, stemming in part from volcanic eruptions in the tiny nearby island of Montserrat.

In that light, the diplomat appealed to the OAS, especially its more affluent members, "to work with us to find a formula to give our farmers hope." The question of bananas came up again as one of the matters broached when the permanent representative later made a courtesy call on the assistant secretary general, the Trinidad and Tobago-born Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas.

An advisor to Prime Minister Edison C. James, the new ambassador assured the secretary general in their meeting that Dominica remained as committed as ever to the OAS "and will cooperate to keep this hemisphere peaceful, stable and democratic."

Other issues raised by Mr. Alexander, a first time ambassador, included the question of what he called "the first peoples of our hemisphere." He said particular attention needed to be given the indigenous peoples of the region, especially in light of the suffering that they have had to endure for the more than five hundred years since "that initial encounter of cultures."

Dominica is home to the remaining Carib people and as such, said the ambassador, his country wanted to work collaborate to it that all the region's indigenous peoples live in the dignified manner that they deserved.

That theme he elaborated on when he invoked the late U.S. civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was celebrated across the United States with a national holiday this past Monday. Said Ambassador Alexander: "We in the OAS have the opportunity to continue the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, to use whatever means is at our disposal to make his dream a reality." That dream, he added, meant justice and equality for all mean and women regardless of race, creed or color.

Mr. Alexander also conveyed his government's commitment to helping in the hemispheric fight the organization spearheads against corruption, drug trafficking and poverty. Sustainable development, education, trade, the environment, tourism and trade ranked as well among the other important issues on which Dominica will continue supporting the organization, the ambassador said.

The secretary general received Ambassador Alexander before a large contingent of ambassadors, most of them from Caribbean nations. Citing Mr. Alexander's statement, Mr. Gaviria said work needed to be done recognize diversity, multi cultural issues and mentioned the work that needed to be done in behalf of the indigenous peoples and African American peoples. "The Organization of American States should be able to work in improving the lives of all its people."

Mr. Gaviria spoke of the need to use education as a major vehicle in the fight against poverty and other problems common to the nations of the region, as well as to be an integrating force.

A parliamentary democracy, the Commonwealth of Dominica joined the hemispheric organization 18 years ago, after gaining independence from Britain in November 1978.

Agriculture is the main economic activity, accounting for 26 percent of the Gross domestic product (GDP), and employing some 40 per cent of the labor force for the population of about 88,000 on the 751 square kilometer island.

Mr. Alexander's appointment as permanent representative fills a vacancy that has existed for some time.

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