Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit has been living in a luxurious villa and paying around 33 thousand East Caribbean (EC) Dollars as monthly rent. This property is owned by a company named Mercury Properties Development Ltd. Recently this payment was approved by the cabinet, while Dominica’s leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton, was among many who strongly condemned the “hefty” approval and had written to Skerrit, demanding immediate revocation.
According to Dominica News Online, organizations such as the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), and other political parties, the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) and newcomer Alternative People’s Party (APP) also added their voice in expressing dissatisfaction over Cabinet’s decision.
Speaking on his Anou Palay Show, Skerrit stated, “so the issue of $32,000 will not be an issue no more. At the end of the two years, you will certainly see an end to this lease and it will not be extended. I’m making every effort to make accommodation for myself as a private citizen and my family as private citizens and that is my simple response to this.”
In addressing statements on public officers’ discontentment over the figure, the Prime Minister advised, “we cannot mix issues. I think if there’s a particular issue that anybody in the country has, let it stand on its own merits.”
Though he admitted that this sum is lofty, Skerrit is of the view that any figure put forth on his behalf would have been met with opposition.
“Nobody was concerned when I lived in a makeshift facility for three years as the Prime Minister of the country. I spent a whole year for example having to walk outside to go to a shower, it took the government a whole year to build a shower for me,” he said, and asked, “Should the President of the United States or the Governor of Florida give up their residence because their country has been locked down and they have seen a dramatic reduction in their earnings? Should the queen of England sell Buckingham Palace and go somewhere else?”
Some have suggested that the Prime Minister should, instead, relocate to his home in Vieille Case, an option which he stated that he too considered at one point.
“I would love to go back to my home in Vieille Case…and there was one period in time when I did move back, but when I look at the police officers who have to provide services to me as Prime Minister, most of those guys they live in Roseau and environs, they have families and I have always been appreciative of what they do for me. I understand the impact that it would have had on them if I have to relocate,” he explained. “Also there is the cost of security in Veille Case because the state will have to put certain systems in place to enhance the security of the Prime Minister because now this is official residence, no longer his private residence and the state has a certain responsibility to the safety and the well-being of the Prime Minister.”
Skerrit pointed out that designs had been made available in 2016 for the construction of an official residence for the Prime Minister in Morne Bruce. However, plans were halted due to the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“I felt that it was not the right time to proceed with building a residence for the Prime Minister while the rest of the country and many citizens were homeless. I went to the Cabinet and I said to them that we need to defer the commencement of the construction and put this on hold and give preference to providing shelter to the citizens,” he said.
The Prime Minister continued, “but there’s a sense that if we had gone to build it, the same people who are saying you should have built it would have been the same people who would be saying ‘oh look, Skerrit build a residence for his self and people don’t have [a] home.’ When we built the official residence for the President, people had issue with it and we were the only country in the western hemisphere which did not have an official residence for the President.
Skerrit proclaimed that upon his departure from the Office of Prime Minister, he will be the strongest advocate for the state to provide adequate and proper accommodation for the leader of the country as he will see to it that no other Prime Minister is exposed to the “indignity” such as he has.
He revealed that a cabinet subcommittee has been appointed to review the official dwelling of the prime minister.
Some of the prime minister’s critics on this issue have suggested that the money being used to pay for his rented accommodation should have been used, instead, to service a loan for the construction of a residence for the Office of the Prime Minister.
Why Dominica’s Prime Minister should live in rented property?
As Dominica is now becoming a great attraction to foreign investors, its Prime Minister’s staying at a rented luxury villa would definitely go against the image of the country. Instead of spending hugely on a rented property, the government can easily construct a permanent residential building for the Prime Minister.
Sohail Choudhury is the Executive Editor of Blitz