His Excellency Crispin Anselm Sorhaindo, D.A.H., O.B.E.
President of the Commonwealth of Dominica
Monday, 5th October, 1998
On the eve of demitting office as your President for the past five years, I wish to address you on behalf of my wife Ruby and myself.
We wish in the first place, to thank God for affording us this rare opportunity to serve you. Throughout the term, He has been our constant guide and support and He has given us good health and the strength we needed to meet the many demands made on us.
Above all, He has provided us with wonderful opportunities for worship and prayer in communities all over our country. We have also had opportunities to participate in village Festivals and to meet young people, and participate in their graduation ceremonies. We have been able to interact with older persons, to visit sick persons in the hospitals and more. In all of these activities, we have received much more than we have given. We thank you all for allowing us to share with you and to get close to you and to love you. God has been very good to us.
We have tried to serve as best as we could and maybe we did not live up to some of your expectations.
However, we have been comforted by numerous telephone calls and visits and other tokens of endearment we have received, especially over the past few weeks from persons from all walks of life and in unexpected places like supermarkets and on the streets.
We are grateful for your indications of appreciation even when in some cases they were not expressed in words but in a gentle wave or even a silent stare. We have been deeply moved.
It is just not possible for us to respond in a formal way to all of these expressions of love and gratitude so we take this opportunity to say a sincere thank you to all.
At midnight tonight, I shall cease to be President and Mr. Shaw will replace me and enter upon the duties of the office as soon as he takes the required oaths, as I did five years ago, of loyalty to Dominica and to uphold the Constitution.
I urge you to give him your full support as he continues the difficult task of fostering unity among our people. There are many forces at work which interfere with the progress to unity- that elusive unity which Christ so earnestly prayed for. Sometimes it comes with our grasp – only to slip through our fingers.
Last month, we as a Nation experiencing grief, gathered at Marigot to mourn the loss of ten (10) of our citizens and our Nigerian brother. All races, classes, creeds and political persuasions were represented and were linked up with others throughout the island by television and radio. We then achieved a level of unity which we should have been able to build on; but once again we have missed opportunities to further unite our people.
I pray that all our leaders both religious and civil will recognize that our small country cannot continue to be plagued by unnecessary division. Our democracy must be made to work to bring unity among our people, not division.
Time will not permit me to go deeper into this question at this time.
I will however just quote briefly three extracts from the Address which I made in Parliament at the opening session in June 1996 on the topic "Democracy in-between elections".
"Good Governance recognizes the need to further the participation of the people in the democratic process of establishing systems of consultation between Government and the people including periods between national election…."
"Good Governance will require effort by the governed to no less a degree than by the Government. The electorate must be alert and be active in the quest. In other words, democracy will thrive to the extent that the electorate actively participates in what takes place in the country in-between elections."
"Democracy will not thrive if those who are able to speak out when there is good reason so to do remain lethargic or even silent."
Recent events have given me hope that some have listened. On one of these events a Government Minister, speaking for the Government, and all public statements by Ministers reflect Government policy, congratulated the people of a community when they reacted strongly to an appointment which did not meet the needs of their community.
Today, I leave the office of President but I pledge to continue to work as a citizen of our beloved country, among other things for the advancement of Democracy and for justice and peace among our people – God's people.
Once again, thank you and God bless you.