|Dominica gained independence on 3 November 1978. This module provides an overview of the key events on Dominica's road to independence.
Road to Independence
Dominica has been in a long fight for independence first ruled by the Spanish then the French and then the British English before finally obtaining independence in 1978.
Throughout its history the fertile island of Dominica has attracted settlers and colonisers and has been the subject of the military, and often bloody, squabbles of European powers. At the time of Columbus’s visit on a Sunday (dies dominica) in November 1493, the island was a stronghold of the Caribs from South America who were driving out the Arawaks. In 1627 the English took theoretical possession without settling, but by 1632 the island had become a de facto French colony; it remained so until 1759 when the English captured it. In 1660 the English and French agreed to leave the Caribs in undisturbed possession, but in fact French settlers went on arriving, bringing enslaved Africans with them. Dominica changed hands between the two European powers, passing back to France (1778) and again to England (1783). The French attempted to invade in 1795 and 1805 before eventually withdrawing, leaving Britain in possession.
In 1833 the island was linked to Antigua and the other Leeward Islands under a Governor-General at Antigua, but subsequently became part of the Federation of the Leeward Islands Colony (1871–1939) before becoming a unit of the Windward Islands group (1940–60). Dominica joined the West Indies Federation at its foundation in 1958 and remained a member until differences among larger members led to its dissolution in 1962.
Within Dominica, the formation of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) from the People’s National Movement and other groups in the early 1960s spurred local demand for greater autonomy in internal affairs. Edward LeBlanc became Chief Minister in 1961. Under his leadership, in 1967 Dominica became one of the West Indies Associated States, with full internal self-government, while the UK remained responsible for foreign policy and defence. At LeBlanc’s retirement in 1974, Patrick John succeeded as DLP leader and Premier. After winning a large majority at the 1975 elections, John pursued the course agreed by the Associated States to seek independence separately.
On 29 August 1976, Premier Patrick John announced in the “Salisbury Declaration” that his government intended to take Dominica to independence. A draft constitution following the monarchial system was issued by government. There were preliminary meetings in London in March 1977 and then delegates of both the DLP Government and the Domiica Freedom Party (DFP) Opposition returned for the full conference held at Marlborough House in May 1977. On 12 July a resolution requesting and consenting to the order for termination was passed by the Dominica Assembly. On 21 July it was debated in the British House of Commons. On 24 July it was debated in the House of Lords and the formal Order was made on the following day 25 July, by the Privy Council in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. The Order would take effect on 3 November 1978.
On 3 November 1978, Dominica achieved independence as a republic within the Commonwealth, and took the name of Commonwealth of Dominica. Patrick John became the first Prime Minster and Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue was the interim President. Frederick Degazon became the first non-executive President on 16 January 1979.
Unlike other former British colonies in the region, Dominica was never a Commonwealth realm, instead becoming a republic on independence. Dominica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Meaning of Independence
Dominica becoming an independent nation, now meant that Britain, no longer controlled the affairs of the country. It was now the responsibility of the newly elected Prime Minister and the locally elected Cabinet. Independence also meant that a Constitution, symbols, emblems, an army, and passports had to be developed for the country.
As an independent nation, Dominica assigns Ambassadors overseas who represent the country. They sign treaties on behalf of Dominica and become members of various international organisations. This is important, as it gives the country equal rights on various issues relating to international trade, policies and treaties.