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|Edison Chenfil James|
|3rd Prime Minister of Dominica|
June 14, 1995 – February 3, 2000
|Preceded by||Eugenia Charles|
|Succeeded by||Roosevelt Douglas|
|Member of Parliament|
Assumed office |
28 May 1990
October 18, 1943|
|Political party||United Workers' Party|
Edison Chenfil James (born October 18, 1943 in Marigot) was the prime minister of Dominica from June 14, 1995 to February 3, 2000 as well as the Member of Parliament for the Marigot constituency from 1990. He graduated from the Dominica Grammar School. He holds a Bsc degree in Botany from the University of East London, a MSc degree in Biochemistry from the University of Reading and a post graduate diploma in crop protection technology from Imperial College. He worked in a number of local and regional institutions including the Caribbean Development Bank, but it was as manager of the Dominica Banana Marketing Company that he rose to prominence on the island. He was instrumental in resuscitating the island's critical banana industry which had been decimated by Hurricane David. James has been active in regional cricket as an administrator; he was Manager of the Windward Islands cricket team and the Combined Islands cricket team. He is also a member of the Rotary Club.
In 1988 he headed a committee which founded the United Workers' Party and became its first political leader. From its inception the party was assailed as a group of "disgruntled businessmen"; or "greedy businessmen" by the established parties, but in 1990 the party captured 6 seats in the 21 seat House of Assembly and James became the leader of the opposition. As leader of the opposition, he criticized the ruling Dominica Freedom Party for instituting an economic-citizen programme whereby persons could become citizens of the island for a fee. In the run-up to the 1995 elections, James accused the Eugenia Charles-led government of bugging his party's offices. A commission formed to investigate the matter concluded that the allegations were baseless.
In the June 12, 1995 elections he led the party to victory with 11 out of 21 seats with less votes than the incumbent Freedom Party and became Prime Minister. By then the banana industry was no longer vibrant and so the James-led government embarked on an ambitious program of economic diversification. They passed legislation allowing the creation of off-shore business. In addition, they sought to allow an Australian mining company to conduct exploratory drilling on the island but that move was subsequently abandoned due to criticisms that it would sully the island's reputation as "The Nature Isle". When the UWP government divested its shares in the island's sole power company, the move was met with vociferous condemnation by the opposition. The Opposition was also aroused to indignation by the government's decision to offer asylum to Saudi dissident Mohammad al-Massari, a decision which James later admitted was based on a hope of increased British aid. The government was also pilloried for the economic citizenship program which it had re-engineered and enlarged when they came into office; some thought that the island could become a haven for criminal elements. This criticism was fuelled by the revelation that Australian fugitive Christopher Skase had used the programme to become a citizen of the island. Trying to increase the number of stay-over visitors to the island, the UWP government sought to build an international airport, but this was again met with a cacophony of criticism as some thought that the country would not be able to pay back the debt which would have had to be contracted. The government purchased the requisite lands for the airport but did not have time to physically begin the project. The James-led government was dogged by charges of corruption and these allegations only increased as their term progressed.
James' government did produce some significant achievements. There was a proliferation in the number of scholarships available for secondary and college education. There was some success in diversifying the island's monocrop agricultural sector away from bananas and towards other crops. They also increased public spending on capital project including roads, schools and sea walls. These projects had a visible impact on the economy and the economy grew every year under James' leadership. This sort of economic program was branded 'tou-pas-touism', a Creole word meaning 'everywhere'. The opposition sought to downplay the growing economy, since they felt that it was only being financed by debt. Feeling confident with his government's achievements, James called a snap election six months before they were due in order to quell the allegations of corruption.
In the elections of January 2000, the party suffered a surprise defeat. Though they won the most vote votes as a block, the party lost 3 seats and its majority in parliament. No party won enough seats to form a government on its own. Dominica's other two major parties, the Dominica Freedom Party and the Dominica Labour Party, had agreed to a co-operation agreement to win the election and it was no surprise when they made a coalition against the Workers' Party. James was replaced as prime minister by Roosevelt Douglas.
As of February 2000, James returned to the office of leader of the opposition. Back in opposition, James called on the government to prosecute the charges of corruption in order to clear his party's name, but the government never charged any members of his party with wrongdoing. James was sued for libel by Eugenia Charles as a result of the bugging allegations; he agreed to compensate as well as to publicly apologise to Dame Eugenia.
In the May 2005 elections, the party conducted a vigorous campaign but they lost one seat in parliament. James continued on as leader of the opposition. In July 2005 James was appointed to the CARICOM leaders of government and parliamentary opposition parties committee. However, in December 2005, he did not seek re-election as party leader and he was replaced as leader by Earl Williams. In July 2007 he ceded the office of Leader of the Opposition to Williams.
A February 2007 poll conducted by Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES) found that though he is no longer leader of the United Workers' Party, Mr. James still enjoyed considerable support. 32% of respondents favored his leadership, compared to 58% for Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and 6% for current United Workers' Party leader Earl Williams. James served as president of the UWP for three years, and then was reelected political leader of the party at its January 2012 convention.
| Prime Minister of Dominica
14 June 1995 to February 3, 2000
| Leader of the Opposition
June 1, 1990 to June 14, 1995
| Leader of the Opposition
3 February 2000 to 16 July 2007