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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 32 - Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Dominica's History Revisted
by: Thomson Fontaine

Twenty-eight years ago in December, the Dominica Parliament under the leadership of then Premier Patrick R. John passed an amendment to the Prohibited and Unlawful Societies and Associations Act 1974(The Dread Act).

The original Act was passed by near unanimous approval by Parliament earlier in the year. And so began one of the worst chapters in Dominicas history with the severe repression of human rights on the Island. Under the Dread Act, individuals wearing dread locks and who appeared in public were guilty of an offense and subject to an arrest without warrant.

Young men found guilty of benign offenses such as taking one coconut from land that they did not own could face mandatory jail time without the right to appeal, if found guilty. The Act protected any civilian who killed or injured a member of the Dreads who was found illegally inside a dwelling house, from civil or criminal liability.

In addition, the security forces received immunity from the killing of members of the movement. Passage of the Act therefore resulted in the killing of untold numbers of young men by the security forces. The Act has been regarded as the most shameful and repressive bit of legislation ever passed in Dominicas Parliament.

To date, no one has ever been prosecuted, held to account, or made to pay for the carrying out of these atrocious deeds. As far as The Dominican could determine the repressive Dread Act, although no longer enforced still remains on the law books in Dominica, albeit to our eternal shame.

At the time of the passage of the Act, the term Dread was used to refer to predominantly young men who practiced the Rastafarian religion, and grew their hair long and matted.

Other words that were commonly used during that time as outlined by Premier John to Parliament in what he referred to as Dread langageu A small motion (to walk away); a piece (illegal firearm); Babylon (society); endless concrete (city buildings); endless man (large crowds); itals (vegetables and food not containing meat or salt); leggobeast (woman not accepting of Dread ideology).

Editors Note:
Much more detailed information on this era in Dominica's history including the rational advanced by the government for imposing the Act, the mood of the country at the time and the tumultuous events of Dominica in the seventies is detailed in Back to Eden available through The

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Volume No. 1 Issue No. 32
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