January 31, 2000
Labor Party ousts government in Dominica

                  ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) -- The Dominica Labor Party ousted the
                  government in a closely contested election that featured allegations of
                  corruption, pacts with gangsters and a secret deal with a religious sect.

                  "Labor time! Labor power!" supporters yelled as they paraded through the
                  streets of Roseau on foot and in a horn-blaring motorcade.

                  But Labor's narrow victory will force it into a coalition -- already discussed
                  before the vote -- with one-time rivals from the conservative Dominica
                  Freedom Party.

                  "I thought we would have done even better," the country's new leader, Rosie
                  Douglas, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said he
                  would work to allow the Freedom Party "to feel comfortable in the
                  government, in that way we will be able to effectively rule."

                  Preliminary results Monday night gave Labor 10 seats, up from five, to nine
                  for the outgoing United Workers' Party and two seats to the Freedom Party.
                  Official results were expected by early Tuesday. Some 60,000 people were
                  registered to vote.

                  "We concede that we have lost the election," the outgoing Communications
                  Minister Earl Williams said on private Marpin Channel 5 television.

                  Douglas told the AP that his government would immediately halt and review
                  a program to raise money by selling passports to foreigners that his party
                  charges has besmirched the image of Dominica.

                  "I'm going to stop it immediately," Douglas said. "It must be something
                  strictly to help the development of the country ... We need to get out all the
                  kinks, and to see if it is able to measure up to international law."

                  The Labor Party warned the practice may make travel more difficult for
                  islanders and their relatives who have left the country. Dominica has fewer
                  than 80,000 citizens who live on the island, but another 100,000 live abroad.

                  Jasmine Felix, an 18-year-old teacher who was voting for the first time, was
                  more concerned that the government was not getting enough money for the
                  passports. Under the "Economic Citizenship" program, agents can charge
                  whatever they want as long as they give the government $50,000 for each
                  "investor" who gets a passport.

                  "St. Kitts charges $200,000. We should get more," said Felix, referring to
                  neighboring island state St. Kitts and Nevis.

                  Outgoing Premier Edison James denies charges of corruption and had hoped
                  to win a second term on his government's record of building homes, schools
                  and water pipelines and plans to build an international airport in hopes of
                  quadrupling the number of tourists.

                  He also touted the island's economic growth of 3.5 percent last year, despite
                  troubles within the banana industry, the biggest earner of foreign exchange.

                  Some 2,500 of the island's 5,000 farmers have deserted the fields, James
                  said, since the United States successfully challenged Caribbean banana
                  producers' preferred status in the European market.

                  The U.S. State Department has also criticized Dominica's economic
                  citizenship program. In a report last year, it said passports had been sold to
                  some 300 Russians. Noting the increasing power of Russian gangs, the
                  report said the passport sales raised concerns of money laundering in

                  Islanders became concerned after Canada arrested several Chinese people
                  carrying Dominica passports on suspicion that they are involved in an
                  immigration smuggling ring run by Chinese gangs.

                  The Labor Party dominated politics here from 1961 to 1979, when strikes
                  and internal bickering led to its ouster by the Dominica Freedom Party,
                  which was dominated by former plantation owners.

                  Dominica won self-government from Britain in 1967 and gained its formal
                  independence in 1978.

                  Fearing a Labor resurgence, James repeated charges Sunday that Douglas
                  had met with leaders of the South Korea-based Unification Church and
                  would allow it to return to Dominica. Several Caribbean countries expelled
                  the group, headed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, two years ago because
                  they consider it a cult.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.