ROSEAU – Dominica’s first woman head of state, Sylvanie Burton, was sworn into office on Monday promising to serve all members of the population as the island moves forward in an uncertain global environment.
“Fellow citizens, as I begin this new chapter of my journey, I am very aware that my election to the Office of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica, has sparked unprecedented dialogue because I am Kaliangoo and a woman,” she said, soon after taking the oath of office before High Court judge, Justice Jacqueline Josiah-Graham.
Burton, 58, dressed in the national wear, is from the Kaliangoo Territory, where the descendants of the country’s indigenous people, the Caribs, still reside.
“So let me assure the nation that I will be a president for all Dominicans…both here and abroad, not only for the Kaliangoo, not only for women, but I will be a President for all and let me emphasis all the citizens in our beloved Dominica,” said Burton, who on Sunday was given the island’s highest national award, the Dominica Award of Honour.
The former senior public servant, who became the island’s tenth head of state, replacing Charles Savarin, the former government minister, diplomat and trade unionist, who served a two five year term, said she was asking for the prayers of the nation as she embarks upon the largely ceremonial position.
She quoted from The bible “if we have faith the size of a mustard seed nothing will be impossible and with the blessing of your prayers, I promise that I will serve you with the empathy which have nurtured over the years the value of my journey.
“I will serve you with the courage of my ancestry and most importantly, I will serve you with dignity and honour as together we rise to face a future, though uncertain, one that is ripe with potential and expectant with opportunity”.
Burton told the ceremony that she is reminded of the “struggle and sacrifice of all our ancestors, but in particular, I am reminded of the courage of my Kaliangoo ancestors who shed their blood and gave their lives in defence of this majestic land so that I can stand here today.
“Let me assure you that the gravity of this moment is not lost on me. This is a joyful moment for me on two counts. Not that of just a Kaliangoo native, but also that of a woman being sworn in as the tenth President of the Commonwealth of Dominica”.
But she said her joy is tempered by the enormity of the moment, praising her husband, children and the members of the Kaliangoo territory, saying “I will continue to pray for wisdom and understanding as I have done at other critical junctures in my life.”.
She said Dominica is facing a number of challenges including climate change, artificial intelligence as well as global economic instability.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told the ceremony that the election of Burton to the position of President “must be viewed as a “gesture of hope and optimism”.
He said her background “tells a story of someone who has struggled and triumph. Today, we have sworn in a leader who will serve as a source of inspiration to us all. And again, I say this day belongs to the Lord, let us celebrate and be glad.
“I want us to be inspired by what is taking place here today, ladies and gentlemen. I wish you God’s blessing and guidance in the execution of the your duty. You were this government’s nominee,but you are the people’s President.
“I want you to shine a light for little girls and boys in Dominica to follow. I pledge to you my support and that of the party and government I lead. I may [say] to you that I may not see you through the end of your term, but you can rest assured of my very best wishes in whatever capacity I serve from this day forward,” said Skerrit, saying he remains confident that Burton ‘will serve our beloved country with pride and distinction’. (CMC)
caption: President Sylvanie Burton addressing the ceremony soon after being sworn into office (CMC)