Year In Review 2014

JANUARY
Saint Lucians ushered in the New Year burdened with the woes of the previous year, and then some: shocking crime, increasing unemployment and economic depression. With several businesses consolidating, others laying off staff and some shutting their doors, Neal and Massy arrived in Saint Lucia. Already a household name in Trinidad & Tobago, it was announced early in the year that Neal and Massy was now the sole shareholder of Gablewoods Supermarket and majority shareholder of Consolidated Foods Ltd, with a sixty percent share interest.

A STAR expose of George Benson, the 2013 winner of the prime minister’s award for innovation, goes viral. Employing women under the “SMILES” programme, the company Cellestial had purported to be locally manufacturing cell-phones and tablets, claims later proved false. Cellestial and its CEO have since vanished into thin air.

On January 4, 51-year-old Ian Bruce Sullivan perished when his Suzuki Grand Vitara crashed into a container at the Bois D’Orange Bridge, then under construction. This led to an island-wide fury of angry comments about inadequate road signs and lighting on the island’s roads.

And on Friday January 17 Roger Pratt, 62, from Warwickshire was killed and his wife Margaret injured by armed men who climbed aboard their yacht while it was moored off the dock in Vieux Fort.

FEBRUARY

It was not all love during Cupid’s month. However, Saint Lucians demonstrated much affinity with the departed Sir John Compton when finally the long-awaited monument in his honour was unveiled in Constitution Park on February 21, the eve of our country’s 35th anniversary of Independence. More reason to celebrate the memory of the Father of the Nation was supplied by his daughter Chef Nina after she made it to the finals of Bravo’s Top Chef reality-TV show. Nina lost the top spot to Nicholas Elmi but was declared Saint Lucia’s culinary ambassador by the government as the island launched the 2014 Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival on February 6.

Questions about the island’s health care facilities were raised once again after two mysterious deaths were recorded in February. Firstly Samantha Atkins died at the St Judes hospital on February 5 during childbirth. Then on February 12, Daniel Esnard of Soufriere died, having been stabbed during an altercation on January 26. Esnard had been treated at the Soufriere hospital the day of the incident, his wound stitched, and he had been discharged. However, his family claimed his wounds were more serious than diagnosed and he later suffered some internal bleeding.

MARCH
This was probably the month of foreign affairs or mis-affairs. On Wednesday March 5, while addressing the opening ceremony of a retreat for heads of missions, Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy highlighted several lapses in the appointment of such heads as well as the operations of those overseas-based missions and embassies. Saint Lucia also got a lot cozier with ALBA by announcing that the Dennery Bridge, when completed, would be named the ALBA Bridge after the regional trade block the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

In more foreign linkages, a Russian regatta knocked on Saint Lucian doors for the first time. The event was held March 21-29.

During the month of March calls went out for the closure of the detention cell, euphemistically known as the Custody Suite, due to the inhumane conditions there. The call was started by Peter “Ipa” Isaac who had been detained there in February.

Thieves also found a new source of income – copper. In March there were several reports of items made of copper being stolen around the city including the cathedral and the Derek Walcott Square.

APRIL
In April, a relatively new word Chikungunya would become the new buzzword, literally, for the next few months. The first case of the disease, which is spread by the aides egypti mosquito, was reported here in April. However, the biggest shocker of the month would be the murder of local hotelier and businessman Oliver Gobat whose charred remains were found on April 25. Before that, police made the discovery of two other bodies, one at Pigeon Point on April 9 and another on April 15 at the Marisule beach. Both men had apparently been killed.

Residents of Coubaril challenged the Development Control Authority (DCA) regarding approval for the change of use of lands at Coubaril, Castries from residential to commercial to facilitate the relocation of the offices of the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF).

In another closely followed case here, Molly Allen stuck to her guns in a bullying case involving her daughter. In the end, the courts ruled that the perpetrator who had assaulted her daughter was guilty and ordered to pay a fine.

And he is now Sir Julian (Hunte that is) after he was knighted by the queen of England.

April ended with a record crowd showing up at the Mindoo Phillip Park for the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival opening event.

MAY
It was the month where things were supposed to be spiced up by the annual Jazz & Arts Festival. However, a new player,“fiscal deficit” was a main act on the Saint Lucian stage that month. During his budget presentation, the prime minister announced that the island was facing a fiscal deficit of EC$325.9 million. Attempts by the government to gain support for a 5% pay cut from civil servants have since failed.

Carnival budget was slashed in May as Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts heated up until Mother’s Day May 10th with a sort of anti-climax by R&B singer Maxwell. However Tessane Chin, Elvis Crespo, the Commodores and others gave memorable performances.

SLASPA lost a major case against boat owner Robert Leotaud in May. The boat owner recounted the obstructions he received from SLASPA in setting up his boating company Reel Irie.

JUNE
They were no June bugs but termites caused a premature closure of school at the Corinth Secondary after teachers went on strike. The Ministry of Education subsequently suspended classes for a week to allow for the demolition of a wing of the school which had been infested by termites.

The Anti-Gang Act was passed in Saint Lucia in June. The Act, No. 4 of 2014, seeks to criminalize gang-related activities including gang membership, facilitating gang-related criminal activities, advising gangs, and recruiting for gangs.

They were not labeled as gangs but a group of armed policemen, while attempting to subdue a mentally ill man in La Ressource, Vieux Fort, shot and killed him on June 16.

Carnival fever was supposed to be in the air but hardly anyone was catching it. As a result the June 15 official carnival opening at Mindoo Phillip Park flopped miserably.

JULY
There was not much earth-shattering or rip-roaring political satire coming from the calypso tents in July although it was certainly the month to “hurt it” any which way one could.

Still there was much more coming from the pulpit, particularly the news on July 6 coming out of the church. Parish Priest Fr. Stephen Quinlan was accused of “inappropriate behaviour, incompatible with the priesthood”. The decision was taken to withdraw the priest from pastoral ministry.

When common entrance results were announced here on July 8 it reflected a decline in the overall average. 2631 students wrote the examinations, registering an average mean of 60.9%, which represented a decrease of 0.35%. The 2013 average mean was 61.25%.

Carnival results for 2014: Carnival Queen – Lucia Jn Paul, Calypso Monarch – Walleigh, Just Us Kids – Junior band of the Year, Arthur – Groovy Soca Monarch, Ezra – Power Soca Monarch, Sedale – The Wave’s People’s Choice, and Rituals – Carnival Band of the Year. However, the most noise for Carnival 2014 surrounded a mouse, J-Mouse that is, and his road March song “Hurt It.” And what a scandal the theme caused on the road for Carnival Monday and our unforgettable STAR front page of July 26.

AUGUST
Although the Zouks let us down once again the CPL stirred up the passion of cricket fans here.

The government of Saint Lucia sought parliamentary approval for a loan guarantee for a UWI expansion plan while the Ministry of Education announced a review of schoolbooks. This resulted in a schoolbook rush towards the end of August ahead of the new school term in September.

SEPTEMBER
It was certainly a firestorm here in Saint Lucia when members of the Saint Lucia Fire Service voted on September 1 to take strike action to force the authorities to address a number of outstanding grievances. The actions by the fire service turned into a national crisis resulting in an address by prime minister Kenny Anthony on the matter. It was later announced that the fire chief, who was a source of contention within the fire service, would be seconded to SLASPA. Then on September 11, following a meeting chaired by acting prime minister Philip J Pierre, firemen agreed to return to work on condition that a timeline would be undertaken to implement some of their terms and conditions.

A major scam involving a local Insurance broker was exposed here. The broker, who has since disappeared, left several persons thousands of dollars in the red.

Senator Stephen King rocked the house in September voting “no” to “belated loan guarantees”.

And the nation was placed on alert by Ebola.

OCTOBER
October opened up in a festive mood with the start of Creole Heritage Month and Oktoberfest En Kweyol on October 5. It would end with the annual staging of Jounen Kweyol on Sunday October 26 in the communities of Monchy, Mon Repos, Vieux Fort, Anse La Raye and Dennery.

However, it was a culture of crime that continued to rock the nation, this time with an apparent double slaying in Soufriere. The body of McDonald St Rose was one of two dead bodies recovered in Fond St Jacques on Wednesday 8th October. The 31-year-old had been shot. The other individual was a 66-year-old farmer Victor Jn Phillip who also died as a result of a gunshot wound.

NOVEMBER
Coming into November the United Workers Party Annual Delegates’ Conference and elections was the hot ticket. At the convention on November 2, Allen Chastanet staved off a challenge from Claudius Preville to retain leadership.

Saint Lucians also weighed in on the announcement on November 6 by Cable and Wireless Communications PLC (CWC), owners of LIME, that it had reached a conditional agreement to acquire Columbus International Inc., owners of FLOW. The acquisition was valued at US$3.025 billion.

And on Monday November 10 police shot and killed another mentally ill man in Vieux Fort. 25-year-old Christopher Severine was shot in the vicinity of Bruceville, Vieux Fort.

In legal news the DCA was ordered to pay costs in the SSDF matter and to restore the building to its original state.

The Gobat family offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons in the murder of Ollie Gobat.

DECEMBER
Former Saint Lucian Attorney General Lorraine Williams was appointed to the position of Resident High Court Judge for Nevis by the Hon. Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).

Meanwhile Trouya residents said no to a proposed hotel development encompassing Trouya cove.

A fire on board the cruise ship Insignia, which was docked at port Castries on December 11, left three persons dead.

The controversial Bois D’Orange bridge which cost taxpayers more than EC$11 million was officially opened.

Saint Lucia closed the year with the number of homicides recorded for 2014 at 34 and an alarming number of suicides, 13.

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