Young men breaking and entering Chinese store on Independence Street
Young men breaking and entering Chinese store on Independence Street

It was Friday, September 15th 2017. Severin McKenzie, a noted businessman and manufacturer, was relating during a mid-morning discussion on DBS Radio how, in the aftermath of Hurricane David which ravaged Dominica on August 24th 1979, the business community had suffered considerably more damage from looters than from that historic hurricane.

Neither he nor we the listeners could have ever imagined how bizarrely predictive were his reflections to be in a far worse context in just over eighty hours.

Voila! Super cyclone Maria that fateful evening of Monday, September 18th 2017! The devastation was cataclysmic and the death toll unprecedented in recent hurricane history. Her fearsome category 5 winds had barely subsided and then it happened! Hordes of looters, as if instinctively activated like swarming locusts, emerged from seemingly all directions; their target: the business community. The resultant category 5 looting rampage was to certainly match, if not exceed by far, what had occurred on the island of St. Martin just a week before in the wake of hurricane Irma, and was viewed by many here on video.

For late into that night and into the early hours of the morning of Tuesday, September 19th and for the entire week, madness became gladness as virtually every kind of business one could think of was violated with an inexplicably furious yet frolicsome aggressiveness. The business premises damaged or compromised by the storm were obviously fair game. However, armed with bolt cutters, sledge hammers, rippers, hammers, crowbars or any other infraction enhancing implement, some of the marauders powered their way into business places and offices which were still intact and secured after the storm! Post-David looting was made to look like child's play and looting from the standpoint of the present level, had now been re-defined.

The consequences of the looting upon business owners on the island, particularly those in Roseau and environs, were horrendous. No distinction was made between large, commercial enterprises and small businesses, some newly begun or struggling to survive in an already sluggish economy. There were those who had to endure the agonizing sight of looters plundering their blood, sweat, and tears while being right there on their premises. An out of town auto dealer related to me how their business, after having suffered extensive flood and wind damage, was flooded with drive-in looters who made off with tens of thousands of dollars worth of vehicle parts and accessories as he looked on helplessly. Several months later he was still awaiting feedback from the Police concerning any results they had obtained in their investigations from the several licence plate numbers of looters he had given them.

The overtly violent handling of some business people was a rather shocking aspect of this looting episode that must not at all be blanked from memory. A local Chinese store owner, for his attempted bravado to ward off looters approaching his store, had to flee with his family from the fusillade of stones which greeted him from a 'kool woche' brigade.

Yet, probably the most painful memory for certain business owners, was the shocking treachery committed by some employees, as evidenced by video surveillance in a cited case, who were in the vanguard of the assault upon their own 'bread and butter' providers.

But one year later, and with the nation in the positive mode of rebuilding bigger and better, would it not be best that these nauseating memories be put aside and the focus be exclusively instead, of forging ahead in achieving our prized objective of making Dominica the first resilient country in the world?

Didn't someone famous state that "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it"?

To be continued.