Two men watch looting after Maria
Two men watch looting after Maria

A few days after Hurricane Maria, a select few private sector operators were invited to meet the Prime Minister et al to "dialogue." The private sector requested the commissioning of an inquiry into the failure of the Police to act in addressing the wanton looting of enterprises. The PM outrightly refused the request! The following week, the umbrella Dominica Business Forum convened a press conference where Governor Achille Chris Joseph, and President Severin McKenzie, were forceful in their demand for a Commission of Inquiry into the failure of the Police to act. The former expressed that the "Police Brass, and even the political bureaucracy, MUST take responsibility for the Police failure." Again, the Government did not budge!

Let's fast forward to February 2018, five months following the hurricane. With no Commission of Inquiry by the State, and no ongoing dialogue between the private sector and the State, a few brave business owners filed a suit seeking a declaration from the High Court that the State, via the Police, failed in its duty to intervene with despatch to stop the looting and destruction of private property. It is important to note here that the 2014 annual report from the DSS lists about 2000 registered employers in Dominica, yet less than 7 such employers had the balls and intestinal fortitude to seek a declaration from the High Court that the Police failed, and that there is a perfect correlation and nexus between that failure and the massive looting and destruction to enterprises. And this declaration is being sought because the PM has refused to commission an inquiry. Shame on private sector owners and leaders! We are now into the ninth month post Maria, and the private sector has not gotten their inquiry or any inquiry as a matter of fact, yet they remain hushed, timid, stooped, afraid, and cowardly searching for a way out of the confrontation with the PM.

As if the disregard by the PM is not enough, the State has filed its defence to the law suit. In the defence, the State expresses, "the businesses argued in the suit that the wanton and widespread looting was caused by negligence of the Police...but the defendants (The State) contend that the theft and malicious damage were directly caused by the Hurricane Maria and its aftermath…". What? The State is saying that Maria caused the looting and malicious damage? And the private sector is not contending against this insult? The private sector is not insisting that the Police stood by while looting took place?

Here's more from the State defence, "The law does not provide for compensation for loss including theft following a riot, civil commotion, strife or civil disobedience. The law of negligence does not impose a duty on the Police to protect private individuals or property in the midst of or during events like Hurricane Maria and, in addition, the Police Act does not legally command the Police to protect private property during events like hurricanes."

Additionally, the Attorney General avers, "…a Commission (of Inquiry) was not and is not warranted or in the public interest. It is further averred that there was no legal or other obligation on the government to make or offer compensation in the circumstances of this matter."

What utter disrespect to the engine of growth in Dominica. The private sector remits the bulk of taxes to the Inland Revenue Division; the lion's share of border taxes collected by Customs and Excise; all entertainment licenses; all liquor licenses; all VAT; the bulk of storage, tailgate and cargo handling revenues of DASPA; 50% of the price of a gallon of petrol at the pump; the bulk of tipping fees levied by Solid waste; all inspection fees levied by the Bureau of Standards; and we can go on and on and on.

Doesn't the private sector know the power it possesses? But again, it seems we are witnessing power in the hands of cowards. What a shame!

By: aceejay