Year In Review – Crime, Natural Disasters Mark 2005

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y, Fri. Dec. 30, 2005: YK5 quite possibly will be remembered by Caribbean nationals as a year when the crime rates worsened across the region and natural disasters raged. But it was also a year of firsts as the region saw the installation of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Trinidad soccer squad finally made it to the World Cup. HBN looks back at some of the highs and lows of the year that ends officially at midnight tomorrow.

2005 began for Guyanese with the worst flooding the nation had ever seen, as the capital, Georgetown, along with much of the East Coast areas of the country was covered with waist-high waters for almost a month. The floodwaters, which were caused by torrential rain and a breach in the conservancy, left some 31 people dead, some by the Leptospirosis disease and caused about US$500 million in losses according to a U.N. economic commission report.

The January 17 flooding in Guyana, set the stage for what was to come in many of the other Caricom countries, which were also plagued by deadly flooding as the year progressed. Heavy rains, brought on mainly by the season’s hurricanes, lashed several of the islands, including Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad, causing rivers to overflow, flooding villages and killing residents.

In July, Hurricane Dennis, the first storm to threaten the Caribbean in 2005, slammed into Haiti, killing a reported 11. Eleven more were killed in October by rain that caused a landslide due to Tropical Strom Alpha’s wrath.  

In neighboring Dominican Republic, three were killed in October by Alpha and in Cuba and Jamaica, more lives were lost to storms, at least a dozen people.    

Trinidad also recorded fatalities from floodwaters while several minor earthquakes rattled the twin-island Republic along with Dominica and St. Lucia, but no lives were lost and no real damage was reported.

Grenada was once again impacted by a major hurricane this year as Emily blasted the south of the island in July. But luckily for the region, it was spared most of the wrath, with the storms causing flooding more than decimation.

But many more lives were lost to crime in 2005. Trinidad and Tobago is ending the year at approximately 384 homicides and over 200 kidnappings while Jamaica is leading the Caricom region with close to 1,600 homicides this year.

Tiny St. Lucia reached 36 and St. Vincent a reported 26. While Guyana was at a reported 105, with the murder of a USAID contractor, being the latest to attract international media attention. The country’s president, however, insists, that one “a per capita basis, Guyana has a lower crime rate for serious crimes than the US.”

But in Haiti, violence continued to rage with 10 U.N. peacekeepers killed so far this year compared to a dozens of civilians.

This as deportees from the U.S. to the Caribbean reached approximately 6,000 this year. Criminal deportees to the region continued to be blamed this year for the rising crime in the Caribbean as Caricom leaders battled to keep the sugar and banana industry alive amidst strong EU cuts. As on the tourism front, Aruba waged an international media battle that begun following the disappearance of Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway in May and continues to date with calls for a boycott of the island from governors of three southern states.

On the sports scene, the West Indies continued its sorry spate of losses, including a whitewash in November by Australia. But Trinidad & Tobago’s Soca Warriors gave Caribbean fans reason to celebrate that same month, with a win over Bahrain on Nov. 17 that landed them with a spot at the 2006 World Cup as did Brian Lara’s historic record breaking knock, also in November.

On the political scene, April 16 marked the swearing in of CCJ justices and the installation of the court in Trinidad, which also heard its first case this year. In Jamaica, longtime opposition leader Edward Seaga steeped down and left the way open for Bruce Golding even as the county’s PM, P.J. Patterson, announced he will not seek another term. This leaves the Peoples National Congress members, Peter Phillips, Omar Davies and Portia Simpson, all clamoring to replace Patterson with a Stone Poll showing nationals leaning towards a female prime minister.

In St. Vincent & the Grenadines, PM, Ralph Gonsalves was re-elected to power following a nasty political campaign even as Haiti’s interim government, facing international criticism over alleged constitutional infringements, postponed the general election four times, before settling on Jan. 8, 2006. But this date may again be postponed, according to the electoral council.

In the Caribbean Diaspora, many battled the woes wrecked on the Gulf States of Mississippi and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina even as Caribbean nationals in South Florida also endured days of no water and lights following Hurricane Wilma.

While in the UK and Canada, violence claimed the lives of two young second generation Caribbean nationals in incidents that shocked many. On July 31, a, 18-year-old Jamaican-Briton youth was axed to death by white youths in a racist attack even as the nation mourned the 52 Britons, including several immigrants, killed in bombings earlier that month, on July 7.

In Toronto, outrage erupted in the black community against gun violence, as a Trini-Canadian youth was gunned down on Nov. 18th while attending the funeral of his friend, also killed by a bullet. The killers of both young men remain at large.

And in news that made headlines around the world and marked a great end to 2005, a Trini-American union leader shut down the greatest city in the world, the Big Apple, as wage talks between the transit workers and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, broke down. For three days, New York’s public transportation system, which serves 7 million daily, grounded to a halt, forcing many to brave freezing temperatures to walk or cycle to work.

At the end, Roger Toussaint emerged a hero for his union, which walked away happy this week with most of their demands met, even in the face of racist comments emitted by both the city’s mayor, the mainstream media and surprisingly, a black radio personality. –