An Op-Ed in the New York Times a few days ago was titled, 2016. Worst. Year. Ever? Despite the question mark, we were curious to find out why the writer would have wondered aloud, on paper, whether the year, just about to end, was worse than any other.
As far as we are concerned, the jury is out on that one, and when the history of 2016 would have been written, it might turn out to be no worse or no better than any other. And, as the piece concluded, at least we don’t have too much longer to go, today being the last of the year.
Here, in Antigua & Barbuda, 2016 began on a sad note. On New Year’s Day, a mother set her daughter alight. It took more than a million dollars and months of hospitalisation to bring back some semblance of normalcy to the child’s life. Her mother has been charged for the crime and awaits the judge and jury.
As the curtain closes on the year, the slough of despond is threatening; as yet again a family mourns the loss of a woman whose life was taken by her spouse.
Domestic violence of the worst kind stalked the land in 2016 resulting in cold- blooded murder. Even the most jaded among us were horrified when the headless body of an elderly man was found in a pond, and we recoiled in horror when a young mother was stabbed multiple times and her fingers amputated in the act of killing her. The father of her four –year- old daughter is today sitting in prison waiting his turn to explain why.
For those who are left to grieve and count their loss, the year could not have been a good one. They would be anxious to turn their backs on this, a leap year, wishing they could erase the troubles that came with it.
Meantime, there was no let up in political unrest and agitation, a staple of our society. During the first month of the year, the opposition rallied its supporters, summoning them to show dissatisfaction in the way the current regime was managing the country. A list of 18 reasons to march was declared to coincide with the 18 months the current administration had held the reins.
Thereafter, there was no escaping political turmoil. Claims of political victimization were levelled against the government, as five members of the opposition were hauled before the court on charges ranging from battery to larceny. In 2017, they, too, will face the court.
There is no end in sight, for in the waning moments of the year the prime minister has declared his intention of suing the public relations officer of the United Progressive Party for allegations he made relating to what has been described as the biggest bribery scandal ever in the history of bribery scandals. The PRO has indicated that he will be counter suing. The new year promises to be interesting, as the battle of wills will continue to be fought, not only in the legal arena, but in the court of public opinion. Observer media will have a ringside seat.
The complaints were long and loud in 2016, as the nation was gripped in the throes of a drought. The taps were more often dry than even dripping. Householders moaned the lack of water, even as they decried frequent power outages. The promise of water on a regular basis and an end to electricity suppression in 2017 is music to the ears.
When the year opened, Zika was only a threat. The virus had been confirmed in 22 countries, five of which were Caribbean territories. Before long, however, Antigua & Barbuda recorded its first case, and to date the numbers no longer seem to matter. We are not aware of any babies being born with microcephaly, the most dreaded result of the disease in pregnant women. As much as we hate to think about it, no doubt the upcoming year will bring new health challenges with which our nation will have to cope.
Alfred Adler said of death, it is really a great blessing for humanity, without it there would be no progress. People who lived forever would not only hamper and discourage the young, but they would themselves lack sufficient stimulus to be creative.
Antigua & Barbuda said goodbye to a few notables in 2016, people who contributed to the growth and development of this country, some in a small way, others in a major way. We recall John Ash, Mickey Matthew, Roland Prince and Eustace Cochrane, who passed on, making the way for others to assume the mantle and carry the torch into the next generation.
Adler could have been speaking, as well, of the death of Fidel Castro, El Commandant, when he penned the words. Castro’s death might be the catalyst which will galvanise the normalization of relationship between Cuba and its neighbour 90 miles to the north.
His observation is apropos as the region gets ready to say final farewell to Sir K Dwight Venner, the man who is credited with upholding, by the sheer weight of his genius, the Eastern Caribbean dollar. Sir Dwight’s death will leave a vacuum, but will make way for others to make even greater contributions to the region.
How will 2016 be remembered? What are the lessons learnt? Which of them will we take into 2017, and which we will not?
The answer, as the song says: is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.
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