Editorial: What a year!

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In our review of 2018, we asked persons to sum up the year in one word. The responses were as varied as the events of the year. Some described it as “exciting” while others saw it as “depressing.” Many in Antigua reflected on our good fortune, as it related to the passage of Hurricane Irma, and called the year “blessed,” while Barbudans called it “cursed,” “sad” and generally saw the year as being one they would rather forget.  
 All things considered, we believe that we should all feel blessed that we live in this paradise called Antigua and Barbuda. Yes, our sister island suffered a devastating hurricane and one small child tragically lost his life during the storm but it could have been so much worse. We, as a community, should see the positives in that, even as we mourn.
 Hurricane Irma has to be the stand-out event of 2018. The storm not only wreaked havoc across Barbuda and the wider Caribbean, it set off a chain of events that has had far-reaching effects on the way of life for Barbudans and, to a great extent, Antiguans.
 The evacuation of Barbuda as Hurricane Maria threatened, caused a rethink of the land ownership issue on Barbuda. As Antigua hosted their displaced brothers and sisters, the government took steps to eliminate the concept and traditions of communal land ownership and to make amendments to the Barbuda Land Act. These proposed changes would firmly establish the Crown as the owner of the lands in Barbuda, and Barbudans would be considered “squatters” until they took advantage of the offer to own their occupied lands for $1. It signals the introduction of land ownership in the sister
isle for the first time in history.
 Crime also featured prominently in the news. In fact, the first Daily OBSERVER of 2017 featured the headline, “Two Charged With Murder.” It was an ominous start to the year as a series of violent crimes gripped the nation. Luckily the authorities responded and have given the crime situation the attention that it deserves and incidences seems to have abated to some degree. That said, crime still remains of foremost concern, and as the speculation of an early election grows, it will, no doubt, be one of the hot topics on the campaign trail.
 And speaking of early elections, the prime minister has stoked the embers of people’s imagination by stating that the next election would come “like a thief in the night.”  That has put the opposition parties into overdrive as they seek to set their slate of candidates and woo the electorate ahead of any snap election. No one wants to be caught flat-footed if
the rumours of an early
2018 election prove to be true.
 This year, 2017, also saw the establishment of a new opposition party. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA), headed by Joanne Massiah, formerly of the United Progressive Party (UPP), was born out of a power struggle within that organisation. As promised, Ms. Massiah did not go quietly into the night, and she and her colleagues intend to contest all seats during the next general election.
 The UPP was not the only entity with a dramatic power struggle within the ranks. In the constituency of Rural East, Maria Bird-Browne, the wife of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, was gifted the candidacy without doing any work. In one of the most entertaining political soap operas, the current representative, former prime minister Sir Lester Bird, was told that he was retiring. The apparent first choice for his replacement, Senator Michael Freeland, was kicked to the curb because his vehicle was apparently robbed; and the other candidates were told that there was no need for a primary because they were not very popular. But what would Antigua and Barbuda be without political melee?
 We also started the year with the Odebrecht scandal hanging in the air. Then the head of the Citizen by Investment Unit abruptly resigned, followed shortly thereafter by the arrest of businessman Peter Virdee in London, which happens to be the location of the arrest of MP Asot Michael, who was immediately turfed from Cabinet and relieved of all ministerial portfolios. All is not lost for the St. Peter’s constituency representative because he will remain a candidate for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) in the upcoming election. Really, you can’t make up this stuff.
Roads also became a hot topic as they deteriorated before our very eyes and the long-awaited road rehabilitation project stalled. Criticism of the condition of our infrastructure went viral on social media with one critic becoming a sensation.
It did not help that there were more than a few fatal vehicle accidents.
Space does not allow us to get into all the major issues of 2017, such as the attack on free press, the Yasco Fiasco or the aborted CCJ referendum because there are just so many. Be that as it may, we still think that we live in paradise, and we hope that you do as well. We suspect that at the end of 2018, we will again be saying “What a year!” Until then, we wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

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