What about Coulibistrie?
In the quiet Dominican village of Coulibistrie, there is some disquiet.
It won’t be heard upon entering the area located about 45 minutes outside the capital of Roseau. But a quick tour of the alleys revealed a few Dominicans who felt they were being given a hard deal.
Coulibistrie has had hard times in the last four years. It was destroyed in late August 2015 by Tropical Storm Erica, and just as it was making a comeback, along came Hurricane Maria on September 18, 2017, tearing off roofs and flooding homes, many of which remain damaged and unoccupied.
Residents recall the nearby river rising almost 20 feet and overflowing its banks.
“Water was everywhere. My daughter was upstairs, and she could see the water at her window. Everything came down from the river. Rocks, trees, houses, everything,” Sylvia Parillon recalled.
Parillon benefited from some Barbadian generosity in 2015 after Erica, as books were delivered for her daughters, who had lost all school textbooks during the storm.
But she said the most disappointing thing was that since then, many have turned their back on the rural community.
“We are still the way the storm left us. We see other communities getting help. What about us?” she asked.
Her daughter Kischer Charles said children had to go for long periods without eating some weeks, since many parents remained unemployed, and very little money was coming into most households.
John Foye (left) and his friends complained about their village, Coulibistrie, being left to fend for itself after Hurricane Maria.
John Foye, a businessman who lost two of his ventures during Maria, lambasted the Roosevelt Skerrit government, saying Coulibistrie residents had been left to work it out on their own.
“Nothing has been done to mitigate the damage done to this community,” Foye said, while admitting that he was not a supporter of Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party.
“We are just at the mercy of God. This community, many persons here did not support the Labour Party, and we feel we are being penalised for that. If you aren’t with them, it’s like they want you to remain poor.”
Foye said agriculture was the mainstay of Coulibistrie, and that sector remained in ruin.
“Right now, none of us can see anything. Government has not provided the incentive, the venues, the environment that we can be better in life. During Maria, a lot of houses were damaged, and it’s only about three months ago that some officials came here talking about housing. We told them we are hearing other communities are being built, but nothing is happening in our community. We haven’t heard them again,” he said.
The businessman said the banana crop was flourishing in Coulibistrie before Hurricane Maria came, but little has been done to restore it in the two years since most of the trees and root crops were washed into the sea.
“If you ask the government if they have a station where they can propagate new plants, they don’t even have that,” Foye complained while sitting with some friends in the seaside community.
Bananas without a market
“Some people have replanted bananas, but bananas without a market or assistance is no help. Money was distributed along political lines, not for the bona fide farmers,” he said.
Another man, who didn’t wish to give his name, said he had worked in Barbuda after that island was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria, and what pleased his heart was that the government went about repairing all homes and trying to get the entire island back on its feet, no matter the political persuasion of residents.
He said unemployment was rife in Coulibistrie, especially among young people who were now forced to become vendors of some sort.
To support his claim, he showed the Sunday Sun team some young men on the street, two who were selling roast corn, and another, vegetables.
The people agreed that Coulibistrie deserved better treatment.
Foye said he understood Roseau should have been repaired quickly, but it was not good enough that they have been waiting two years to get the village back to normal. (BA)
Just the foundation was left at this home in Coulibistrie. (Picture by Nigel Browne)