CABINET NOTES of Wednesday 26 June 2024

Gov't spokesman Lionel 'Max' Hurst

HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 26 June 2024

As is customary, the Cabinet began its meeting with a prayer from a religious Minister.

1.i. The Cabinet held intense discussions on the repair of community roads and drains. The recent rains have impacted many of the country’s roadways. In order to address the conditions, the Ministry of Works has agreed to focus on community roads that are most in need of repairs. Drains will also be constructed to ensure that water does not settle on the roads, since accumulated pockets of water can lead to erosion of the surfaces of the roads. The Cabinet urges drivers to exercise great care in order to diminish the likelihood of accidents, and harm to passengers and other drivers.

1.ii. It was reported that the newly-built fence on the Factory Road, demarcating the northern border of the intended new Tomlinson’s Cemetery, was partially destroyed by a speeding driver whose car crashed through the steel and broke apart the cement foundation.

1.iii. The Cabinet congratulated the organizers, the volunteers and the many workers who made possible the successful Cricket T20 Games at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The crowd support was phenomenal, the Cabinet noted, making Antigua a fit and proper venue for the international sport. The show of support and interest on the last day pleased the Cabinet members.

2. The Cabinet invited Mr. Simon Springett—the new United Nations Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean—to its meeting, in order for the Ministers to greet him and to examine cursorily the projects which the UN supports in the designated countries, including the British Overseas Territories. The Representative noted that he was present in Antigua during the SIDS4 Conference; he took the opportunity to congratulate the Cabinet for a very well-executed four-day Conference (May 27 to 30, 2024, inclusive), and pledged to work closely with the Government to achieve the ABAS (Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS). He noted that 2024 promises to be a very busy hurricane season, and pledged a strong U.N. response to the extreme weather events that are likely to strike the region.

3. The Cabinet invited the Administrator and manager of the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE) to address a scholarship program which the Cabinet hopes to operationalize in the September 2024 semester. Fifty scholarships are to be distributed among deserving youth, through the Work Experience Program (Department of Labour), eager to learn the skills which are imparted by the ABICE, and to earn certification in their area of expertise. Carpenters, plumbers, masons, electricians, and other building skills are taught to youth who wish to enter industry. Most industries now require certification for new employees, causing ABICE to be seen as an employment training program. The usual fee is $500 per year, the program lasts 18 mo0nths, and there are 827 registrants at this moment. The expansion of the facility will result in even more students enrolling.

4. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health was invited to Cabinet to address the issue which caused about 20 nurses and their supporters to picket the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, and the Cabinet on Wednesday. It appears that the Principal Nursing Officer (PNO), believing that a place on the Midwifery Board is assigned to that office, objects to being left out. The Cabinet examined CAP 281, the Midwifery Act, and agreed that the PNO is not one of the offices mentioned in the Act for inclusion on the Board. The law was last amended in 1989. Nevertheless, Cabinet has asked the Permanent Secretary to convene a meeting with the PNO, the Attorney General and others in order to reach a compromise so that the nurses can get back to caring for patients.   

5.i. The Registrar at the High Court, accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of Legal Affairs, the Principal Assistant Secretary and another official were invited to Cabinet to address a challenge at the Family Court within that building. The recent rains have evidenced a leak in the roof which caused moisture to accumulate in the ceiling, and for an unpleasant odor to emanate from the closed area. Sixteen staff members service that Family Court, and several staff members occupying one of the rooms have reported feeling unwell from the unclean air. The Cabinet took a decision to find an alternate space for the Court and for its staff, and to have the Ministry of Works remove ceiling tiles and to make repairs to the roof.

5.ii. The Attorney General announced to Cabinet that the Magistrates’ Court on High Street, having been fully repaired and renovated, will be handed over to the Chief Magistrate on Friday 28 June 2024. Work has been on-going at that site for many months. The building was once the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda, built around 1965 or nearly 60 years ago.

The Attorney General expressed profound thanks to the Minister of Works for the focused and successful approach towards the repair of this historical building, and its readiness to receive the courts once more.

6.i. Cabinet has agreed to the employment of a psychiatrist to replace the outgoing doctor who resigned his post. That assignment will commence shortly.

6.ii. Cabinet was informed that repairs on the Cobbs Cross Clinic are complete. Work is beginning on the Clinic in Liberta, making the villages in that southeast corridor better served.

7. Cabinet has decided that it will move the Parliament to enact a piece of legislation that will expunge the criminal convictions of those men and women who were convicted for possessing small amounts of cannabis in their possession. The Cabinet agreed that the most efficient method that can be utilized to achieve the objective is by way of legislation. The Parliament will be convened in July 2024, shortly after the Government benches are fully occupied.

8. The Cabinet applauded Ms. Carla Marie, the top student at the Jennings School, who has delighted her parents and her fellow students by her outstanding performance. The Representative of St. Mary’s North was asked to deliver the Cabinet’s applause to the student from that constituency.

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