LETTER: The People of Antigua and Barbuda Deserve Better

PM at V.C Bird Day celebrations

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has apparently received the Moderna vaccine… three weeks ago and only recently found it to be fitting to reveal that news to the Antiguan people.

One may argue that he never had to tell anyone his status and his medical history is his business; however, I beg to differ especially when the Honourable Prime Minister of his own volition created the expectation that he would be transparent about getting the vaccine.

He decided to say he would be first in line to get vaccinated and do so to boost public confidence in the shot. However, getting the vaccine without previously announcing the vaccine is on island and giving a delayed announcement on getting the shot does not boost anyone’s confidence. I also find it to be quite telling on how the Prime Minister views the intelligence level of Antiguan people by stating on his Facebook page that people are criticizing him for being vaccinated… no, that’s not the case Mr. PM and you know it. It’s how you went about doing it.

I have seen people post on Facebook, “He’s the Prime Minister, he should be vaccinated first.” No one said he shouldn’t be one of the first but again, I stress it is that manner in which this was done. We act as if we do not deserve better leadership. We can say what we want about our peers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but at least, Ralph Gonsalves was transparent about getting the vaccine. I noticed the Prime Minister here was posting about Gonsalves getting vaccinated to make it seem it was normal that leaders be the among the first to get vaccinated but what he didn’t seem to realize is that he was making himself look worse in that we have an image of Gonsalves and his wife openly getting the vaccine and we do not have one of him doing the same. At this week’s press briefing Melford Nicholas said, he does not know that the Prime Minister got the vaccine “in secret” because he shared the news himself but maybe with the vaccine to be rolled out in 14 days and people expecting the Prime Minister would take the vaccine (perhaps on camera) he had to run ahead and save himself from such an awkward situation.

Melford Nicholas also said that a “private family” brought in doses of the vaccine and while it may well be within a well to do’s family’s right to do so, would it be so difficult for the Ministry of Health to inform Antiguans of this? To create a public register to ensure the integrity of shots distributed on island? I’m not saying this is the case but wouldn’t the Ministry of Health want to regulate the distribution of all vaccines to ensure people aren’t given compromised doses in the name of some benefitting financially from this? Didn’t the Prime Minister himself say he wanted to make sure vaccine distribution is transparent to avoid a black market being created here? This cannot be done without transparency and this government is lacking it.

IF the Prime Minister accessed the vaccine from this private family instead of through bilateral arrangements, have the Antiguan people considered what power this family will wield with the government? Can a person from this private family have his or her requests from the government be denied after their family would have provided the Prime Minister with potentially life- saving medicine? I do not see the laws of Antigua being applied equally to a family who would have extended such a favour to the Prime Minister.

I also think it’s unfortunate that a possible antidote to one of the biggest health crises we’ve ever faced was casually announced on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page. Something as important as this is treated in such a callous way as if the Prime Minister was just discussing his favourite restaurant. No press conference, no probing questions being allowed by the press, no presence of the committee recently formed to review vaccines for the island, no word from the health experts.

I also ponder why people are expected to continue to go out to work to make up for the government’s shortfall and place their lives at risk while the Cabinet can partially meet online and the Prime Minister is already protected. The country is executing its own lockdown as more and more businesses close as our numbers climb and our hospital resources are stretched. Melford Nicholas said that the government has weeded out a weak spot in the closure of bars but apparently it hasn’t been effective. We are seeing more confirmed cases in a week than we did for months last year. The health of the Antiguan people isn’t a priority but then again if politicians get sick, they probably have access to a “private family” who can fly them out and ensure they have the best healthcare while we are here dying. Buju Banton said, “Who can afford to run will run but what about those who can’t? They will have to stay.”

I also want to briefly talk about the financial state of Antigua and Barbuda. The Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle raised a salient point in Parliament this week. I think it’s unfortunate that the need for giggles have caused us to focus on unflattering parts of his presentation instead of the content. He said that the financial growth the country is said to have experienced under the present administration ought to resonate in the pockets of the average Antiguan and Barbudan. I implore us to think about the way Antigua looks and the assets we own and tell me if we see any advancement among our people? The Prime Minister loves to harp on how many Antiguans now own vehicles but I hope that we are not as ignorant to think that owning a Vitz or a Honda Stepwgn means we’ve made it. Wealth is measured by owning the means of production and with how many businesses plummeting how do we expect people in Antigua truly prosper? Where is the bail out for small businesses?

The Prime Minister does not seem to be the financial expert he likes to think he is when only a short time into the pandemic he proclaimed the country does not have the “luxury” to close down for an extended period. However, St. Kitts and Nevis which we would like to place ourselves above only recently reopened its borders and has provided its people with a stimulus package. Do we remember when during political campaigns in St. Kitts, our brokeness was the brunt of jokes last year? A man like the PM who loves to respond to people who say the slightest thing about him and his leadership was suddenly lost for words. Couldn’t respond because what the Kittitians said about our poor financial state was and still is true. I understand that we’re going through a pandemic that has been hard for every country but I hope the Antiguan people have the sense to see that we should be better off given the previous years of “tremendous growth.”

Now, the Prime Minister announced during his Budget presentation plans to tax online purchases “at the source.” He said this is because Customs officers and others have been a part of cheating the government of its revenue. Antiguan people, do you hear this? You are admitting that there is corruption in Customs and instead of announcing a plan to rid The Division of this malady by doing a thorough cleanse, you’re just thinking of another way to get the money. Why not say we need to launch an investigation?

The government has also failed to plug loopholes that could have saved the government millions in years to come. How many government departments have their own building? How many buildings are dilapidated but the government pays high rent for? Where is the value for money? If indeed government is continuous, how difficult would it be to place government departments in purpose-built facilities which may have high start up costs but would save the government money in the end. However, when a department moves from one crappy location to a less crappy location, they want to be praised for doing the least.

Also, during Parliament this week, some members announced plans to build community centres in their constituencies and they did this with glee as if people are to be impressed. You have been in office for how many years and up to now, the most basic thing like a community centre isn’t already established? There are so many other robust programs which could be delivered within constituencies to truly empower Antiguans like literacy programs, financial literacy and investment forums, small business training, counseling and mentorship for at risk youth. However, our leaders only see as far as their noses so building a community centre (which they should have already done) seems monumental.

I know Antiguans tend to be divided along political lines however, I hope we don’t view this as a “stupendous” argument (stupendous of course means “impressive” but the PM has been known to use it to mean the opposite) but ask themselves if they do not deserve better from the leaders we’ve elected? If we think we deserve better, when are we going to demand that we are treated better and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire?

Concerned Citizen.

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  1. To the letter writer.You say.The People Of Antigua And Barbuda Deserve Better.I do agreed with your comment,However,when you the people went to the polls in 2018.You gave Gaston Browne and his Political Party 15 seats to 2.When you did that.You the people now deserved what you are getting.

  2. It is a pellucid case of hypocrisy and selfishness on the part of the prime minister. Anyone with a clear conscience can see this for exactly what it is. No serious and sincere leader of any country would engage in such behavior.
    Mr. prime minister, you are supposed to be the servant of the people. The chief servant leads with decent and exemplary actions. However, your actions are the opposite. By their fruits, they shall be known.

    It is a real shame that people are so callous and evil. Anyone who endorses such behavior by the prime minister is of the same character as him.
    Antiguans, when will you wake up from your evil ways. You have heard all the ills that this government is doing on Barbuda. The wanton give away of the lands and abuse of power. It is more than shameful that there are people who accept these cruel behaviors from a government.
    I am telling you: that your wicked ways will be judgement against you one day soon. The riches that you plunder and loot will not save you. Neither you or any of the cronies who scramble at the crumbs that fall from your table. ALL OF YOU WILL ANSWER!
    Yes…I am talking to you business people, religious leaders, politrickians, permanent secretaries, statutory board members, trade union leaders, hotel owners, air traffic controller, calypsonians, radio talk show hosts, political party jumpers, bus and taxi drivers, members of DCA. All of you….the cap fits you and you wear it well.

    It is amazing how these party jumpers are SO SHAMELESS. The Bible did tell of this time though….when the heart of men will become so corrupt and evil.
    Remember a day of reckoning is fast approaching. Your filthy lucre will not be able to save you.
    You can enjoy your life of crimes and corruption now, but what will you do when the Master comes knocking at your door.
    All of you who sell your souls to corruption and turn a blind eye to the wickedness and evil; your day of judgement is soon to come.
    Disgraceful is too much of a decent word to describe your behavior. Those who go on public media and lie everyday to the people.
    Don’t you ever even think that one day soon, you will have to answer for all your evil ways ?
    Yes my friends…that day is fast approaching. Where will you hide ?

    Corruption rules the land of Antigua: from bottom to top.
    Your end is near to come.


  3. Good points. The question also needs to be asked, the “private individual” who obtained the vaccine, how were they able to get it? It is only supposed to be allocated to government then make decisions about the most efficient and equitable rollout. Equity is important, but so also is distribution planning on a public health basis. It is given to those most at risk, because they are most likely to catch it and also most likely to become severely ill from it. In this way we reduce the strain on public health facilities, because those people will hopefully avoid severe illness and therefore not take up a hospital bed. Do the “private individual” and the PM fall into the category of most at risk? Because if not, they are taking the vaccine from someone either in Antigua or elsewhere who is now going to take up a much needed hospital bed. Antigua’s health system as we know is either at capacity or close to it. We don’t need people jumping the queue and putting more stress on the system. Witness leaders in other countries who have said they will wait their turn for the jab.

  4. Excellent letter. Every resident of Antigua needs to ask themselves only two questions. Look around Antigua and ask yourself “Are you better off now than when Gaston Browne first became Prime Minister?”. Then ask yourself “Is Antigua better off now than when Gaston Browne became Prime Minister?”. If you are truly honest with yourself, the answer is clearly no. Gaston has not made any improvements to Antigua or the lives of Antiguans. We are no better off.

  5. I am not at all surprised he has had the shot to help prevent the sickness. Remember he decided to bring the sickness here. He could have closed the airport and the boarder, put maybe 1000 people out of work. Not all resorts were open anyway. But now he can put 30000 out of work. It is time to close the country, he has brought the country to this junction, we will be at the sickness mercy now. You bring the worse performing vaccine to the island, because it is free or donated, yet you receive the best on the market. That is not leadership, that is looking out for you and your family, and I don’t blame you. I blame you for bringing it here, we are an island, it only gets here from abroad. You counted dollars instead of Ill people. This is on your hands. You could have put the common man women and child first, but you choose not to. Now we all have to pay. Close the borders, leave Antigua open to Antiguans, and bring the right vaccine here to help our people. You claim to be a financial wizard, figure it out, 5000 out of work or 40000 out of work, u choose. We have dug our hole, now don’t poor the dirt back in. Help the people who have given you their trust, bring the righrt vaccine, not the free one, and you will prosper. Give Antigua a chance.

  6. When the country went on lock down the first thing he did get his farm land now the first to get the vaccine. He is a man that cares for himself. People need to realize its all about him, enslave the people to get all the benefits. How does independence profit our nation and our leaders continue to sell us out.

    • Unfortunately that describes most politicians.

      Some are worse than others. Unfortunately, Antigua has one of the worst.

  7. All paid for by our tax dollars while dictator and traitor Gaston gets the best one for himself.

    All those that voted this POS in, I hope you happy with your turkey, ham and all the rest of the illegal blatant bribery to get your vote during election time.

    All the dictator and traitor Gaston doing is looking after himself at our expense.

    Where are Nigel Christian’s killers?
    Why haven’t they been brought to justice?
    Where are Nigel Christian’s killers?
    Why haven’t they been brought to justice?

  8. Can you sue the govt, if your child who works in a govt office gets Covid due to the negligence of the PS who knew that one of the staff member has Covid and hide it from the other co-workers.

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