Prime Minister Gaston Browne has praised his government’s response to hurricane Irma in his New Year’s Day message, which thanked those who came to the aid of the sister-isle.
Describing Irma as the mightiest storm in the Caribbean’s history, that laid waste to Barbuda, Browne also noted: “the people of this nation showed their capacity to stand in each other’s shoes.”
“When fortune turned against some of us; the rest of us stretched out a helping hand,” he added.
In his near forty-minute long video presentation Browne said: “never was the outpouring of our national concern so deeply shown.”
The Prime Minister said the mighty force of Hurricane Irma tested our spirit, but it could not break our resolve.
“The people on Antigua opened their homes; their wallets and their hearts to the residents of Barbuda, in an act of brotherhood, that celebrated the kind-hearted character of our nation,” he told television and social media viewers.
But the country’s leader also praised his administration’s own efforts in light of the uncertainties that followed Irma.
He said there was no manual for the evacuation of every man, woman and child from an island and no guidebook on how to provide for evacuees in temporary shelters, and how to care for them.
“Yet, we accomplished all this, and except for one child, Carl Francis Jr, whose unfortunate passing we shall forever mourn, the residents of Barbuda are alive and well,” the prime minister said.
“No one contracted any waterborne or vector-borne disease. No one is without food or shelter; none have been left abandoned; the needs of all have been attended,” he boasted.
He said a government pre-school will be renamed after the toddler who died on September 6, 2017, when Irma destroyed Barbuda.
Browne announced that opportunities for Barbudans will be expanded this year by providing them with freehold ownership of land.
He also denounced what critics have called a land grab calling it a “mischievous falsehood”.
Watch his full speech here: