A comedy of errors, and nobody is laughing

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It was the weirdest thing. A historic passage between Africa and Antigua was being opened up, and He of a High Place was absent. He was not at the water cannon salute or the grand speeches at the V C Bird Airport on Independence Day last year. He was not standing alongside two of his cohorts as they waxed eloquent about the ‘wonderfulness’ of Antigua Airways. Of course, onlookers wondered why He of a High Place was AWOL. After all, in light of the dozens of failed projects and initiatives bedeviling his lame Administration, one would have thought that he would be standing front and centre to receive the acclaim for finally delivering something. But, no. He hid in the background and sent his two flunkies to welcome our African brothers and sisters – the ones who were hyped as ‘wealthy investors’ and ‘tourists.’ Never mind that they were later called ‘refugees’ and ‘opportunists’ by this sorry Administration.

Yes, sireee! Those who were once heralded as the best thing to happen to Antigua and Barbuda since Independence in 1981, were now being ‘cussed-off’ by Those in High Places. In fact, after the disaster at sea where three migrants lost their lives, and another thirteen are still missing, this mealy-mouthed, two-faced Administration shed crocodile tears, saying that they are eager for the Africans who were rescued by St Kitts to return to Antigua, blah, blah, blah.  Then, ooops! Those in High Places quickly changed their minds, saying, in not so many words, that the Africans do not want to be in Antigua, and they will depart from our shores as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Got that right.

Seems, the Africans have been doing just that. They are leaving Antigua and Barbuda by any means necessary for any port that will bring them closer to their dream of settling in the United States. This writer is aware of a house on All Saints Road, near the John I Martin property, that was once teeming with Africans. As of last night, there were less than a handful there. Where have they gone? How did they manage to leave? And with the help of whom? How much did they have to pay? Who is making money from those who are desperate to find a way out of Antigua? The African migrants were duped.

Of course, Those in High Places have feigned innocence in this entire shady affair. They too are claiming that they were duped, supposedly by sketchy operatives in Africa, but nobody believes their “we-were-duped” tale. We believe that they knew all along what this operation was all about.

Meanwhile, this Administration has not accepted any blame or responsibility for the tragedy that befell some of our African brothers and sisters, and they have, rather strangely, not properly mourned or memorialised those who perished. Quite callous and uncaring. Consider, if you will, how Greece declared three days of national mourning­ after a vessel carrying migrants sank in some of the deepest waters in the Mediterranean, off Greece. The confirmed death toll is 81, and the authorities are suggesting that the chances of finding any more survivors are slim. So far, only about 100 people made it to safety from the overloaded fishing vessel that left Libya for Italy. We mourn with the Greeks, as well as the people of Pakistan, Syria and Egypt, from whence most of the migrants hailed.

The Greek coast guard has been criticised for its failure to act more quickly as the tragedy unfolded. They claim that the migrants insisted they didn’t need any help, but non-governmental organisations say they received a number of calls for emergency assistance. We believe that there will be an investigation into that matter. As well there ought to be. It is a Greek tragedy, and Poseidon and Amphitrite, the god and goddess of the sea, according to Greek mythology, can hardly be resting easy.

Of course, we feel the pain and hurt of the bereaved families. As John Donne, the great English poet declares in NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. . .” Sadly, our leaders are not imbued with that milk of human kindness. Those in High Places are devoid of any sympathy for the bereaved. More than a dozen of our African brothers and sisters perish, after being brought here to this country in collaboration with fly-by-night operatives in Africa, on a fly-by-night airline, in which we have twenty to forty fly-by-night percent equity, and who left our shores in a fly-by-night vessel, and we supposedly bear absolutely no responsibility? Are we so cold and heartless? Are those who perished beneath the waters of the Atlantic, to be treated like animals? And not a tear will be shed? Not a moment of silence for our African kith and kin? What have we become? Talk about insensitivity!

Indeed, the detachment of this Administration was brought into stark relief at the end of last week’s Cabinet meeting. According to the Cabinet notes of June 14, 2023, There was no discussion on the West African migrants.” Not a blessed word! Here we have this most important matter hanging over our heads, much like the sword of Damocles, and our wonderful Cabinet members meet for a whole day and say absolutely nothing about the human tragedy, of which we are intimately a part. Sigh.

There has been no update on how many Africans remain in Antigua. There has been no explanation as to how they are being smuggled out. No explanation as to what was in those huge crates that were taken from the cargo bay of the Antigua Airways aircraft. No update as to how many Africans availed themselves of the regularisation offer from our government. Indeed, based on anecdotal evidence, it appears as though the Africans gave our hypocritical government the finger and told them to shove it. We do not believe that any African seriously considered making Antigua and Barbuda his home for any length of time.In that regard, it would be nice to get an update from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), those two entities that this administration has taken great pleasure in name-dropping, in a cynical attempt to show that their hands are clean, and that they are being transparent.

In short order, there will be no African migrants in Antigua and Barbuda, and this Administration will breathe a sigh of relief. So much for Marvellous Mike, and his printing press.  So much for the Antigua Airways collaboration with LIAT. So much for an expansion of the Antigua Airways venture to other parts of the Caribbean. Nobody is/was interested. There have been no takers on anything that has to do with this screw-ball idea, from its conception, to the day that it was declared ‘defunct,’ by He of a High Place.

The sad thing is that, notwithstanding the many comical aspects to this saga, nobody is laughing. Our African brothers and sisters were ripped off. And some paid for this fiasco with their lives. Why not set up a Commission of Inquiry so that we can get the needed answers, and so that our government will never again be so easily duped? Don’t laugh, folks. It’s a dry-joke.

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