All’s not quiet on the Weston front (Part II)

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We ended Part I of the disquiet on the Weston front with the ineptitude of the National Housing – building houses of sticks, so to speak, and the Ministry of Works, building infrastructure of straw. And of course, the obligatory legion of excuses – the ‘huffing and puffing,’ still militate against the homeowners taking possession of their homes. Sigh! Poor longsuffering homeowners! They have been turned every which way!

Naturally, we had to mention the many deadlines that have been declared for the completion of this benighted project. For example, the good Minister of Housing, Maria Bird-Browne airily mentioned one deadline. For his part, the good Minister of Works, Lennox Weston, breezily mentioned two. Not that anyone is placing stock in any of them. After all, it is common knowledge that those whimsical deadlines are not the product of careful thought. Au contraire, they are merely a multiplicity of words designed to placate the irate people. Thus, deadlines will come and deadlines will go, and the incompetence and malfeasance will go on forever!

Which brings us to the latest deadline – the one delivered to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), the hapless company that is pretending to be building two state-of-the-art highways at Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway. According to the good Minister of Works, BHM has until the end of this year to finish the job, or they will be fired. Of course, to that ultimatum, many Antiguans and Barbudans are sighing and saying: “What the hell took officialdom so long to put this unserious BHM on notice?” How the hell officialdom could not see what everybody else was seeing – that this BHM was not up to the task? When Sir George Ryan, an accomplished master-builder in his own right, declared that BHM had no clue, many supporters of the regime laughed and guffawed. When Observer Media Group, and later NEWSCO, dubbed BHM, ‘Bahamas Hot Mess,’ we were tagged with many unflattering epithets. Sadly, we have been proven correct, but we will not rejoice, because this bumbling BHM has wreaked enormous damage.

 Of course, everybody knows that they cannot meet the Christmas deadline set by the good minister; that is unless they increase the manpower from the bare bones crew that they now have, increase their hours of work and equipment, and seek advice from other civil engineering experts. The current experts are out to sea! Sigh! What a catastrophe! It certainly brings to mind a paraphrased version of Sir Winston Churchill’s great speech concerning the Royal Air Force. In that speech, he heaped enormous praise on the airmen for their courage against the German Luftwaffe. In our paraphrased version, we heap scorn and derision on Bahamas Hot Mix with the words, “Never in the field of civil engineering and road-building has so much damage been inflicted on so many by so few!”

Apparently, the good minister, he of the restive spirit, agrees. According to a reporter in this very paper, the good minister said that “He believes that the government was short-changed by having a contractor that has not performed and was not equipped to handle the two projects.” Ouch! We wonder who selected that contractor? We believe that the good minister was a part of the selection panel. If he was not, then we suggest that he ought to have been a part of it. And will there be an investigation? There ought to be a serious investigation into the circumstances surrounding the hiring of BHM. Anyway, in his own words Minister Weston declared, “We got a contractor who they claim came in with good records. I think the contractor tried to do two jobs with [the same] equipment. He was given the Barbuda runway to do, and so he carried all the road equipment to Barbuda, trying to hustle that project and, of course, all of us live in Antigua – very minimal work done on the roads.” Ouch! Testify, Brother Weston! True confession is good for the soul! And they can’t silence you and question your intellect on high finance and other matters, they way they silenced and slapped down your colleague, the good Minister of Education, he who once tried to testify and clear his conscience. (See his Global Ports critique)

Of course, the good minister was not done with his soul-cleansing testimony. Said he, “We are going to go to them (BHM) with a final schedule for finishing these roads. If they don’t comply, they’ll be gone! (Hallelujah! Amen!) We are going to have a hiatus of maybe two months to get a new contractor, but we have had clearance; we won’t lose the clearance if we fire them.” O haste that day!

To be fair, while we applaud the good Minister of Works for his forthrightness and his willingness to speak out loud, that which everyone else was thinking, there are some who suggest that the good minister has some shortcomings of his own. Notwithstanding his bluster and, shall we say . .  er . . ‘self-righteous posturing;’ never mind his claim that his ministry is the best-performing ministry in this entire government (If his is the best-performing ministry, then heaven help us), there are many who believe that the Antigua State College, The St. John’s Police Headquarters, the All Saints Police Station, Pares Secondary School, the General Post Office (before the repair work last year) the Fiennes Institute, Clarevue Hospital, the Magistrates’ Court and a host of other government buildings here, there and everywhere, lend the lie to that self-serving assertion.

A few years ago, the good Minister of Works, when he was the pit-bull of the opposition, was alleged to have once mused out loud, “Me nuh know wha mek Antigua nearga nuh goo-dong ah Market and look for the biggest bullbud and wield om under UPP!” Rich irony, eh? As per the good minister’s remarks a few days ago, there are many ministries in this present administration that are also richly deserving of a bullbud! It would be interesting, nay, downright hilarious to observe the good Minister of Works applying the aforementioned bullbud to himself as well!

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