At last, at long last

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Ours is a most remarkable administration. Its distinguished members have the uncanny ability to turn even the most routine undertaking into rocket science. Take, for instance, the matter of the tracking bracelets. To our mind, it is one of the easier tools that an administration can employ to track those under quarantine who are not staying put in the places where they ought to. No big thing. The technology has been around for years, used by the courts and prison officials in some countries, to monitor those on parole or other penal restrictions. As Mr. Jeff Jarosinski, one of the first to be affixed with the device, explained, “They ask you where you stay and they pull up a map on their computer, you highlight the area and give them your contact information. Once they initiate the bracelet, it’s linked to the position on the map, so if you leave your residence for any reason it sends them an alarm.”  Easy as ABC!

Actually, any kid with a smartphone can track and pinpoint the location of a family member or friend, using the GPS technology contained on it. Spouses and lovers can also use their phones to track each other, especially if one suspects the other of infidelity, and of being in a place where he or she ought not to be. Sadly, this administration, as is its wont, had to reinvent the wheel. We understand that the tracking bracelets are linked to a Ministry of Health command centre at Jolly Beach, and they use the same geo-fencing technology that can be found in telephone SIM cards. Simple enough, right? Wrong. With this befuddled administration, it’s like pulling teeth. Talk about the degree of difficulty!

We’re two months shy of the grim one-year Covid emergency here in our fair State, and almost from the very outset, we’ve been hearing chatter from those in high places about these tracking bracelets:  “We’re getting them soon.” “They will be deployed soon.” “We deployed 25.” “We’re testing them.” Blah, blah, blah. It really was quite exasperating hearing the same sweet-sounding words of reassurance, every two months or so, followed by the same old nothing.  It reminds us of the  1993 movie, GROUNDHOG DAY, starring Bill Murray, who plays a cynical television weatherman who finds himself trapped in a time loop, living the same day over and over again.

           So when you read the following from the Cabinet notes of this past Wednesday, if you get the sense that you have seen and heard that stuff before; if you get that feeling of déjà vu, then it’s because you have heard the malarkey. . . many times. As per excerpts from the Cabinet notes, The Minister of Information and Technology informed that blah, blah, blah . . . tracking bracelets have arrived in Antigua and are to be deployed for use to encourage those arriving passengers in self-isolation or in quarantine to be traceable to the location specified . . . blah, blah, blah.” Sigh!

                   The thing is, why do these little ordinary undertakings become so bogged down? Is it a matter of red-tape run amok? Is it that we are broke and can’t pay for the product? Is it that the closing of the deal with the supplier is fraught with finder’s fees and other brawtha? Perhaps. After all, the memory of the eBooks and its overpriced contract is still fresh in our minds. So too, the memory of recent allegations of graft by those in high places. Yes, folks, some in high places have alleged that they have had to protect the public from the overpriced deals concocted by others in high places at the expense of the taxpayer.

              Of course, we are quite pleased that, finally, the bracelets have been deployed, and are yielding immediate results. It’s been reported that two persons who were fitted with the bracelets were interdicted at a supermarket after they decided to leave their quarantine location. How idiotic! And how utterly selfish and irresponsible! Did they think that the bracelets were a joke, and that they would not alert the authorities as to their whereabouts? We trust that the officials will deal with them appropriately.

   We also trust that when this Covid-19 crisis is behind us, hopefully sooner rather than later, that the health authorities will turn over the bracelets to the Ministry of Legal Affairs so that they can be employed as monitoring bracelets for non-violent offenders, suspects who are on bail with home confinement conditions, and those who are on parole and can be placed under home confinement. This will greatly contribute to a lower prison population and will also reduce costs associated with housing and feeding prisoners. These bracelets are a win-win. They will bring us into law and order, 21st century-style.

What a thing! Almost a year to secure devices using the same technology present in every smartphone upon which our children are playing video games. The fits and starts of this tracking bracelet story is a familiar metaphor for this administration.

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