By Robert A Emmanuel
Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union’s (ABFTU) Samuel James, asserted that any criticism raised against the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) should be aimed at the Administration and management of the Authority.
James was responding to comments by Prime Minister Gaston Browne who has complained against APUA staff over what he deemed “sabotage” of his Administration’s agenda.
However, speaking on the Big Issues yesterday, James explained that the government needed to look at its own management before publicly attacking APUA staff.
“I think they have made a compelling case of gross dereliction of duty, because if you are going to be telling the people of Antigua and Barbuda that the workers at APUA are preventing the public from getting water, and you continue to preside over that forever, then you…have failed the people,” James explained.
Until last week’s election, Sir Robin Yearwood of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) served as the Public Utilities Minister.
He served as the Minister responsible for APUA since at least 1999, with exceptions being 2003 to 2004 when he was serving as Minister of Finance, and 2004 to 2014 when the United Progressive Party (UPP) was in office.
Melford Nicholas was put in charge of APUA by the Prime Minister as part of his increased portfolio responsibility.
Nicholas’ new responsibilities are Minister of Information, Communication Technologies, Public Utilities and Energy.
James noted, “I am not hearing the Prime Minister saying that he is firing the Minister because he is not doing his work, and I am not hearing the Prime Minister or any other minister saying they are going to fire the Board…but the Prime Minister is going to touch the little workers.”
He also pleaded with the APUA management and employees to “reject the attacks on their integrity.”
“If you are not defending your workers as management, then it seems to me that you are also resigning yourself in the belief that it is the workers that are creating the problems,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lionel Michael who once served as the country’s Chief Health Inspector, said the use of the word ‘sabotage’ was inappropriate.
“I don’t know how the Prime Minister and his colleagues were able to jump to the ordinary APUA workers and bypass the Board [and] bypass the Ministers, they probably have what we do not have, but I would not have used that word,” Michael said.
Michael believed that water distribution valves could be turned off for a variety of reasons, including for repairing leaks.
“Water is very important…therefore when water is not available people will be dissatisfied, upset, and say a lot of things, but I think the distribution system and production of water in Antigua is not sufficient to go around [the country] presently,” he explained.
He noted that water production at APUA cannot meet the demand for water for the entire island.
Both political parties during the election campaigns focused heavily on water production and APUA, with the United Progressive Party (UPP) seeking to blame the Administration for the lack of available water.
Re-elected representative for the St Paul’s constituency, Chet Greene blamed APUA for “sabotaging” his re-election bid by suppressing water availability in the St Paul Constituency in a close race between himself on the ABLP ticket and UPP candidate, Dr Cleon Athill.