Here’s hoping . . .

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He cried long water from his eyes as he feigned concern and affection for Barbuda and the Barbudans. His dear and dutiful wife hugged him in a moving show of support. The assembled throng at the V C Bird International Airport was moved by the display of emotion in the aftermath of his visit to the sister-isle to see the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma. A few days later, he professed his great love for Barbuda and the Barbudans in another moving performance at the Multi-Purpose Cultural Center, promising to do right by the Barbudans. The act was so convincing that even the jaded Barbudans gave him a round of applause. Needless to say, Hollywood would not have been proud of his cheap, grade-B acting.

As you can imagine,  things quickly soured. In the middle of their unimaginable grief, bulldozers were in operation in Barbuda, even as most of the Barbudans were still in involuntary exile in Antigua. Then came the nasty verbiage, the smear campaign. He began calling the Barbudans, ‘deracinated imbeciles,’ ‘in-breeders’ and ‘squatters,’ among other vile articulations. He was openly hostile and dismissive of the Barbudans and their concerns, replacing a poodle Minister of Barbuda Affairs with a supposed pit-bull, who emphatically declared to the Barbudans that “they must comply” with the diktat and dictum of the central government.

In the run-up to the 2018 election, he admittedly made nice to the Barbudans, coddling them and pretending to care about their concerns. Of course, the Barbudans were not impressed or swayed by his disingenuous acting, and they soundly rejected the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) candidate. Again, as you can imagine, he was enraged by the rejection, and he told the Barbudans to their faces, words to the effect that he’d only been making nice to secure their votes, and since they rejected his candidate, that he would drop all the pretense and deal harshly with them. No more kissy-lovey kumbayah.

In all of this, the Barbudans were bawling for their subventions from the central government, and they had to endure talk about moving from their cherished communal land rights.  They were offered a title to the lands on which they resided for a nominal fee of one dollar. Enter the cadastral survey in Barbuda – all part of the administration’s plot to abolish communal land rights in Barbuda.

Meanwhile, Barbuda was referred to as “Jumby Bay on steroids,” and development ran amok on the island as those in high places gleefully rubbed the palms of their hands, doing the bidding of foreign investors. Indeed, while scolding and excoriating a local CEO a few months ago, our ranking official here in Antigua was listening to and parroting instructions from a foreign investor. What a thing!  Our ranking official, much like a little puppy, dancing to the beat of a foreign investor’s drum.

Of course, the cotton ginnery, the police station, the solar plant at the Codrington electricity station are still languishing in a state of neglect and disrepair, more than six years since Hurricane Irma. And in all of this, the Barbudans are seldom consulted on any matter pertaining to their homeland by the central government. It is as if the Barbuda Council does not exist, never mind the pivotal role outlined for the Barbuda Council in our Constitution. So sad!

Anyway, since the passage of Hurricane Irma, the Barbudans have been asking for an accounting as to the funds and in-kind donations to the Barbuda relief and reconstruction effort. One has not been forthcoming. The Barbudans have been ignored. The administration that touted itself as being so very transparent and accountable, has shown that it is neither. Talk about stonewalling! The truth is that Barbudans are still not clear as to who donated what, who donated how much, how the donations were disbursed, and so on and so forth.

Consider the brewing international scandal, if you will. A good gentleman named Steve Morgan, he of Jumby Bay and the Steve Morgan Foundation, donated a tidy sum of US$1M to the people of Barbuda in the very early days following Hurricane Irma. To date, the sums have not been submitted to the people of Barbuda. Indeed, were it not for a call from a frustrated Mr Morgan to the Member of Parliament for Barbuda, the Honourable Trevor Walker, the public would not be aware that this substantial donation had been made. The administration is claiming that it did not get the money, never mind that the good Mr Morgan placed it in a certain off-shore bank at the request of local officials. Needless to say, we have been given a convoluted explanation, ending with the government’s pledge to make good on the US$1M, even though it supposedly never got the money. Help us, Lawd!

We salute Mr Morgan for his courage in raising the lid on this unhappy episode. He has used strong language to express his disappointment and disgust with this administration, and its slack handling of his donation. We can only hope that there are no more cases like this case, and that his story does not have a chilling effect on those who wish to make future donations to our fair State for causes that they deem worthy. We can only hope . . .

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