The United Progressive Party’s (UPP’s) caretaker for the All Saints West constituency has declared that he is not afraid of any disciplinary action that may be taken against him by the party’s hierarchy. Yesterday, Lamin Newton told OBSERVER media that he “has not been contacted by anyone in the party” and that he was “not afraid of being called before a disciplinary committee.
“I will restate my position and I don’t see any reason why they would want to put me before any disciplinary committee,” he added. Newton was speaking in defense of his recent stance in which he openly supported the governing Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party’s (ABLP’s) push to establish a fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on the island.
This came after supporters of the UPP retrieved a social media post by Newton one year ago. In the post, the All Saints West caretaker who contested the 2018 general elections on the UPP’s ticket, lambasted the Gaston Browne administration for “squander mania [which] has wasted millions of dollars to upgrade the Five Islands Secondary School into a University.
“The facility has been designed to accommodate a secondary school and it would be more efficient and wiser to utilize it for the purpose that it was intended and relieve the pressures on existing secondary schools. Even though some additional classrooms have been built, the capacity to accommodate the large expansion of students in Antigua and Barbuda is insufficient.
“The opening the Five Islands Secondary School would enable students in the surrounding communities the opportunity to attend school without much disruption to their daily lives,” the post said. Newton, at the time, promised that a UPP administration will prioritize the opening the Five Islands Secondary School, so that students in Antigua and Barbuda can attend school in comfort and perform to the best of their abilities.
However, during an interview Monday on OBSERVER AM, Newton said he fully supported the government’s plan to open the UWI campus, despite the arguments put forward by top UPP officials that Antigua and Barbuda is not ready for the university. “As a society, we have to do what is in the best interest of the people in this nation. If this means we have to support the government on an issue, so be it. When it comes to the issue of the university, I support this initiative,” he said.
Newton argued that even though there are concerns about the readiness of the university to be officially opened on September 1st at Five Islands, this should not take away from the fact that the university should be opened. “People just want to learn.It does not matter where the campus is or where the facility is; people are not concerned about that. Even if you put the campus in Bethesda, people will go,” he said.
Meanwhile, as we put this issue of The Daily OBSERVER to bed, our attention has been drawn to yet another Facebook post by Lamin Newton on the UWI 4th Landed Campus controversy, in which he apparently seeks to rationalize the contradiction between his recently expressed support and earlier opposition – an apparent effort to fend off the reproaches that are now being shoved in his face over this apparent vacillation. I’m not one to respond to any form of criticism.
However, let me clear the air on this university issue. Just a little over a year ago I posted on Facebook that the Five Island[s] Secondary School should be opened to facilitate the students in that area and the surrounding areas. I will never deny that I said it. I was one who chastised the government for not opening the school. Let us fast forward to what is happening now.
The government of the day has decided that they are willing to partner with the UWI in establishing the fourth landed campus in Antigua and Barbuda. I am in no way against the FISS, but what must we do with the facility if the government does not open it as a school? The issue for me is not the FISS, I’m concerned about the UWI fourth landed campus coming to Antigua. The location is not my issue, the fact that we’re getting the institution is. If the government decides to use the old navy base, or any other facility, that isn’t important.
What is important at this point is what the university will do for our people. I hear all the talk about purpose built. If we can we remember AUA started in what we would consider warehouse spaces on Friars Hill Rd, with only nine students. Look at AUA today. Again, the location is not of great importance to me, getting started is. It is my wish to see the less fortunate people of this country benefit from achieving a higher level of education.