The date we’ve been eagerly awaiting has finally been announced. The day when the residents of St. Mary’s South get to defend the will of the people and bring closure to the process of selecting the right parliamentary representative. After more than three months of anticipation, we can look to the future and begin the important work of strengthening our community.
This by-election has national implications. The ABLP lost six seats in the last general elections, confirming an appetite for change throughout Antigua and Barbuda. Voters in St. Mary’s South have already demonstrated their outright dissatisfaction with the ABLP in the January 18th poll and we now have an opportunity to send an even stronger message that the people of St. Mary’s South will not be taken for granted.
Further, we will not be the victims of the “Creative Enrichment Cabal” and “Money Influencers” who are working with Gaston Browne to suppress the will of the people.
Following the January election, Prime Minister Gaston Browne was quick to announce that constituencies which did not vote for the ABLP, would NOT be on his priority list. His message was clear that he was not prepared to invest in constituencies that did not vote Labour. The people of St. Mary’s South were on the chopping block, and, along with seven other constituencies, we were going to feel the onslaught of Gaston Browne’s wrath for having the guts to vote against his party.
However, Gaston Browne’s reckless pronouncement was quickly reversed once it was clear that we were headed back to the polls for a by-election. In recent weeks, we have seen desperation set in as the Prime Minister and his party aggressively seek to regain lost support. After 9 years of neglect, they are now in a self-serving rush to address a range of issues they shamelessly neglected. And the “all-powerful”, arrogant ruler-prime minister, who brazenly dissed us after January 18th, is now roaming to and fro in the constituency, scoping out who he thinks he could entice with his inducements. Imagine that; in a constituency that was treated like a stepchild for more than 9 years.
Since losing the popular vote and surviving with a narrow win earlier this year, the ABLP has achieved very little either nationally or in our constituency. A majority of the electorate is of the view that this government has run its course, and they are incapable of delivering on the priorities of the people. Shamefully, the ABLP stands on a record of no solutions and no progress. This election will take place against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, a weak economy, crumbling infrastructure, countless other major issues that have NOT been addressed by the ABLP. They have NOT advanced any real solutions to address the suffering of the people — rampant inflation, record increases in food prices, scarce jobs, no solution to the water problem, no new investments and a shrinking economy. They are dragging us backwards.
Families are struggling to make ends meet, searching in vain for opportunities to get ahead.
The people in the south are proud and independent. Many are self-employed and we share a general belief that if you work hard, you can get ahead. But we have a government that has failed to boost the economy. A government that squandered the CIP and is now relying solely on the sale of the Alfa Nero to pay its debts. There are still no solutions to address the rise in crime and youth violence. No solutions to help uplift our education system. No solutions to address the poor health facilities and crumbling infrastructure.
If Labour has failed to delivered at the national level, why would we believe their last minute promises in St. Mary’s South?
Although this by-election will not immediately change the Government, it will be an important step in strengthening the national call for change, which has put the ABLP government on notice. Many feel that the by-election in St. Mary’s South could be the first in a series of by-elections, or a prelude to an early general election, that will unseat the ABLP. St. Mary’s South has an opportunity to set the trend and keep the “top dog” on a short leash.
The ABLP’s days are numbered. Think of their desperate actions in this by-election as the secondhand on the clock. Although it moves quickly and ticks loudly, it does not speed up the time. Don’t fall for the hype and the pace at which things appear to be happening. If you look at things objectively, it becomes clearer every day that the Gaston Browne administration has run out of solutions. This election is an opportunity to further increase the momentum for change ahead of another by-election, or general elections. Let’s continue to turn the tables on this government so that we can rescue our country.
I ask all voters to look objectively at the performance of the ABLP administration, because a Government should be judged on its PERFORMANCE. Almost 10 years ago, the ABLP promised “More Jobs, More Investments and Less Taxes”. So, ask yourself this simple question: Has the ABLP regime kept its major election promises?
In the lead up to the January 18th elections the Prime Minister’s pie-in-the-sky promises intensified with the announcement of drones flying the skies and unmanned cars running the roads of Barbuda. This just reminds us that Gaston Browne is totally oblivious – or indifferent – to the real needs of the people. He will say anything to play on our emotions.
Despite his promises of prosperity, I want to highlight the following issues:
The delivery of water in 14 days was another major promise made by Gaston Browne. But again, 10 years later there has been little improvement in water delivery despite having 2 reverse osmosis plants in St. Mary’s South. What we need is a more serious and comprehensive approach to water management that improves production, storage and delivery, while increasing the training available to APUA staff.
Small farmers in the South are frustrated by the lack of water, and the cost of paying to truck it in. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s farm operation is offered discounts. The government agricultural stations are in a state of disrepair. Cades Bay, where we grow our signature “black pineapple” is overgrown by bushes. We need to establish a pro-agricultural policy “Harvest More Import Less. We Reap What We Sow.” We must also focus on agro-industrial development and modernize farming, irrigation and fertigation capacity.
Youth empowerment is another area where Gaston Browne and his government have failed to deliver any meaningful opportunities. We see that they have quickly rushed to pave the Urlings Basketball field in the past few days, but that is far from enough. We need to create a local economy fit for the youth of today and tomorrow. This revived local economy must focus on job creation, education, leadership development, sports, logistics and entrepreneurship.
The state of health care in St. Mary’s South is an area of grave concern. The new clinic in Bolans is still inoperable after being commissioned more than 6 months ago. This limits access to care for our most vulnerable citizens. The pharmacy at Johnson’s Point Clinic remains closed and overall conditions at that facility make it difficult for health care professionals to perform their duties.
So, the problems in St. Mary’s South cannot be addressed by merely changing the candidate. The problem is the entire ABLP administration. Changing the candidate will make little difference. How can an outsider change the culture of the Labour Government in a few short weeks? In St. Mary’s South we will not accept the ABLP’s culture of excuses and inaction, which has held our community and this country back for far too long. It is time to restore hope and to find solutions that will make St. Mary’s South and this country better.
In the next few days, I will roll out my plans and policies to uplift St. Mary’s South. I firmly believe that through private partnerships and community mobilization we can achieve so much in our community. With ongoing dialogue, a good plan that outlines our short-, mid- and long-term priorities and the commitment of the people, I believe that we can achieve our fullest potential in St. Mary’s South.
We believe in fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth not lies.
Let us look at the bigger picture in this by-election. That is, the need to put this government on notice. We gearing up to launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that St. Mary’s South has ever seen. This is the opportunity of a lifetime to put an end to the shambolic mess that was created by the ABLP administration.
I ask all voters in St. Mary’s to reject the last-minute overtures and 11th hour fixes from Dwayne George and Gason Browne.
Vote Kelvin “Shugy” Simon for change.
Let’s invest in a brighter future for St. Mary’s South and our nation.
Change will not come overnight, but in a community that has so much potential, we can all work together to seize opportunities and get on the right course to chart a better future for generations to come.
We deserve better in St. Mary’s South.
Vote Kelvin “Shugy” Simon for Leadership You Can Trust.