Nicholas defends cabinet colleague against criticism

Melford Nicholas (OBSERVER media photo)

Melford Nicholas, telecommunications and broadcasting minister, has defended Utilities Minister, Sir Robin Yearwood, who was the target of heavy criticism on Wednesday from Democratic National Alliance (DNA) spokesperson on utilities, Bruce Goodwin.

Goodwin had called for the minister to resign amidst public cries over the lack of potable water being provided by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority.

“It would be disingenuous of Mr. Bruce Goodwin not to recognise the effort over the last 48 months,” Nicholas said as he defended his colleague’s performance during the post cabinet briefing yesterday.

“Of course, we understand there is always an opportunity for political aspirants to make noise at the right time to get attention but this government has not avoided speaking to the public about what the factors that are affecting our ability to provide potable water on a daily basis.” Nicholas said.

He added that there are many challenges that face the utilities provider when it comes to supplying water throughout the island. Pointing out that the drought situation has been ravishing the islands over the last seven years, the telecommunications minister said that surface water has been significantly depleted and this has forced the government into the business of producing water.

Nicholas then pointed out that it was the previous administration that left the water company Tango to fall into ruin and it was also the former administration that accumulated arrears of over $20 million to the water production company SEMBCORP.

He said that the labour party administration then took on the responsibility  and has since converted SEMBCORP into ownership by the government. He further said that it was this government that had to immediately repair the reverse osmosis (RO) plant in Falmouth and thereby saving the yacht industry which had threatened to leave the island because of lack of potable water in that area.

The minister said that over $50 million has been invested so far in repairing the RO plants around the island. However, now that they are capable of providing adequate water, they now face the drawback of an aging pipeline system.

He added that APUA has invested in new technology and is in the process of replacing pipelines with ones that are less susceptible to breaking and leakage. This is currently taking place on Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway.

Bruce Goodwin had said the inability of the APUA to provide a basic necessity such as water, is a direct reflection of Sir Robin’s incompetence as utilities minister and therefore he should resign or be fired.

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