It is not often that we commend the sitting ministers of government here in our fair state, because, let’s face it, there is little, precious little, that they have accomplished that is worthy of commendation. By any measure, with an exception here and there, their performances have been mediocre, at best. Not one of them has distinguished his or herself with a performance for the ages like say, Sir Robert Hall in the Ministry of Agriculture Lands and Fisheries or Basil Peters in the Ministry of Education during the stellar and transformative Progressive Labour Movement years between 1971 and 1976. These were men with an overarching vision and grand and novel ideas that moved us into the modern age. Their names will long live in the annals of our history; a history, mind you, that will be quite kind!
Sadly, the same cannot be said of most of the sitting members of government – members whose ineptitude and lack of vision is now legendary.
Yes, in nearly five years, they have given new meaning to the phrase, “treading water,” or “doing just enough to get by.”
So whenever a sitting minister does something half-way out of the ordinary, like daring to put pen to paper and registering his true feelings of opposition to a hare-brained scheme (Global Ports Holdings aka GPH), it sends many tongues a-wagging. Not to mention, it sends a glimmer of hope, be it ever so faint, that there is at least one member with a suggestion of a backbone among this lot. Of course, we are referring to the bombshell letter penned by the Minister of Education, he of eBooks ignominy, that was leaked to Observer media. In that letter, the good minister says, “The awarding of concession by (GoA) Government of Antigua to a subsidiary of GPH (Global Port Holdings) for thirty years on an exclusive basis incorporating both cruise, retail and related services at the ports currently owned and operated by the SJDC (St. John’s Development Corporation) and the APG (Antigua Pier Group), with an extension option for an additional ten years, is grossly disproportionate as it obtrudes GoA and the nation’s long-term sovereignty interests and prosperity for a short-term immediate financial benefit.” Amen! We certainly applaud the good minister for stating the GPH opposition case so clearly.
Of course, he was not done. Seems, in the stillness of the night, in the midst of his making a mockery of the Ministry of Education (Some say, ‘Miseducation.’ See the eBooks debacle, the industrial action at the Antigua State College re deplorable working conditions, the A level teachers showing up for work when they feel like, and so on and so forth) the good minister had a rare moment of clarity. And the stirrings of some resolve. After all, were he not concerned, and determined to do something about the GPH heist, he would not have spent the time to put together such a detailed and thoughtful condemnation of the proposed deal. For example, he writes, (See The Daily Observer,
March 19, 2019), the GPH agreement with its myriad giveaways, “Is inconsistent with the right to self determination, the spirit of national pride, patriotism, the rich history of our people for overcoming struggle, and the political and socio-economic advancement Antiguans have made prior to and since our 37 years of political independence.” Amen, again brother!
We would also add that it is inconsistent with the vision and thrust of our, shall we say, ‘Founding Fathers,’ Sir V.C. Bird et al, who sought to wrest land (Purchase of Syndicate properties), ownership (the building and operation of the St. John’s Deepwater Harbour) and the control of our economy from outside entities who did not have our best interests at heart. It is also inconsistent with the harangue of many in high places who recently railed against too many ‘concessions’ being doled out for too long a period of time to foreign business interests operating here. Never mind that those who took to the bully pulpit to rail and grandstand, turned around in almost the same breath, to dole out similar ‘concessions’ to other foreign business interests. Hypocrisy, anyone?
But wait, the hypocrisy and befuddled thinking gets worse! According to the good minister in his treatise, “In this immediate post-CCJ referendum era, the award of this particular proposed concession by GoA is particularly conflicting and contradictory in both principle and substance. The instant MOU and pending agreement represents a philosophical capitulation by GoA on its recent arguments and positions buttressing political sovereignty and summoning a further symbolic push for self-determination by imploring voters to vote for replacing the Privy Council . . . in London as the nation’s final court of appeal with the CCJ. Yet, mere weeks after the passionate and philosophical campaign in support of the CCJ, heavily reliant on the principles of self-reliance, GoA is set to surrender the nation’s ports, exclusively, for 30 years to another London-based entity.” The good minister goes on to state that he finds it incongruent that we recently made the case that we are intellectually able to make our own laws and manage our own courts on one hand, yet on the other, our financial situation notwithstanding, (And remember, we have a consortium of local financiers who are ready, willing and able to step up. See Scotia Bank hypocrisy re local ownership, populism and nationalism), with this GPH rip-off, we concede that “our people are incapable, and we are intellectually incapable of managing our economic future.” The good minister says that that is a proclamation that he finds “difficult to swallow.” We agree! In fact, we have indigestion! Pass the Maalox, please!
To no one’s surprise, after devoting what we believe to have been an enormous amount of time and effort in the penning of this great denunciation of the GPH sweetheart deal, the good minister lost his nerve and went back to being spineless, as is his wont. Good grief! He withdrew his objections, did not bother to table them in Cabinet, and we fully expect him, this Thursday in parliament, to grab the government’s hymnbook and sing lustily, with a straight face, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL! Look for his usual fawning praise of his colleagues, his testimony as to how he found GPH religion, his repentance for his heresy and for daring to have an opposing thought, his pathetic prostration in sack-cloth and ashes while begging for forgiveness a la Jimmy Swaggart. And please don’t miss his shameless genuflection at the altar of his own political self-preservation and the government’s sell-out of our nation “for a short-term immediate financial benefit.” (His words)
In the aforementioned letter, the good minister references all the pro-CCJ talk from on high pro-CCJ talk about ‘remembering our history’ and ‘mastering our destiny’ and so on and so forth, and he wonders whither those some values as it pertains to GPH. In fact, he declares, “The effect of the concession is to make us as inferior by suggesting that we, as a people, as a nation, and as a government, are divorced from the integrity, capability and creativity to preside over the dispensation of the long-held tradition of mastering the business of tourism . . .” Amen!
Church and school dismissed. Notwithstanding his ‘come-to-Jesus moment’ and his quick backsliding, the good Minister of Miseducation, educated us on much. We are grateful!