The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) is a ghost of its former self – a minority government in terms of the popular vote. It is now clinging to power by the slimmest of margins, and a small shift in its fortunes (and many expect that shift in a matter of months) will see it out of power, relegated to the dustbin of history. We suspect that many will breathe a sigh of relief, and offer Thanksgiving to the Almighty for delivering us from our national nightmare. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
Of course, one of our headaches/nightmares is the Alfa Nero. It was recently moved from one hiding place to another, much as did the pirates of yore who took to moving from lair to lair, lying low with their ill-gotten gain in either New Providence, Tortuga or Port Royal. Our pirates had to move the vessel from Falmouth to St John’s, and then back to Falmouth last week, for reasons best known to their buccaneering minds. It rode out the storm in the Falmouth area, then moved to St John’s Harbour, just a few hours before a dastardly fire gutted the Antigua Yacht Club marina. Curses! Again, we landlubbers do not know the real reason why the Alfa Nero was moved. After all, she was out of harm’s way. But, with this Administration, nothing is ever what it seems. The real story is usually hidden somewhere between the Cabinet notes, the media news item, the obligatory press release, and the Minister’s media appearance. Needless to say, the pronouncements from on high must be taken with several grains of salt.
One of the reasons why we have not heard much from all the mouthy-mouthy folks in high places vis-a-vis the Alfa Nero is that they are at a loss. The have no idea what their next step will be, and it is not difficult to imagine that they lie awake at nights, tossing and turning, and hoping and praying that dawn will bring some good news. It is a vain hope, a prayer that will go unanswered. After all, the international players in this Alfa Nero fiasco are not playing Dolly House or Miss Mary Mack. Just ask the captain of the ill-fated vessel who, in a Wall Street Journal article entitled, TAXPAYERS STUCK PAYING THE BILL FOR OLIGARCHS’ SEIZED YACHTS AND MANSIONS, dated September 25, 2023, by Max Colchester, et al, declared that he is fearful of walking the streets of St John’s in his Alfa Nero-emblazoned uniform that might identify him as being a crew member. He also expressed his very real misgiving that whoever buys the vessel, could be sailing out onto the high seas with a bulls-eye on the hull. Hmmmm!
With all of this in mind, we ask the question: What billionaire in possession of all his faculties would want to hand-over money to gain possession of the Alfa Nero? Buying the Alfa Nero is exponentially more headache than its worth. Billionaires do not want headaches, especially from a toy that is supposed to provide them with a respite from the stressors of this world. The Alfa Nero is supposed to be an escape, but with all the entanglements and encumbrances hanging over its teak deck, it is hardly. Indeed, it is a noose.
So this prideful, albeit clueless, Administration that brazenly strode up the gang plank of the Alfa Nero, staging a sketchy auction, under environmental and abandonment pretexts, with convenient, hastily contrived legislation providing the cover, by an auctioneer who, according to court documents, had no auctioneer’s license, is bereft. The silly smirk on their faces is gone. As is the saga-boy swagger. Those who were given to blowhard talk, are now much more subdued, that is except for the capo di tutti i capi, aka the ‘Boss of all Bosses’ aka, the ‘Worl Boss.’ He has been ranting and raving, cussin’ and berating and extoling his own ‘wonderfulness’ to anyone who will listen, never mind that no one cares. Quite piteous that he needs to constantly remind a disinterested public how magnificent he is.
He is so desperate, that he recently blabbered that anyone who desires duty-free concessions need only come to his office, and as long as such a person is an Antiguan and Barbudan, he will be granted the concession forthwith. Good grief! To anyone who believes that drivel, please know that wehave Devils Bridge to sell you. But put his braggadocious mouth to the test. Go to his office and ask for the concession. We suggest that he will find a million reasons why he cannot give it to you. Indeed, the only way that you will get it as easily as he is boasting, is if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Red Rover, or a recent defector from the United Progressive Party (UPP) or the Democratic National Alliance (DNA). And you MUST genuflect and kneel prostrate before his Worshipfulness. And just know that he will remind you, every now and again, of the favour that he did for you. And he will talk about it in the public space, to either keep you in line, or humiliate you.
Interestingly, we understand that his Magnificence – the best thing to happen to Antigua and Barbuda since Independence (don’t laugh, he said it with a straight face), is under siege. Uneasy lies his head. Seems, his deputy was irate that he had decreed that the deputy could not sign-off on any duty-free concessions. The good deputy was being stripped of that prerogative. Oops! Well, the good deputy was having none of this demotion, and he straightened out the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler [See The Honeymooners, with Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton], letting him know, in no uncertain terms, how ‘barley groweth.’ We understand that the good deputy, apoplectic with rage, shouted at his Lordship words to the effect: How dare you?! How dare you?! I am the deputy; I am the deputy!!! How dare you?! Are you restricting me from signing-off on duty-free concessions? If I can’t sign off on duty-free concessions, NOBODY can. I am senior! I am no more corrupt than anyone else. It took me fifty years to build my house, and it took you five years to build five houses! How dare you? If I can’t sign duty-free concessions, then I will bring the whole government down! How dare you?! Ouch!
Clearly, He of a High Place can no longer throw his weight around. And he will have to address his colleagues with a civil tongue. No more cursing and browbeating and bully-ragging. They are no longer given to abiding his nonsense. And why should they? They now hold the cards to whether he survives as The Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler, or whether he crashes down from his lofty perch. From here on, he will humble himself and tread gingerly around them. It is not difficult to imagine that every time that he thinks of how the tables have turned, he has a conniption.
Which brings us to the lingering questions. With no credible buyer on the horizon for the Alfa Nero; and with no believable means to recoup our enormous expenditure on salaries and its upkeep; and with the many lawsuits facing us; how do we extricate ourselves from this royal mess? How do we regain some semblance of credibility and respectability in the international arena? How will the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler escape the sailors’ bowline knot around his gonads. No wonder his head is hot and bothered.
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