HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Cabinet met both face-to-face and virtually, all members attending.

1. The Cabinet condemned the vicious attack on one of its female members by a radio broadcaster on one of the opposition-backed talk-radio stations. The language used was foul; the effort attempted to degrade the highly performing Minister; and, the attack demonstrated the depth to which the opposition political party will go in order to engage its listeners. The attack on a female, elected legislator requires the women in the opposition team to distance themselves from the remarks and to strongly condemn the activist for engaging in the demeaning diatribe; the misogyny which is pervasive, appears acceptable by leaders in the opposition, the Cabinet concluded.

2. Several steel bands across the country occupy crown lands where they have built band houses to store their equipment and to practice when competitions are due. The Cabinet has agreed to give leases of 99 years when the land is vested in the crown; and, where the Social Security Board owns the land, to arrange leases for those steel bands that have been occupying the statutory body’s land. The Ebonites Steel Orchestra, which uses a strip of land in the PDO compound, will be offered a 99-year lease on land it now occupies; this decision came at the urging of the Parliamentary Representative Hon. Daryll Matthew.

3. The Cabinet addressed the issue of potable water, once more, and the challenge which the APUA has undertaken to solve the water-shortage problem. APUA will be building three new reverse osmosis plants at Fort James, Bethesda and Ffryes Beach; the plants will all be completed by summer of 2022, moving the production of water from 7 million gallons per day to ten million gallons per day. When the Gaston Browne administration took office in 2014, Sembcorp was producing 3.5 million gallons per day and was owed more than $22 million dollars by the UPP administration. Within 14 days of the ABLP’s assumption to governance, Sembcorp increased its production levels, and payments were made to reduce the debt inherited from the previous Administration. Today, the Sembcorp plant is owned by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda; the debt has been repaid, and the quantum of water produced is twice as much as when the Gaston Browne Administration took office. In a few months, it will be three times as much as in 2014. A pervasive drought has caused surface water to dry up, and acquifers to become exhausted; reliance on potable water from reverse osmosis plants is now the only option for APUA.

4.i. The Cabinet held a discussion around Covid-19 and lifting restrictions such that personal responsibility will trump the restrictions imposed by Government. Each eligible person, resident in Antigua and Barbuda, is required to be vaccinated, wear a mask, to frequently sanitize his/her hands, and to establish social distancing. All persons are encouraged to avoid clustering and large gatherings in order to reduce the spread of the disease.

4.ii. The Minister responsible for Cultural Industries has indicated that Labour Day and Carnival are likely to be held later this year, in May and the end of July 2022, respectively. However, potential super-spreader events will not be included in the usual lineup. Consultations with stakeholders are continuing, to include the organizers of fetes and, very likely, mas troupes.

5. The Minister of Education has announced a plan to consolidate three educational institutions under a single head, that are utilized by the youth especially since they teach skills that help to develop youthful citizens. Each institution is to retain its own identity: The Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (ABIIT), The Antigua State College (ASC), and the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE). The object is also to cause the amalgamation which will allow for a standard acceptable to Universities and Colleges for entry of their graduates.

6. The Attorney General addressed the Cabinet on the leave accorded the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to allow him to appeal a decision rendered against him concerning his professional conduct. The Attorney General explained that the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda allows for the dismissal of the DPP if he appears before a tribunal established by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, and is found guilty of an Act of Professional Misconduct while serving as the DPP. The Attorney General explained that the Acts of which the DPP is accused occurred more than twenty years ago, when he was in private practice; he has the right to an appeal; and, natural justice requires that his sterling service to Antigua and Barbuda since 2005 compels that every opportunity be afforded to him to clear his name.

7. The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment reported that the striking workers at National Solid Waste Management Authority require a goodwill payment immediately. The Cabinet agreed to provide $100,000 USD to NSWMA. 

8. The Cabinet agreed to articulate a policy governing child-care centres that will be incorporated into law. The law will establish a regulatory body to govern standards and functions intended to ensure a safe environment for children who are being cared-for by those who charge a fee. There will be consultations with the owners and managers of child-care centers, as well as with parents who utilize these centres because of employment obligations.

9. The Cabinet learned of the death of Permanent Secretary Jocelyn Greene, Head of the Passport Division, on Wednesday morning, during its weekly meeting. The Cabinet expressed its condolences to the husband, daughter and family of the hardworking civil servant, and to her staff. Cabinet noted that Mrs. Greene was still serving at the time of her demise and believes that the entire civil service has suffered quite a blow by her untimely death.

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