HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 6 September 2023
The Cabinet began its session with a prayer from a Minister of Religion. The Cabinet expressed its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the policeman, Robert Dyer, who died in a tragic accident on the Sir Sidney Walling Highway, two days ago. His death is a great loss to the country, the Cabinet determined, and asked the country to continue to pray for his family.
1. The Cabinet invited to its meeting the Commissioner of Police and six of the top brass of the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, and the Chief of Defense Staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force, in order to discuss the manner in which the use of illegal firearms can be further curbed. The Police reported that 35 unlawful firearms were seized during the stop-and-search operations which have been carried-out by joint Police and Military personnel. A number of options were examined for increased sentences to be imposed on those persons found with unlicensed firearms, whatever may be their purpose. It was reported that several business persons may have unlawfully acquired firearms after being denied an application for a firearm license, in order to protect themselves. Criminals have both acquired or rented firearms in order to carry out robberies and other criminal acts that involve the use, or threat of use, of a firearm. There will be further consultations between the Attorney General’s Office and the Royal Police Force to determine the extent to which the law governing punishment for possession of unlicensed firearms should be strengthened.
2. The Cabinet invited the Minister of Social Transformation to its meeting in order to examine the nation’s policy on handling persons suffering with mental health challenges. The Sir Lester Bird Medical Center is not designed to treat mental patients. The Clarevue Mental Hospital is the place where patients suffering mental health issues are to be treated, since a psychiatrist is assigned to that hospital; however, many patients who are in a state of readiness to return to their homes have been abandoned by family members. The Minister also reported that Alzheimer’s is affecting a larger population of the nation’s elderly citizens than ever before. Daycare Centers for the elderly are likely to become necessary throughout Antigua and Barbuda. The Cabinet was reminded that the CARE Project exists to provide living quarters to children with extreme disabilities. The youthful students attending the Adele School are differently abled; several are autistic and many can learn to be productive. It was reported that one of the highest mathematical grades achieved among all students in a particular age group was an autistic student who mastered mathematics. The Minister also reported that many of our young people are performing really well in NGOs that are training youthful leaders for the future.
3. The Cabinet invited the APUA Water manager, the Chief Financial Officer of APUA, and the Manager of the Electricity Department to address three (3) matters.
i. The adequate supply of potable water: APUA produces a little more than 7 million gallons of water daily but demand exceeds 11 million gallons daily; making up that shortfall is to be achieved by building a 3.5 million gallon plant at Bethesda, and adding several smaller plants at Fort James and Ffryes. 60% of all desalinated water that is produced comes from the units at Crabbes; any catastrophe there can adversely affect the water supply throughout Antigua. Two of six units at Crabbes have been refurbished; they are 30 years old. The plant at Ffryes has been recently upgraded to 85% capacity.
ii. The APUA Electricity Manager shared with Cabinet the reasons for a spate of electricity outages during the past weekend. While undergoing maintenance, a failure at the Friars Hill substation led to automatic load-shedding that caused many homeowners to suffer a loss of electricity. A feeder was overloaded and caused a loss of 14 megawatts at Black Pine (Antigua Power Company) to be out for many hours. The challenges have now been overcome and home owners are now back to normal.
iii. The Cabinet was informed that two massive tanks, built for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) storage, have been installed near the LNG Electricity Plant that ought to come into commission in October. The LNG Plant will provide electricity that will exceed the peak use of power, by more than 10 megawatts. The LNG plant will be cheaper to operate and will reduce the carbon footprint of Antigua and Barbuda; it will become the property of APUA through a BOOT (Build Own Operate Transfer) arrangement.
4. The Cabinet took note of the number of road accidents and fatalities that have occurred in the past weeks. The nation recorded its sixth road fatality who was a police officer; he died on Sir Sydney Walling Highway. The Cabinet urges all road users to exercise greater care, to slow down, and to abide by the speed limits. Speed kills, the Cabinet reminds, and death is irreversible.
5. The Cabinet informed the Clerk to Parliament and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, that the sitting of the House planned for Thursday September 7th 2023, will be postponed.