It is such a shame that the prime minister and his United Progressive Party (UPP) Cabinet are unable to see what is in their best political interest and, by extension, what is in the interest of the country as a whole.
This is puzzling as a general election is due in two years and the UPP government seems incapable of dealing rationally with its critics. Even when simple explanations and solutions are available.
It also comes at a time when the Member of Parliament for St John’s City West, Gaston Browne, has been carrying out a hard-charging campaign against the government on just about every issue that gets news headlines. There is no question that Browne’s criticisms are furtherance of his campaign for leadership of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and his attempts to unseat Lester Bird as leader of the party.
Last week, Browne was on his soapbox over the closure of the runway at VC Bird International Airport due to the necessity for runway repairs.
According to Browne, “there is absolutely no accountability; no one is being held responsible. When you have this type of faux pas, which could create fundamental problems or repercussions –untold repercussions for our tourism industry – somebody must pay. Heads must roll.”
Apart from the predictable denial by the chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda Airports Authority (ABAA) that negligence was a factor, the government has made no comment.
Yesterday’s news saw Browne in full flight again on the Wadadli Power Plant issue. “I am happy that I have been able to at least move the issue to the state that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are now considering taking some form of action,” he said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
This was after the prime minister had announced the establishment of a three-member committee to analyze the points raised in a letter from Browne on June 25.
This contrasts with the stonewalling that the media have been getting in trying to get full disclosure of information about the Chinese built power plant.
It is possible that the UPP government may have been stung by MP Browne’s accusations of lack of accountability in the VC Bird runway closure or they now see that the Wadadli Power Plant issue, raised months ago by this newspaper and its radio counterparts, is not going to disappear.
Whatever their reasons, the government could have laid the power plant issue to rest a long time ago by simply responding to legitimate requests from OBSERVER Media. These were simple requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for contract information and a visit to the facility at Crabbs.
Instead, there was a campaign of delay and an eventual supply of partial information followed by silence. To date the plant remains a “no go zone” to OBSERVER Media.
The government, the UPP and the prime minister have not been forthcoming with the media on this issue and now appear to be happier to suffer the embarrassment of having the ALP member for St John’s City West force their hand.
The less charitable among us might see this as an admission that opposition politicians “know how it go” and are more likely to accept all explanations after the photo ops are no longer available.
We do not see it this way but if this is indeed the strategy it would seem doomed to failure. Any investigation into this matter by a parliamentary committee cannot now be swept under the rug. Mr Browne is likely to condemn any findings as a whitewash and press his claims for a full inquiry. This, after all, makes good election campaign fodder.
The prime minister has apparently made his choice to keep matters “in house” rather than share the information, which the people have been asking for.
It seems to us to be one more UPP miscalculation.