A great number of residents who frequent St John’s for work, business and leisure are of the view that the $8 million that the government intends to pump into purchasing the Deluxe Cinema could better be spent elsewhere.
When OBSERVER media canvassed to get the opinions of residents on Friday afternoon, the most candid and forthright of those who responded were two young men at the East Bus Station who argued that while the performing arts deserved attention, sports development should take priority.
“Really and truly I think they should put the money into a sporting facility. We have more sportsman and sportswomen in Antigua than in the performing arts and more than those in drama,” one of them said. “Yasco really needs an upgrade. They need a stadium – a proper stadium. Fix up Yasco and that will motive the youth.”
The other young man at the terminal added: “Deal with the sports and leave the performing arts for now. Yasco really needs more work.”
The duo added their voices to the choir of athletes, coaches, and parents who have been calling on the government of Antigua & Barbuda to speedily make repairs and upgrades to the Yasco sports complex or even invest in a new facility.
Minister of Sports EP Chet Greene, who is also the minister of culture, has argued that having a performing arts centre would be a much needed and long overdue asset to the development of the arts in Antigua & Barbuda.
However, the deal which Minister of Information Melford Nicholas said is being negotiated solely with the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) has come under scrutiny because the Deluxe Theatre Limited is partly owned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament (MP) Charles “Max” Fernandez and his family.
In 2009 – the filing of documents with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) – the company listed Charles Fernandez as the second largest shareholder in the company behind his brother Joseph Fernandez.
It is unknown what interest the minister of foreign affairs still has in the business as he has routinely declined to speak about his affiliation to the company, however Nicholas has said that his cabinet colleague is merely a “minority shareholder”.
A man at Heritage Quay told OBSERVER media, “I vote for the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party. But not because I vote for labour means I can’t say when wrong is wrong. And it is wrong. If they were going to buy it for $3 million or $4 million, then fine. But $8 million? That’s too much for government to be spending to acquire that building.”
At the same time, another man with dreadlocks said, “I haven’t been studying it too much on the radio but how I feel sometimes is that a lot of people don’t like Gaston Browne. And they kick up about things because they don’t like him.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)