Who me? Yes, you! Couldn’t be! Then, who?

Most folks will recognise the title of today’s piece as the constant line from the childhood game, WHO STOLE THE COOKIE FROM THE COOKIE JAR. In that game, the accused shifts the blame to someone else.  Curiously, we find that in recent times, this administration has taken to making like the professed-clean children and passing responsibility for all and sundry mishaps in our fair state to any and everybody but themselves. Nothing is ever this infallible administration’s fault!

A few weeks ago, we heard that the reason for the unconscionable delay in the restoration of the Hannah Thomas Hospital was due to a, well . . . some convoluted story about donor-country India, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP), and the tough stipulations and rigorous prerequisites that no local construction company could meet.  To that malarkey, we say, “Hmmmm!” The Hannah Thomas Hospital is a two-by-four edifice. It is not the the Eiffel Tower, an engineering marvel that took all of two years to be built.  Many of our top construction companies have decades of experience building in these parts. Even with new climate resilient features, we suggest that many of them are more than capable. We mean, the rehabilitation of Hannah Thomas was not some mammoth construction undertaking like the building of the Chunnel (the undersea channel tunnel that connects England and France) or a high-security structure like Fort Knox.  The onerous stipulations, and the reasons for them, escape us. We scratch our heads at the suggestion that India and the UNDP did not see the restoration of the Hospital in Barbuda as a matter of urgency, and one that required a relaxation of tough terms and conditions. (See our Prime Minister’s plea to world funding agencies for concessionary lending and a relaxation of requirements in cases of “Hiroshima” devastation). As it ought to be in emergency funding, we suggest that the same should apply for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Anyway, it was only when the crime-against-humanity conditions at the Hannah Thomas were in the headlines (locally and internationally) on the the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Irma, that officialdom, much like the responsibility-shirking children in the aforementioned game, said, “Who me? Couldn’t be. It’s UNDP!” And then our government, like a modern-day Florence Nightingale, suddenly had an epiphany and grave concern for the medical needs of the people of Barbuda. After two years of indifference, our PM gallantly proclaimed that he was going to appeal to the UNDP et al to relax the burdensome stipulations and loosen the purse strings for Hannah Thomas. Sigh! Two years to recognise that the supposed stipulations were onerous and unrealistic! Talk about a government being unresponsive to the needs of its people.

Ditto, the folly on Friars Hill Road and the Sir George Walter Highway. They have now become a metaphor for the way things are done here in our fair state. It is really sad. Anyone who read our report, Weston accuses BHM of attempting to adjust contract to their own benefit, in Monday’s DAILY OBSERVER, or heard Weston’s spiel on THE BIG ISSUES could only roll his or her eyes and ask in exasperation, “What’s new?” Seems, after campaigning and talking in silky-smooth poetry, this administration is governing in “crappo-foot-a-run-dong-tong” prose. It is not pretty!

And to hear the administration tell it, much like the above-mentioned children, the maddening debacle on those two roadways is not their fault. In feigned innocence and much pretense, they righteously proclaim to anyone who will listen, Who me? Couldn’t be! It’s CDB!” The good Minister self-servingly proclaims that the hiring and all the main aspects of the agreement with Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM) were not done by the government, so the hideous mess on those two roads is not the government’s fault. Minister Weston says of BHM and the entity that supposedly hired them, “I can tell you, the Caribbean Development Bank, very few places will ever, ever shortlist the company again for any kind of work based on its quality of work in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Of course, if the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is responsible for oversight of this Road Rehabilitation project, and if they are satisfied with the pace and quality of work, never mind the utter disappointment and disgust of all Antiguans and Barbudans,then we throw our hands up in despair. All is lost! And the pain and suffering of road users continues inexorably for another long year. As does the pain and suffering of pensioners and workers and contractors; and a harried citizenry navigating the crumbling infrastructure; and government workers going to work on a wing and a prayer in leaky and moldy government offices; and so on and so forth, ad nauseam. And our frustration mounts every time we hear this administration exclaim, “Who me? Couldn’t be! It is UPP,” Antiguans and Barbudans can only look to the heavens, as did Queen Gertrude in HAMLET, in response to their insincere claims of non-responsibility, and mutter, “The Lady dost protest too loudly, methinks!”

Which begs the question: When will the buck ever stop on the desks of our many good leaders? We suggest, NEVER! They will fabricate every possible tale to divert accountability from themselves. The aforementioned Florence Nightingale, who once said, “I never gave or took any excuse,” they are not!We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.