By: Mikey Joseph
It’s insidious, a game of smoke and mirrors that included Sandals, Asot Michael, Maria and Lester Bird, the UPP, the United States and Canadian governments, Caricom and so many more. But bit by bit, piece by piece, the end game of Gaston Browne is becoming clearer and clearer, and I urge every right-minded Antiguan and Barbudan to take note.
Just over 18 months ago, Gaston Browne started a campaign to viciously attack the character of his ‘enemies’. The decision to abolish the concessions for Sandals, granted originally under an ALP government mind you – one led by Sir Lester Bird, had nothing to do with economics or protecting the coffers of Antigua and Barbuda. Rather it had everything to do with getting into a spat with Sandals which could allow Gaston to pursue his agenda against key private sector companies.
It was a slick political feint of hand to inculcate a siege mentality among supporters, and offer him a platform from which to launch his economic model of ‘entrepreneurial socialism’ – a clear oxymoron (which he himself has admitted mind you) – but one craftily designed to pursue an agenda of control of the productive assets of the country, starting with the tree that bears the most fruit; Sandals Resorts International.
For 25 years the company has been a key investor, however Gaston has suddenly found fault with the system that has provided careers for generations of his citizens… but there is a reason why.
A warning here; people should be cautious of not blindly swallowing or parroting this talk of ‘entrepreneurial socialism’. Gaston is smart, and he knows the more he gets people to repeat it, even if they criticize it, it will validate the ‘name’ over the course of time. It then gives him greater leverage to spring his trap on the people of Antigua, entangling them in a web of forced control before they even know what’s happening.
Let’s look at what ‘socialism’ entails; slow economic growth, less entrepreneurial opportunity and competition, and a potential lack of motivation by individuals due to lesser rewards.
On the other hand Capitalism, which fosters ‘entrepreneurialism’, affords economic freedom, consumer choice, and economic growth.
A socialist economic system is characterized by social ownership and operation of the means of production that may take the form of autonomous cooperatives or direct public ownership – remember what I said about why he picked a fight with Sandals.
History teaches us that socialism is the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.
Is it starting to become a bit clearer?
So let’s talk communism.
As Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels imagined it, a communist society is one where there is no government, no money, and no private property, but instead people work in communal factories producing goods which are distributed to whoever needs them.
This would then lead to a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. The proletariat was the ruling class, not necessarily a single person acting as a dictator. Who are Gaston’s friends? Some of them engaged in the hospitality sector as well are they not? Who do you think will form this ‘proletariat’? And please pay special attention to the term ‘ruling class.’
But targeting the economic interests is not enough. Gaston knows that he has to take out his political opponents as well, and politicians always keep their friends close, and their enemies closer.
So having married into the Bird dynasty, and having engaged Sandals in a public feud, he now goes after the ‘enemies’ in his bed. Sir Lester Bird first off, because you see the Sandals controversy is a double whammy! Those concessions were agreed to by Sir Lester Bird’s government, and given to Sandals on the understanding that Sandals would build 100 more rooms (they built 180 their CEO has said). So really Gaston has crumpled up an initiative of Sir Lester to build more capacity (something he has so far been unable to do), while insinuating that they had no authority to offer any concessions. A slap in the face.
However he has become more emboldened within the past few days (thief-in-the-night elections might be near), when he let it get out that Sir Lester’s niece; Maria Bird, would make a good candidate for St. John’s Rural East; Sir Lester’s seat!
It prompted an immediate response from Sir Lester who declared that he alone is qualified to make pronouncements on his future candidacy adding “I should be allowed the civility to make the pronouncement rather than for me to be reading about it in the newspaper.”
But you see, this gives you a glimpse of what Gaston Browne hopes to be. Gaston is laying the foundation for ‘Future Gaston’ – a maximum ruler and one who will have no problems doing or saying things that disrespect persons, because he will be in charge; he will be King, and Antigua and Barbuda his Kingdom.
We saw it when he went off to the CARICOM Summit in July, when he abruptly left after the opening ceremony, and following concerns raised by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell – the CARICOM Chairman by the way – with respect to inter-regional travel and West Indies cricket. Gaston later told the Observer Radio he left because he had urgent matters of state to address at home and refused to be lectured by anyone when protecting and promoting the national interest. You see the arrogance? Day by day it grows.
Another fateful blow came with the firing of Asot Michael, former Tourism Minister and longtime financier of the ALP. Again Gaston played for maximum credit, declaring that he was informed of the arrest of his Minister in October by the U.K. authorities, and took a high moral stand, terminating the Minister forthwith.
A dazed and dizzied Asot Michael sought to give his Prime Minister some wiggle room by saying that he had been misinformed, however the joke was on him!
So far so good, but you know what is one of the weaknesses of a cloak and dagger plan? The weakness is that it’s supposed to be done in secret, and human nature burns the ego of the strategist because a part of him wants everyone to know what a good plan he’s crafted. So it was, that during an interview with a radio station in Jamaica on the night of Antigua’s Independence, Gaston could not help but reveal to the hosts that he had information beforehand about Asot’s arrest, and that it had to do with a bribery conspiracy involving a UK citizen!
The cat is out of the bag now.
The Prime Minister clearly knows a lot about this incident, and his admission has raised some worrying questions. For instance exactly when did the Prime Minister find out that a member of his Cabinet was involved in alleged criminal activity, and if he did, what did he do about it? Did he just leave it alone? If the UK did not get involved was he intending to leave it alone and just let the Minister go about his business? Did he know this before the Minister travelled? And if he did, why was the Minister allowed to travel on government business?
Or maybe that was the plan all along. Allow him to travel, know he was going to get taken in, and terminate with extreme prejudice! And so Asot is out of the way!
And that brings us right back to this concept of ‘entrepreneurial socialism.’ It will be the last nail in the coffin as Gaston seeks to consolidate his power, and reign over Antigua and Barbuda for as long as he is allowed.
What then does the future hold for the people of this twin-island state? We need look no further than George Orwell’s powerful novella ‘Animal Farm’.
Orwell wrote Animal Farm to illustrate the way Stalinism had betrayed the ideals of the socialist revolution in the Soviet Union. That experiment ended with a brutal dictatorship, built on a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror. If you have not read Animal Farm, then you should do so most hastily.
But in essence there is Napoleon (Gaston) who enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs who will run the farm (like I said, think about the circle of friends).
Napoleon claims credit for the building of a windmill (entrepreneurial socialism) which is supposed to save the farm. Ultimately by the time it all falls apart (as it surely will) Napoleon is entrenched and cannot be moved, and anyone daring to speak out is immediately dealt with.
That is the future that Gaston seems intent on chiseling out for Antigua and Barbuda. He would make himself a king, however the only castles he will occupy are those built in the air. In reality, he is nothing more than a Political Anti-Christ offering the illusion of heaven while paving a path to hell for his country and its citizens.