As the Antigua and Barbuda China- Aid Post-Disaster Roof Restoration Initiative comes to an end, Prime Minister Gaston Browne reaffirmed his commitment to the continued development and reconstruction of Barbuda.
The People’s Republic of China was one of the first diplomatic responders to the disaster Barbuda faced after the passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The PRC, through their China Aid, contributed US$2 million towards the repairing rooftops of homes damaged by the hurricane. This contribution was in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Office of Disaster Management (NODS) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
This venture came to a completion with an official closing ceremony on Thursday July 12th 2018 in Codrington, Barbuda, at the Fisheries Complex, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne was asked to give the keynote address.
Also present were the UNDP team, the Hon. Dean Jonas, Minister of Barbuda Affairs, China’s Ambassador H.E Mr. Wang Xianmin, Director of NODS Mr. Philmore Mullins, Head of UNDP Project Office, Ms. Maureen Lance- Onyeiwu among other key dignitaries.
Prime Minister Browne, in thanking the People’s Republic of China for the quick and functional response, pledged his unwavering commitment to the People of Barbuda despite the polarization taking place by opposition members. PM Browne said, despite the rumors and lies, measures and steps are taking place by his government to ensure the advancement and progress of Barbuda and Barbudans.
The Prime Minister was appreciative of the assistance of the PRC in conjunction with the UNDP team on the ground. The Roof Restoration Initiative took several months to complete bearing the fruits of hundreds of homes having their roofs restored and repaired. The cost of the labor was borne by the Antigua and Barbuda government and, in some instances, by donor funding.
Though the Barbuda Council members were invited to attend, specifically the Chairman of the Barbuda Council to present the welcoming remarks at the closing ceremony, elected BPM members were not in attendance. Though unfortunate, the Prime Minister reassured the delegation in attendance that his commitment to Barbuda is a commitment for the continued development of the twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda. Something he has vocalized even before coming into office.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne also remarked on what he termed as the “dereliction of duty by members of the BPM-controlled Barbuda Council.” Prime Minister Browne said: “Their no-show indicates that they do not want to be associated with anything positive, they just want to promote division and strife. They will use their absence to peddle misinformation that nothing positive is happening; so, they can continue to perpetuate their lies in the international community. So instead of dispensing their duties, they traveled to Antigua on a frolic.”
“They were too embarrassed to come.” The Prime Minister continued.
“Their purposeful absence also demonstrates a lack of initiative to the development of Barbuda and continues to peddle fake news that affect Barbuda and the people of Barbuda,” PM Browne illustrated.
“Ultimately, the Barbudans and the rest of the world will see them for exactly what they are: a bunch of cowards who are seeking power at all cost,” Prime Minister Browne said in office. “Apparently they don’t know how to say thanks.”
PM Browne reiterated his sentiment towards the destructive and unproductive tactics the BPM leader and BPM council members have taken in response to the development of Barbuda. PM Browne indicated again that if anyone acts in a manner that suggests he or she is above the law of the land, he will have them dealt with.
Due to the failure of the Chairman of the Barbuda Council attending this auspicious occasion, elected ABLP councilwoman, Ms. Mackeisha Desouza replaced his empty seat to present the welcoming remarks.
Ms. Desouza, in her opening remarks, said: “Today marks a momentous day in the history of Barbuda, and an important step in the advancement of the rebuilding process of Barbuda.”
The Councilwoman went on to state her appreciation of the joint venture as a Barbudan.
“This project was a much-needed project for Barbuda after an estimated 95% of the roofs were severely damaged by the passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017,” Ms. Desouza said
She went on to state: “On behalf of the people of Barbuda, we express our sincere thanks and appreciation for coming to the aid of Barbuda in such a way. This project speaks volumes once again to the commitment of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to the people of Barbuda.“
The Council Member then turned to the Prime Minister to specifically thank him amidst the purposeful polarization among the people of Barbuda. She said: “Honorable Prime Minister, you have been relentless in your support and dedication even when faced with many obstacles and setbacks, you continue to stand the test of time. Thank you, Sir.”
The closing ceremony also saw two Barbudan beneficiaries giving testimonies of their experience with the Post-Disaster Roof Restoration Initiative. These testimonies were given by Cecric Beazer and Ms. Avelyn Thomas.
The Project is said to have been well executed with well over 250 home roofs being completed to date. This number includes BPM Council member’s homes who opted not to the attend the thank you closing ceremony.
The ceremony additionally included a symbolic closure with an example of a Roof Capping, a technique used in the roofing repair work done in the initiative. Prime Minister Gaston Browne also received the presentation of Certificates of Completion.
Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst, noted that it was quite unfortunate that members of the BPM Council and the Chairman did not make an appearance to such an occasion.
Photo caption: Prime Minister Gaston Browne along with China’s Ambassador H.E. Wang Xianmin (left) and UNRC/UNDP RR, Mr. Stephen O’Malley (right).