LETTER: Antiguans Ain’t Buying “No Pig In Bag”

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Hon. Dean Jonas

Dear Editor,

I had intended in this letter to highlight the uselessness of the United progressive Party’s political strategy or lack thereof. However, I have decided to postpone that to deal with two current issues.

Firstly, the bruhaha caused by Dean Jonas MP, at a Town Hall Meeting, attended by the three candidates vying for the St. George’s seat, Algernon Watts of the UPP, DNA candidate Kelton Dalso and Jonas himself. And secondly, to analyze the general elections on St. Kitts/Nevis, the installation of the new government and the appointment of the Cabinet. Further to compare and contrast the quality of those persons who offered themselves to the electorate, and are now forming that Cabinet, with those of the UPP, offering themselves as a viable alternative to the incumbent government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

During the various presentations Dean Jonas opined that Watts was neither qualified nor fit to hold high office, in that he had no tertiary education. This criticism “cut the UPP hierarchy. Their activists and supporters to the bone”. Although the truth be told, it has been said publicly multiple times that Watts never completed secondary school – allegations that he has never publicly denied. Supporters of the UPP have taken serious umbrage and have weighed in with many silly comments like the Father of the had no university education; Sir George Ryan chimed in with the inane statement that “studiation beats education”, a saying attributed to the late J.A.N Browne Esq., and borrowed by Sir George, but which as so many of his interventions, make absolutely no sense. Charles Tabor Esq., not to be outdone, averred that honesty, integrity and transparency trumped tertiary education and professional competence, or words to that effect. None of them are apparently living in the fast paced technologically advancing 21st century.

The UPP needs to understand that a large segment of the voting public, other than the party’s base, entertain serious doubts and misgivings, as to whether the UPP’s slate of candidates are of the quality that conform to a viable opposition, let alone, a government. The questions are constantly being asked, apart from the party leader (who is a lawyer with some government experience), how do these candidates match up to the present incumbents; and most of all, which of these new members can one visualize as being able to hold and execute ministerial portfolios.

I say without fear of contradiction that any serious political party, 6 months shy of a general election, would have long ago named its shadow cabinet, which would enable the candidates to face the media, espouse and defends its party’s policies and enable the voting public to assess their ability and competencies. Instead, all we have is the political leader (not the leader of the opposition) in his captain’s corner, ensuring that he keeps the opposition leader in the backroom, criticizing every and anything, looking smart and well dressed and offering no meaningful insight into the party’s policies. To date he has been unable to introduce and flesh out the party’s plans and policies for governance.

The voters will not “cut the UPP any slack”. The UPP must get its act together and “crap or get off the pot”. Finally, on this point, in addition to appointing its shadow cabinet, the party must publish substantial biographies of its prospective candidates and also papers enumerating the policies they intend to adopt if elected; and how they intend to fund these policies and programmes; particularly in light of the many promises to abolish a raft of taxes at a substantial cost to the Treasury plus millions of dollars of payments to Liat and Jolly Beach workers.

Which brings me to my next topic, which is the recent general elections in St. Kitts & Nevis. It has been said that “comparisons are odious”. However, a comparison between the quality, experience and professionalism of the new St. Kitts Cabinet (which was in opposition until the elections) and the “UPP’s dream Team to redeem”, speaks volumes. Dr. Terrance Drew, Prime Minister is a Medical Doctor, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Geoffrey Hanley is a medical doctor and holds portfolios for Education, Youth, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Aging and Disabilities; Dr. Denzil Douglas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Economic Development, International Trade, Investments, Industry and Commerce, is a Medical Doctor and former Prime Minister; Honourable Garth Wilkin is the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs; he is a highly respected attorney, with university honours and a part of a most prestigious law firm (compare with Charles Tabor & Chaku Symister); Senator the Honourable Dr. Joyelle Clarke PHD in Geography and Geology, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Climate Action and Constituency Empowerment; and the remaining cabinet being known persons of repute in their respective fields of endeavour.

I pose the following questions that so many voters do: which members of this dream team are Ministerial material? Can Antiguans seriously contemplate putting their future and the future of their children and grandchildren in the hands of any of the UPP candidates? Apart from the political noise generated by some of their hopefuls and the self-pronouncements that they will prevail and form the government and the political gimmickry which passes for the party’s campaign strategy, is this a winning formula for the party and is it resonating with voters other than the party’s base? I think not.

Harold Lovell and the UPP must understand that Antiguan voters, whatever our shortcomings, are not stupid. They will vote for the party that they consider to be better able to improve their lives and in doing so, they will measure the accomplishments of the party in power. They will certainly compare the ABLP’s candidates with those of the UPP.

Truth be told, the constant negativity of the UPP, its penchant for opposing any and all policies of the sitting government, even if good for the country, is “grinding the electorates’ gears”.

Finally, these are extremely difficult times. There is Covid still hanging around; monkey pox threatening, the war in Ukraine, causing high fuel prices particularly in Europe, inflation, shortage of goods and services, high prices and pressures on the local economy. The government has no control over any of these factors but has shown that it can manage the economy in difficult times. The ABLP government is a known and proven entity. The UPP, on the other hand, led this country to the precipice of economic disaster and has not to date indicated how it would do things differently. Neither has it presented its plans and policies which will enrich the lives of the population.

These are the reasons why the voters are saying to Harold, “We ain’t buying no pig in bag.”