In a speech that highlights the failures of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and indicts his ministers’ shortcomings, the United Progressive Party’s Political Leader, Harold Lovell, responded to Browne’s naming of the election date on Monday night.
Stating that “Gaston Browne has been the audience to the tragedy of our lives,” Lovell says he “failed to improve our standard of living and sat on his hands as – deliberately – he watched our savings evaporate; our small businesses go under; as the former workers of Jolly Beach and LIAT slipped into anxiety and then desperation; [and] as the still-too-high price of fuel at the pumps and the brutal hike in food prices push the middle-class into poverty and the poor into destitution… .”
Lovell also reminds the electorate that Browne “promised you more than 30 major projects that would bring thousands of jobs and billions in investments, and what he delivered was nearly 100 loans – some still clouded in mystery.”
Accordingly, he asks the voters: “How can a government be broke after such excessive borrowing and collecting more than $11 billion in taxes?”
The UPP Political Leader also takes the time to detail some of the shortcomings of the Cabinet Members, as well.
Referring to Sir Molwyn Joseph’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lovell recalls the “untold sums [spent] on programs that simply did not work, like the monitoring bracelets, and on a satellite hospital that, up to now, millions of dollars later, sits as cold and empty as the heart of his Minister of Health.”
By contrast, he says, the monthly allowance promised to healthcare workers on the frontline – “some of whom sacrificed their own health and lives” – did not materialize.
“No pillows or sheets at the hospital; not enough supplies at the clinics; an underfunded CBH and an over-extended [National Solid Waste Authority], resulting in overgrown communities and roadways and stinking gutters in St. John’s City,” the Political Leader notes.
Slamming the former Minister of Education, Lovell says that “Michael Browne could not see further than the word ‘fortune’ in Fortuna Pix. And so, during the pandemic, when students most needed the multi-million-dollar E-books to access their virtual classrooms, the Ministry of Education was already planning the funeral for their burial at the Cooks Landfill.”
Fingering Public Works and addressing the ongoing nightmare on the roads, Lovell asks, “Which administration before this one was ever the beneficiary of US$20 million in grant money for roadworks?
“And yet,” he reminds voters, “portions of Friars Hill Road and Sir George Walter Highway – newly resurfaced – have fallen into potholes already. The Valley Road is incomplete. The Sir Sidney Walling Highway, going east, has been dug up again. The roadway at Crabbe Hill and at Cades Bay remains caved-in … as Southsiders cry, “How long, Lennox; how long?”
Meanwhile, as residents across the country continue to complain, Lovell notes that there is “water, water, everywhere, and not a drop in your pipes – sometimes for weeks at a time! Reverse Osmosis on top of Reverse Osmosis Plant, and yet, the situation gets no better. Why? Who is profiting from your loss, My Fellow Citizens and Residents?” he asks.
The Ministry of Tourism was not spared, either. The UPP Leader notes that, last weekend, “after all the showboating and all the sleight of hand regarding the reopening of Jolly Beach Resort, what happened? Staff have gone home again, while guests have had to be carted off to other properties – running from mosquitoes and complaining of no water or electricity.”
He adds that, despite eight years of dredging the St. John’s Harbour, “we are yet to see one OASIS-class ship dock here.” Further, while the authorities “want us to believe that the tourism cup is spilling over, the taxi drivers and Vendors Mall operators are telling a different story, Lovell says, “because their saucer remains dry, no matter how many ships are in Global Ports’ port.”
The only success that Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez can claim, he notes, is “offloading his cinema onto the backs of tax-payers.”
Listing failures in the Ministries of Lands; Agriculture; and Social Transformation; as well as in National Housing and Social Security, Lovell comes up to this pre-election season.
“Gaston Browne and the Labour Party want to come bearing gifts; slipping you money; splashing out on expensive concert after expensive concert; wining and dining you; and promising you swimming pools in cemeteries — expecting that their ill-gotten gains will buy them another election… .
“But Brothers and Sisters, just like the Odebrecht Scandal was the ‘Mother of All Scandals,’ so is this election the ‘Mother of All Elections,” he declares. And “just like 2004 was ‘The Year of Change,’ this election must usher in the year and decade of GREATEST CHANGE!” Lovell charges.
Accordingly, the UPP Leader exhorts the electorate to “go out and get your Voter’s ID Card if you haven’t collected it. Those who have it, secure it. And go out and vote on Election Day. Put your X next to the Sun!
“Vote like your life and your children’s lives depend on it,” Lovell tells Antigua and Barbuda, “because they do!”