Angry residents call for resignation of PM Browne, saying he has embarrassed the country and is a security threat to the region

As news of the tragic incident involving migrant West Africans makes international rounds, and as the Administration is promising a full investigation into the incident, some residents have sounded the call for Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s resignation.

On Tuesday morning, March 28, it was confirmed that a boat had capsized between Antigua and St. Kitts with 32 people on board. It is alleged that the journey had originated in Antigua, at the Urlings Fisheries Wharf, with the ultimate destination being the United States Virgin Islands.

The vessel – which some are alleging had been stolen – has been confirmed to be the property of a resident of Guadeloupe, and not of his known associates who are nationals of the Dominican Republic, as was reported earlier.

Up to last night, 15 people – 13 of them West Africans – had been rescued alive, while three were confirmed dead, presumably by drowning.  The other 14, still missing up to Wednesday morning, are also said to be West African “visitors” who had been stranded here since arriving on chartered flights in late 2022.

Some shocked and saddened residents have deemed the incident heartbreaking, with several declaring that the Browne Administration has “blood on its hands.”  

In an open letter, an individual who identifies as “Antiguan 4 Life” is calling on PM Browne to resign with immediate effect following the awful tragedy.

According to the writer, he does not expect Browne’s Cabinet colleagues, or the diehard Browne supporters, to call for his resignation, since they do not have the courage to do the right thing.

Some locals are pointing to the series of “embarrassing” events since the Browne Administration welcomed direct flights from West Africa last November 1, and say the image of Antigua and Barbuda has been sullied.

“Red flags were waving in the wind” since talk of Antigua Airways first surfaced, some claim.  This has been supported by reports of a caution issued by the Aviation Authority, also in November 2022.

A man recalls that all right-thinking Antiguans and Barbudans raised concerns about the airline venture at the time, but Prime Minister Browne dismissed them as being politically motivated.

Browne countered that the airline would bring wealthy Nigerians to Antigua and Barbuda for vacation and investment; but some say that Browne knew this was not the case.

Instead, as hundreds of West Africans were brought here – with little luggage and insufficient reservations for accommodation – what seems to have occurred is a migrant-trafficking ring on which Antigua was to have been the first stop.

Many say the real reason behind at least three of the four flights is still a mystery, while others insist that billions of United States currency – real or counterfeit – was the undeclared cargo.

This country now has an international emergency on its hands, another man says, as the prime minister’s decision has threatened the security of not only Antigua and Barbuda but the region.  Browne “is a liability to …. the entire Caribbean basin,” other persons concur.

“He [Browne] must resign,” the man asserts, saying the prime minister’s action in allowing these flights was hasty, reckless and negligent.

Still others are calling for Browne’s resignation on the ground that his leadership has become untenable.  They say that Browne should not be allowed to remain in office … since he appears to be a loose cannon and lethally dangerous.

One resident declares that PM Browne is a total embarrassment to Antigua and Barbuda; and if the prime minister fails to resign, he says, then the citizens need to close the country down.

A woman says that a vote of “no confidence” should be made against the prime minister and the people should stage peaceful demonstrations to effect the necessary changes.

“He must be removed,” a man says simply.

Calls are also being made for the removal of Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams; Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood; and Owolabi Elabanjo, a Ministry of Agriculture employee and member of the Antigua-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, from their positions.