The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is distancing itself from the tragic incident involving some West Africans who have been residing here for over three months.
Reports say that on Monday night, March 28, 30 West Africans left here in an overcrowded boat in an attempt to get to the US Virgin Islands. The vessel capsized and sank 40 miles northwest of Antigua, going down between Antigua and St. Kitts, and three passengers have been confirmed dead.
More than a dozen are still missing.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Melford Nicholas has told the world that his government accepts no responsibility for the tragedy. He justifies his statement by noting the Administration had offered “hospice” to the stranded visitors and had even invited two international agencies to look further into their present living circumstances.
During a press conference led by Nicholas, on Thursday, March 30, several panelists – including Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney; Colonel Edward Croft, director of the Organization of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy (ONDCP); Chief Immigration Officer Katrina Yearwood; and Customs and Excise Division Head Raju Boddu – were expected to address the controversial matter.
However, many audience members complained to REAL News that these officials “just dodged the questions” and avoided any direct answers – to the frustration of those seeking updated information.
For example, they said, Police Commissioner Rodney is claiming not to know from where the allegedly stolen boat left, even though the owner is being held for questioning by local police.
Rodney would only say that when the boat left the port at Jolly Harbour, no more than two individuals were on board.
The Commissioner also claimed there is not much more that can be said about the incident, since the St. Kitts and Nevis police are still investigating. Reportedly, the survivors were to be questioned, also on Thursday, about what led to the tragedy.
In the meantime, aggrieved residents are rejecting Nicholas’ assertion and laying blame for the migrants’ deaths squarely at the Browne Administration’s feet.
Some point out that it was the Government who brought the West Africans here and then left them stranded by cancelling any further flights by Antigua Airways and what it says were “copycat” charters.
Accordingly, calls continue for Prime Minister Gaston Browne and some of his Cabinet colleagues to do the honourable thing – since they refer to themselves as honourable men – and resign.
For once, critics say, they should take responsibility for something and stop trying to blame others and shift the narrative.