In the wake of Tuesday’s tragedy in which the lives of 17 migrant West Africans apparently were lost at sea, MP Jamale Pringle, leader of the Opposition, is calling on the Governor-General to immediately convene a commission to inquire into the circumstances that brought them here – specifically the genesis and operations of Antigua Airways.
Six weeks ago, Pringle wrote to His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, requesting an audience to discuss the matter of the airline and the hundreds of Africans it had left stranded here.
He subsequently led a delegation to detail his concerns and those of the United Progressive Party and urge the Governor-General to convene an inquiry into the matter, which appeared to be riddled with aviation irregularities and tainted with allegations of migrant trafficking.
Sir Rodney ultimately declined to do so; instead, he advised Pringle that he had conveyed his delegation’s concerns to Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, who, reportedly, was having the matter investigated.
Since then, however, suspicions about the venture have been confirmed, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne announcing, on March 25, that Antigua Airways is defunct.
Given the tragic incident at sea, and the international implications of what strongly resembles migrant trafficking, Pringle says, “the guilty must be brought to justice.”
Accordingly, he is also appealing to “stakeholders in this country: church and civil leaders; community groups and NGOs; and every God-fearing and morally conscious citizen and resident to stand up, speak out and demonstrate for the lives lost.”
Meanwhile, Pringle says he and fellow members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, as well as other members of the Redeem Team, are prepared to lead a “Black March” and candlelight vigil in the interest of justice for the lost Africans and for answers for a grieving and embarrassed population.
They have also begun the process of composing official requests to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Embassy of the United States of America in Barbados, among others, in order to bring light to the shadows clouding the twin-island state.
“As a country, we need to take these necessary measures to resolve this human-rights issue that has put another stain on our country. When will enough be enough? Antigua and Barbuda, only you hold the answer to that question,” the Opposition Leader says.
In the meantime, on behalf of the leadership, executive and membership of the United Progressive Party, Pringle conveys his sincere condolences to the families, friends and fellow-nationals of those lost at sea on Tuesday morning.
“They left their country in search of a better life, and we understand that,” he says. “They did not deserve to die trying to find it.”