Leader of the Opposition Jamale Pringle will head a delegation from the United Progressive Party (UPP) at a meeting with Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams on Wednesday morning, May 17, and present petition sheets bearing the signatures of thousands of concerned citizens.
Of concern to these citizens and the UPP is the fact that Sir Rodney declined an earlier request for a Commission of Inquiry into the genesis of the failed Antigua Airways and the flights from Lagos, Nigeria, that stranded hundreds of West Africans here.
Since Sir Rodney’s rejection over two months ago, the airline has been described by its champion, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, as “virtually defunct,” even as a lawsuit filed in Nigeria by two alleged principals is to be heard.
More serious than that, however, is the drowning deaths of three Cameroonians – and the disappearance of more than a dozen – during an ill-fated attempt to smuggle 30 of them into the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 28.
The UPP believes that these incidents, as well as several other reports of migrant smuggling into neighbouring islands – and the damage to Antigua and Barbuda’s reputation – are serious enough to warrant Sir Rodney’s reconsideration.
To bolster the second request that Pringle and his colleagues intend to make, they will deliver to the Governor-General the petition sheets that have been widely distributed since March, online and in hard copy.
A formal letter requesting an Inquiry, with rationale, will also be submitted. A request from several clergy is expected to be presented, as well, and additional requests from other concerned parties are welcome, Pringle says.
UPP Caretaker Pearl Quinn-Williams notes that a significant number of residents have said they share the concerns voiced; however, either out of loyalty to the Browne Administration or fear of victimization, they have not signed the petition.
“While the UPP is spearheading this initiative, this is not a politically partisan issue,” Pringle explains to REAL News. “The citizens and residents have questions and they’re entitled to answers.
“This so-called airline carried our country’s name and flew our flag. The dead Cameroonians came from here, Antigua. The living ones were expected to be returned here. We are involved any way you look at it, and we need to know why and we need to know how,” Pringle says.
“This one is too big to be swept under the carpet.”
Meanwhile, the Party says it intends to continue the petition drive past Wednesday. In the event that Sir Rodney again refuses to use his constitutional authority to convene the Inquiry, the petition will form part of the Concerned Citizens’ appeal to the relevant international agencies, Pringle says.
Most have been alerted already to the March 28 tragedy at sea; dead bodies recently floating up on shores; and the illegal entry of West Africans into at least three territories, as the unlawful migration from Antigua continues .