Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Noticeably Pregnant!


By Mshaka


As most people know, there is an ongoing, heated debate about the proposed amendment to the Education Act which seeks to prohibit “noticeably pregnant” “students” from attending school.

While it is true that there is need for programs to prevent girls from becoming pregnant during their school years, this “Bill” does not seek to do that.

What it does is that it seeks to first remove the “noticeably pregnant” “girl” from her school, and second to punish her for becoming pregnant.

This Bill has nothing to with any concern for education. It has to do with adults concerns for some kind of effervescent morality… not morality having to do with teenage sex… but of teenage pregnancy.

If it was about teenage sex then the other party to the pregnancy… the boys or men… would also be targeted. But as far as I am aware, the Bill is silent about the males in the equation.

No – it is not about sexual behavior.

And, the system only punishes the girl if and when she becomes “noticeably pregnant”. If no one notices… then, hey, everything is OK. This is like the US Military’s rule about homosexuality in the US Armed Forces…. “Don’t see, don’t tell.” Keep it your homosexual orientation (or preferences) and certainly your activities… hidden!

So a young girl must hide her pregnancy! Tell them that you are just gaining weight. Wear overly large clothing. Whatever happens, don’t become “noticeably pregnant”. If you do become “noticeably pregnant” you will have to take off your uniform… and you will be banished from your school – denied of education – at least for a year… and after that – well… who knows!

Now what happens if no one notices and she never becomes “noticeably pregnant?” And let’s say she then has the baby. What then? She was never noticeably pregnant… so according to the law she should be able to stay in school after her delivery - (she was out sick…).

In the meantime, the male – the equal partner to the pregnancy - does not ever become “noticeably pregnant” and is not required to be “noticeably involved”.

Let’s say he is a fellow school mate… what then? Well, he is OK. He is not “noticeably pregnant”. He never will be… even if this is his second, third, fourth… Never mind all that… He is not “noticeably pregnant”.

And, remember that this is not about sexual activity by school aged children… this is about having a pregnant girl going to school.

One supporter of this odiferous Bill told me that “The young woman (after she becomes “noticeably pregnant”) will be a poor role model, will be a bad influence, and will send the wrong message to the other girls in the school!

Huh? What? What is the wrong message that she is sending?

Since the concern is not about sex… it has to be about not becoming “noticeably pregnant”. So her classmates, her friends… and the other girls around them… can be sexually active… as many of her friends probably are.

All they have to do is to just make sure that they don’t become pregnant. And if they do get pregnant… make sure that they are never “noticeably pregnant”.

Now… in the meantime the boys can go on having sex and fathering babies…! And the if they are older… and the girl is younger… then everyone turns a blind eye to that Gargantuan issue… Does the Bill address repercussions for them?

What is the answer to this situation?

  • There are only four issues to be addressed:Address the issue of teenage sexuality by developing prevention and intervention programs. There are tons of blue ribbon, research driven, proven, best-practices programs available worldwide. We even had one in Antigua years ago when the Youth Project (on Factory Road) was initiated.
  • If a girl becomes pregnant there should be a program that triggers a plethora of health, social and educational services to wrap around her. She should not lose out on educational services because she is 15 and pregnant. If anything… that should trigger greater concern for than for her peers because of her pending responsibility for another life. If the government opts for an alternative education program – it should be robust, well funded and seamlessly integrated with health and social services. And – every effort should be made to reduce any stigmatization that could come with such programs. In other words – there should be a strong focus on conscious-raising public awareness campaigns that highlight the importance of public support for these two children… mother and child.
  • Intensive wrap-around social and health services should be developed for the mother and baby once she has given birth. Such services would include parenting classes. Her education should be continued until she completes her secondary education. I would also submit that career guidance counseling should also be provided.
  • Finally, the issue of the males involved should be addressed. Steps taken should include legal, social, educational or psychological interventions. The legal issues are clear. However, school-age fathers… (who are going to school) should be involved in parenting classes along with the teenage mother!

I find the idea of putting “noticeably pregnant” in a Bill repulsive.

I find the idea of leaving the decision up to the School’s principal similarly obnoxious. Why? Well… I cannot imagine any of today’s bible-toting, bible-quoting principals making a decision to keep a “noticeably pregnant” young girl in their sight! So let’s not leave it up to them!

I suggest that a lot more thought must go into any decisions that are being made on these issues. There are many important things to consider. But the most important has to do with the young mother to be and her unborn baby – whether she is “noticeably pregnant” or not.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Direct Result of Immigration Policy


By Mshaka


Every day when I listen to the radio and television news… it feels as though I am listening to accounts from Jamaica.

I remember about ten years ago, a friend of mine was contemplating a potential contract that would have had him doing significant work in Jamaica. He would have had to interface with residents in some of Jamaica’s poorest neighborhoods. He was seriously considering it because of the “nice pay per day” that he was going to receive for a six month contract.

He asked his wife. She objected. He asked his kids… they objected. He asked his mom and dad. They objected. He still persevered and was about to go… a man has to do what a man has to do. Well… he almost had a family mutiny on his hands.

He finally decided that he would not go. Since then he has been to Iraq and Somalia. Recently, he had another opportunity to go to Jamaica to do similar work for an international agency. He again decided not to go!

Where is this guy from? His wife is Jamaican. His parents are Jamaican. His oldest son is Jamaican. He…. is Jamaican – from Negril! Has he been back to Jamaica… Yes… he did the tourist thing – he went to the North Coast where all the hotels are… with a brief… hurried trip to his home town.

He talks about the high levels of senseless crimes in his country… where apparently no one feels safe. He talks about the criminals who have no respect for law and order. He talks about the fact that people who live there everyday feel a sense of being bombarded and imprisoned in “dem own yard”.

He talks about the fact that ordinary citizens of good conscience are now carrying various types of weapons… to defend themselves.

He talks about the fact that many women don’t feel safe. He says that, according to family members who are still there, neighborhoods seem like war zones…

He says that children are growing up with this sense of being traumatized on a daily basis… rapes, gunfire, stabbings, armed robberies, political violence, murders…

As he talks and I listen… I begin to get goose bumps… This sounds like Antigua (not yet Barbuda).

My mind begins to drift… How did Antigua get like Jamaica? I remember growing up in Perry Bay… Tinning Village to be exact… We had our doors and windows open and only closed them for rain – or the mosquitoes… or the awful smell from Tom’s ‘night soil’ carts!

Now… it doesn’t matter where you live… you close your windows and doors, and not only lock them… but put on padlocks and turn on the alarm.

Probably the fastest growing business in Antigua is the security business.

How did we get this way?

There is only one answer… All those things were imported from Jamaica and elsewhere.

All of this is a direct result of the myopic, treacherous and criminal policy of the former ALP government who were tricked by the Guyanese idea to import voters into Antigua to boost their diminishing support among Antiguans.

This is also a direct result of the weak kneed, snail-paced, and indecisive policy of the current UPP Government who for political reasons are afraid – have been afraid to develop a firm policy towards immigration.

It is a mistake that the UPP Government will pay dearly for.

Both Governments… the former and the current are responsible for the wave of endemic violence that we are now seeing and the fear that has embraced our beautiful island – where supposedly - “the beach is just the beginning…“  (Of what? But that’s another story!)

Now the violence has reached our beaches and impacting our one-industry economy!

I know that some will make the argument that some of the perpetrators of these criminal acts are our own Antiguan people. I agree.


Just like many of our Antiguan brothers and sisters have adopted the nefarious, ghetto, ‘xyznklitzvt’ behaviors, songs, mindset, attitudes, dress and other sub-cultural artifacts from Jamaica (and Guyana)… A small set  of Antiguans have also adopted the criminal sub-culture and criminal psychological mindsets from these countries.

I also know that some of you will make the argument that some Antiguans have brought back their criminal lifestyles from the United States. The trouble with that argument is that we don’t have any statistics on how many of those people have been deported by to Antigua.

What we do know… is that with the massive tidal wave of Jamaicans and Guyanese (and others) who have come to Antigua… have come Tom, Dick & Dirty Harry – and many of them from the criminal underbelly of those countries.

What do we do now?

Our immigration policy needs to be fixed right now. Every crime… every robbery… every rape… every murder… I lay squarely on the doorstep of the politicians… past and present.

Every delay in fixing the immigration policy… every delay in ensuring that every person in Antigua is properly documented (nationals and foreigners)… every hesitation to do the right thing… for whatever reason… every delay adds to the number of crimes… the number of rapes…

UPP – do the right thing! Fix the immigration policy now. Re-election or not! Antiguans are living in fear. Our women live in fear. Many don’t sleep well. Our children are hurting… the violence and the negative foreign live styles are impacting them too!

UPP – Fix immigration now. Stop being afraid of the foreign vote! Good people – nationals and foreigners will not only understand – they will agree. The foreigners among us are subjected to the same violence and crimes and rapes as Antiguans are. They are suffering too!

Mr. Spencer – leadership is about courage. It is about doing the right thing! Close those immigration loopholes now! Then set about documenting every breathing person in Antigua!

I am placing this crime spree, violence debacle, and the waves of rapes right on the doorstep of both leaders… both parties…

Who else can we hold accountable?

Who else can fix this problem?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Antigua’s Complicity

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


I read with interest that a group of people are trying to block Antigua and Barbuda’s effort to get assistance from the IMF. As I understand it, they are charging that “The Pirate of the Caribbean” would not have been able to conduct the massive fraud that he is charged with if Antigua had not been “complicit” in the execution of his purportedly fraudulent activities.

In other words, Antigua’s ‘complicity’ allowed him to do what he did!

I agree!

Let me say it again. I unequivocally, unapologetically, unhesitatingly – agree that Antigua was complicit.

Not only was Antigua (not Barbuda) complicit, but most Antiguans were complicit.

Antiguans were complicit to the point that very few people questioned where he was getting the money from. Thousands of Antiguans benefitted personally and individually from his loot. Hundreds of them ‘backed in their trucks’ to get truckloads of money. People flocked to work for wages which were triple or quadruple what they could get elsewhere.

Politicians, lawyers, civil servants (high ranking civil servants), skilled trade professionals ran up there to get some of the Pirate’s booty.

Politicians from both sides benefitted… personally and party-wide. But it was those guys in red who cleaned up. It is purported that personal housing projects were built from the booty. The politicians were not only complicit… they were responsible… they should have asked questions and found answers rather than pretending to be blind.

And the lawyers… they got dirty rich. One of them… one on the blue side… that came from the red side… we know got a million dollar check just for putting together some papers! And this was money that Antiguans had to pay back to the Pirate! This lawyer – through – the Pirate… got a million dollars of the people’s money just for preparing documents. And even after being elevated by the people… his law firm continued to represent and protect the Pirate. He… his law firm… and the other law firms were complicit.

And those cricketers… years ago some of them did the right thing regarding playing in South Africa… But this time around… they all but prostituted themselves for the Pirate’s money. They were complicit.

Oh… and by the way… let’s not forget those Antiguans who it is purported robbed the Pirate of some of his booty: construction materials, construction equipment, and much more.  They too, it is charged… cleaned him out… They benefitted. They were complicit.

Generally, most people in Antigua, were happy that the Pirate chose Antigua for his operations. Of course he constantly threatened to move to this or that island. And every time he did that… Antiguans gave him more land and more love.

Of course, I am rubbing salt into the wounds of the now disenchanted and depressed Antiguans who had purposely turned blind eyes to what went on.

Did I turn a blind eye? Was I also complicit? The answer is a resounding NO!

Well… maybe… maybe I was complicit. I should have done more… The day that it was announced that the Pirate was under scrutiny… was a sad day for me.

Why? Because although it vindicated what I had been saying for seven years… I thought I should have done more… been more vocal… been on the air… wrote in the newspapers…

But… then I went to my blog and I re-read every article that referenced the Pirate… and I felt a little better… not good… just a little better. I had done something… not enough… but something…

If you conduct a search of this blog… you will find “tons” of references to the “Pirate”. I continuously asked questions about the Pirate and his activities. I criticized the government, the opposition and all those Antiguans who went shuffling to him head bent and hat in hand.

I lambasted the lawyers, the cricketers, the politicians and professionals (some of them good friends) – who lowered their principles, put on sun shades, and worked to prop him up… and fatten their pockets.

The evidence was there that something was amiss. Lots of it: Which billionaire business man do you know develops a two bit landscaping business competing with our local weed-wacker carrying yards men?

Which billionaire – who got his billions through big business – would develop some little mediocre housing project that doesn’t – didn’t… couldn’t make any money?

Which hard working billionaire businessman would throw money at cricket… the only sport in the world that doesn’t and wont ever make money - at least not in this part of the world…?

Which savvy business person would go into a business where you know you are going to lose millions of dollars? Who in their right minds… having made had earned dollars would throw it away on and in the airline business?

Which savvy business minded person would employ fifty or more grounds-men to take care of a cricket field? A field that – yes its pleasing to the eyes… but it doesn’t produce any income!

One day I watched those guys on that field… and that was long before any ‘big’ matches were played there. They were at least 20 of them… sitting around… watching the sprinklers in action. Every now and then they would get up… examine tufts of grass… pull out a worm or two… (or something) and go back to sit and sip in the shade. At least 20 people… getting paid to do absolutely nothing for an activity that made the Pirate absolutely no money!

It dawned on me that this Pirate had money to throw away. And was throwing it away. No one who works hard and earns their money – throws it away like that. No one. No where in the world will you find rich business people doing that. My assessment seven years ago was that… something was wrong…. something was amiss…

And… all those Antiguans – politicians, lawyers, civil servants, professionals, tradesmen, labourers… refused to ask questions…. or seek answers. They just lined up and and went shuffling… knees bent, head bowed… hat in hand… 

They were all complicit. I have said so for seven years. And, I am saying so now.

They were not only complicit. They benefitted.

Let me change that. We benefitted. The nation benefitted. The nation was complicit.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lessons From A Sage & A Gentleman

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

: A kind and wise older person; one who is distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.

Gentleman: A man who: is polite and respectful of others; acts with high character; demonstrates good and courteous conduct.

A Sage and a Gentleman.

I remember being coached by such a man when I attended the St. Joseph's Academy. We were being prepared to travel to Dominica to compete in our annual tournament with the St. Mary's Academy.

I was impressed then by the demeanor of my cricket coach. He was knowledgeable and a good teacher. He knew all aspects of the game. And he knew how to coach it. I guess there were others who had similar qualifications... not many... but there were certainly a few of them around.

But none had his demeanor... his presence... his quiet authority... his grace in speech... his gentle yet firm approach to coaching... his soft yet - on occasion- stern guidance.. his fluid, definitive, subtle, and balanced demonstrations of how to handle bat and ball... and most importantly... his polite and courteous demeanor... to us... teenagers.

He never raised his voiced... he changed his tone... soft to firm... gentle to stern. He never cursed or spoke a harsh word... (although there were many times when such a reaction would have been understood - based on the behaviors of some of us)... he was always calm and balanced.

And, I felt back then, as I do now that I was in the presence of someone special who had something special. One could feel the inner peace and calm of the man, the quietness which emanated from the inside and radiated on the outside: unruffled... unperturbed... gently yet fiercely focused on the task at hand.

And, even now, as I reflect back on those days... so many years ago... when I was sixteen... I can feel his presence.

And I know now... as I felt then, that cricket was really not what thus true sage and gentleman was teaching us...

Cricket was the medium. But the lessons were instructions in life... on how to live life wisely... This is best summarized as follows:

Our character would be weighed -
Not by how many runs we made...
But the way our attitudes and behaviors were displayed
Would determine our long lasting life's grade...

He was demonstrating through his own persona - through his behaviors... through his demeanor... not just how to play on the field of cricket - but how to be in the field of life...

Use sound judgment. Be polite and respectful to others. Act with high character. Be of good conduct.

Without me knowing it... those lessons from Sir Sydney Walling... have resonated through me for over forty years.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Sage Leaders!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

There are many fields of study that I love. Chief among them – Philosophy, Psychology, Physics and … Politics. Interesting – Mottley’s Four “P”s!

These days whether I think about Antigua or America – or the rest of the world – all four “P”s stand front and center. However, you will agree that Politics become the main focus. And what is happening on the local, regional and global scale – in Antigua and in America – is disturbing, very disturbing. At least, I am disturbed.

When I am disturbed, I tend to turn first to Philosophy, then to Psychology and sometimes Physics. So because I am disturbed, I turned to one of my principal teachers: Lao Tzu – the ancient Chinese sage and philosopher.

Of course there is not enough space in this brief discourse to do full justice to his teachings on the body ‘politik’. So I will limit myself to one or two of his thoughts on the matter of “politics” that I thing are worthy of note and which relate to current local and global political developments.
First of all as an aside… the ideal country according to Lao Tzu – “is a small country with a few inhabitants!”

That makes sense to me… less people… less strife and conflict… less stress… less immigration! Antigua used to be like that, but our un-sage-like leaders thought it sage to increase our population with people from everywhere – even from China! Now we have more people… more strife and more conflict…

One of Lao Tzu’s central tenets is his belief about the core tendency of human beings is towards degeneration. This, he claimed is an ‘inherent tendency in human nature’. My comment is that his observations are spot on… just look around you… look into your own heart… listen to the radio… watch TV… listen to the news… degeneration all around! Murders, stealing, political corruption, executive greed, war over land and territory, brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters, religious elements against religious elements… all over the world… including Antigua and Barbuda.

So what is his recommendation to deal with this core human tendency towards degeneration? “Political Authorities (call Sages) should be set up to rescue society and bring peace!

But Lao Tzu recognizes that his prescription for peace could be a proscription for more degeneration if we do not have the pure and genuine ‘sages’. Therefore his recommendation is paradoxical… to say the least. I will deal with this paradox in another article since I want to focus on the ‘sages’.

The ‘sages’ should reflect the essence of the ‘Tao’. Now here we have a term that would essential take a long text to fully do justice to. I will try to explain it simply. The Tao is that which is a part of everything… It is said to be analogous to water… is in everything… not necessarily seen as water… yet influences the world around us… and in us. The essence of the Tao is goodness. One other aspect of the Tao is important… it is un- and in-describable!

So our political authorities… or sages… should reflect the Tao. What are some of their characteristics:
  • They love the people and have as a goal to help people cultivate themselves to reflect the nature of the Tao;
  • They have no individual wants and desires (so they are not using their position to empower themselves);
  • They love quietude; And in this they are calm like still water;
  • Have as a goal to banish the institutions which abuse power and lead to corruption and add to the degeneration of the people;

There are other characteristics – but those are in the same vein… lack of desire for power, deep respect and understanding of nature (the Tao), love and respect for the people and a commitment to banish those institutions and forces that prey on the weaknesses inherent in the people.

So… we need Sage Leaders… in Antigua and in America.

Fortunately, I think we have got rid of two un-sage-like leaders… in Antigua and in America… those two leaders with B’s in their last names.

And we have found two very sage-like leaders – with B’s in their first name: Baldwin Spencer and Barack Obama.

They are both truly as Sage-like as we are likely to ever get! Let's keep, celebrate and give them a chance to lead from their heart.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Linked to the Pirate of the Caribbean?


By The Scribe


Many of those people who were formerly associated with the disgraced  (and jailed) Pirate of the Caribbean should be shaking in their boots.

Thus far only one person from our shores (the same one who gloated days before the last election that “We (the Reds) caught them (the Blues) with their pants down) has been linked by prosecutors to the disgraced and jailed pirate.

You can rest assured that there are many more linkages and associations to come. All those who got big checks for political and personal favors are now under intense federal prosecutorial scrutiny.

All those big wigs who took their ill-gotten payment from the Prate and used it for personal gain are now under the forensic microscope. These includes: those who bought land and developed personal housing projects; those who bought tracks of government land and have not yet developed them but have kept them shrouded from public view; those who took the money, skimmed some off for local use and slipped the rest to European and Cayman banks; those who cloaked their use of the money through family partners who then developed businesses… all of them and others are now shaking… some like if they have ague…

And some of them are in surprising places… you would never have guessed!

Can you imagine that the Pirate had a red Antiguan and Barbudan passport? How did he get it? Was he an Ambassador? Who gave it to him? Was it official? And if not, well… you ask the other questions.

I know they are shaking… One of the top officials of the red party… one who surprisingly lost a closely fought battle… approached a psychologist in church… in church no less… and wondered out loud if the psychologist would go and see “him”…

“He needs help you know…” I guess that meant that “he” needed professional help from the psychologist… probably counseling for an anxiety disorder. Sleeping pills were obviously not working… nor was the Zoloft, Cymbalta or Xanax working if “he” was taking them! “He” does not need a psychologist… “he” needs a cross between between a priest and a fully competent lawyer. I think “he” already has a Fully competent lawyer.

Am I gloating? No… As a matter of fact after years of reading in this blog about the Pirate of the Caribbean…. and after years of people telling me that he was good for Antigua and Barbuda… and after even I personally and privately thrashed my UPP friends for the on again off again dance with him… I am now saddened. Hence my reason for feeling compelled to post my thoughts on this blog.

This Pirate’s actions have not only brought down his own flagship and fleet, the ripple effect is threatening to drown Antigua and Barbuda also. It will certainly hamstring the Red people who were his benefactors… (I think I have that backward… since so many of them benefitted from his ill-gotten gains).

I am saddened that so many were caught in his web including some of our great heroes, and most of the West Indies cricketing heroes.

And sadly… not a one of them rose a voice of warning… much less protest… not one of them. All of them were on the take… hands out… begging to be bought and then bought body and soul and spirit with illegal gains… Even those who made the right call on South Africa and Apartheid… fell to the wizardry of the Pirate of the Caribbean.

Now… with their names in the mud… many of them have disappeared from the public space. And that saddens me. They and those others…. politicians… government officials… administrators… all need to repent… prostrate themselves before us… ask for forgiveness and then let us move on.

We will forgive you… but you have to ask… no… no…. you have to beg for it.

The damning thing is that the one official so far named by the prosecutors has not uttered a word himself. One elderly person… a psychologist in her own right… had some insight into his silence… “A shame he shame.”

Well he is not alone… that other list is coming. I understand that this second list of ‘potential’ names may reflect some rainbow colors.

Are you listed in it?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

“Good Leaders…”


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


According to the highly respected management consultant and author Warren Bennis “Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.”

“’Good’ leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things.” Not powerful leaders, not spiritual leaders, not aggressive leaders… but ‘good’ leaders. Now, I don’t think that Bennis’ ‘good’ is a statement about the character of the leader. I think that in this case ‘good’ means effective.

So, forgive me as I take some liberty with Bennis’ words: “Effective leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things… not at the periphery.”

Certainly Mahatma Gandhi was an ‘effective’ leader (He was good too – in the other sense). Martin Luther King was an ‘effective’ leader (He was also ‘good’ in the other sense). Nelson Mandela, Golda Meir, Sojourner Truth – all effective leaders…

They made people feel that they were at the very heart of things… not on the periphery. People did not have to wonder about how those leaders felt, what they believed, how they reacted to situations…

Those leaders communicated with the people… continuously.

‘Good’ leaders are not only ‘good’ communicators who communicate with and continuously inform the people. They involve the people… and “make the people feel that they are at the heart of things”.

Involvement: consultation, collaboration, two-way communication and conversations, getting feedback from the people, utilizing the people’s feedback and feeding it forward into public activities, projects and programs… that serve the interests of the people!

“Good Leaders…” I had a hard time coming up with a list of “good leaders” who fit the profile set by Bennis. Yes, most leaders do some of what Bennis describes, but most do not do so consistently. As a matter of fact, most leaders only involve people – or make people feel at the heart of things… when they… the leaders want something or when they are at their ‘wits end’ or in trouble of some sort.

We certainly see a lot of ‘involvement’ and ‘communication’ and ‘interactions with the people’ prior to an election. Lots of it! But as soon as an election is over… most leaders retract back to the same old, same old way of operating.

What’s the same old, same old? High handed behavior; Making decisions that ‘blow gas’ in the people’s face; trying to muzzle the same media that got them elected… not once but twice; Aloofness and “I am better than you-ness”; And, Hobnobbing with a special class or group – ignoring the grass-roots people who elected them.

There is one other way that leaders retract, revert and go backwards: Being silent.

Silence… Not feeling that you have to respond to the questions of the people… Taking matters of public concern… and labeling them ‘private’ matters that would be dealt with privately when they feel like (whenever, if ever.)

In the meantime, the people are left on the periphery of things. Excluded from the decision-making. Excluded from making contributions to their own welfare – to their own future. Purposefully excluded.

Any leader – or group of leaders – who leave people on the periphery and who exclude people from the decision making… and who exclude the ideas of the people… and who dismiss the concerns of the people… will have done so at their own peril.

It is self destructive to leave the people on the periphery of governance.

Yes, there was a time when it took 28 years for the peril to be realized. But those days are done. The world is moving faster these days… and leadership tenure will fall away and dissolve much more quickly.

Therefore, leaders must recognize the fragility of their tenure. The people will not wait another 28 years… As a matter of fact, the way we are going 28 months might be a stretch…

Those leaders who harken back to the olden days and wish they had the kinds of corrupt benefits their predecessors had and their ability to get away with a lot of ‘stuff’ are involving in wishful dreaming. They are now dealing with young people who lack the patience and who will not listen to the spin of these ancestral behaviors. They are dealing with a new Antiguan and Barbudan phenomenon – ordinary people who have extraordinary access to the media… and who use that access everyday.

Rightly or wrongly, historically this is the day of immediate communication; this is the day of speed; this is the day of immediate gratification; this is the day of 20/20 cricket. Action now. Results now. 

Five more years of this self-inflicted wounds among the leaders? Not a chance! People will not wait for the pain to be passed down to them.

“Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.”

When people feel that they are being kept on the periphery… then the leaders themselves are in jeopardy.

So… let’s put the people at the very heart of things. As servants of the people – you answer to us!

As ‘good leaders’ you put us first – at the very heart of everything!

And if you fail to take the people from the periphery into the heart of things… then you run the risk of being put on the periphery yourselves… Ask Lester what that is like… As a matter of fact, just ask some of your own colleagues what that is like!

Leadership is about people.

Rally your mates and lead-the-ship, good Captain. Let’s get back on track – and let us all go in the planned direction.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Beware! The Ground Has Shifted!


By Mshaka


I have experienced an earthquake. As a matter of fact, I have experienced several of them. I remember an earthquake in the 1970’s that shook up Antigua and left people extremely nervous.

That morning I had awakened early and had gone jogging. I had run through Ovals and Ottos and had reached the top of the road below Michaels Mount… just where the Catholic church now stands.

I decided to take a short rest and sat on the steps of the old ‘guard house’ that stood at the bottom entrance to Michael’s Mount. I sat there for a moment admiring and enjoying the beautiful hues and shades that were showing in the eastern sky… above Holberton Hospital… a display of colors that preceded a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a sunny day with blue skies. 

As I sat there… dogs from the whole area suddenly began to bark and howl… Then I heard a deep rumble… I noticed that a man who had just passed by had stumbled and fell… another man coming up the road was staggering as if seriously drunk… I looked behind me up the hill and it seemed as if Michael’s Mount was moving back and forth…

I realized that the ground was shifting under my feet… I got up and started to run back home… all the way to King George V grounds.

I think that was 1974… and yes, the ground HAD shifted. We had experienced a strong earthquake! Since then we have experienced many more earthquakes… smaller… less significant… but earthquakes nonetheless.

More recently, Antigua and Barbuda experienced another earthquake. This was an earthquake of shattering proportions! But when it struck… no one realized that it was an earthquake! There were no dogs barking… no shouting… and no one fell – immediately. Back then, no one understood how it would impact our country in a few short years.

This earthquake of which I speak has shifted the ground on which we walk… personally, socially, politically, financially, economically… every which way you can think!

This earthquake has also caused people to fall! As a matter of fact a whole lot of them were shaken up and then fell! They are still trying to catch themselves!

This earthquake achieved for us in a few years what Tim Hector, Baldwin Spencer, Dr. Heath and countless others had not accomplished in 28 years of trying!

What was that earthquake? It was the advent of talk-radio initiated and led by Observer Radio.

Simply put, Observer Radio has allowed the common folk to have their say. It has allowed the voice of a fisherman from Urlings to be heard. It has allowed us to hear a grandmother talk about the education of her grandchildren. It has allowed those without voices to have their say… any time, on any subject, without being shut down or shut up!

That same earthquake sounded the death knell of 28 years of corrupt government for the red party! It ushered in the UPP into power in 2004.

Yes… the ground shifted that day when Observer Radio… opened the phone lines and allowed the voices of the people to be heard – near and far… worldwide!

No longer were we just listening to the politicians with their one sided views. No longer were we forced to listen to political spin without being able to respond. No longer were the politicians the only ones with an audience of many…Now, any Tom, Dick and Harry could… well… have their say.

And it was a good thing. And it still is a good thing.

The ground has shifted… and it will continue shifting.

Political leaders, community leaders, and business leaders can no longer work in the dark… hiding their shenanigans… unanswerable to the people.

They can no longer cloak themselves in their positions of power without having to answer immediately

It is sad that I have to write this… as I think that the foregoing is obvious to everyone… Everyone that is except a few well placed and well positioned individuals… including policy makers… who still want to operate in the old ways of the old days.

A new day has dawned… we were promised transparency… Well… we demand it. The ground has shifted… we the people demand good governance, responsiveness to the will of the common folk, and transparent leadership and decision making.

These days… there are 70,000 “Outlet” reporters – observing, revealing and reporting… willing and ready and able to call 911 on their cell phones. They are capable of taking a picture or recording a video on the same cell phone… or emailing a ‘dockisment’ to a popular radio host… And they will do those things… and have done those things… And will continue…

The ground has shifted… the power is in the hands of the people…

1974 is history. Yet there are those who harken back and wish they could get away today… with the behaviors that those people got away with yesterday…

But beware– the ground has shifted… the power has shifted and continues to shift in the direction of the people.

For that we thank those who allow the voices of the people to be heard. 

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Am Struggling

Ministers Doing As They Like… Even the Unelected Ones!!!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D


Years ago when I started this Blog, my intention was not only to support the UPP – but to hold their feet to the fire too. I was determined not to be one of those blind supporters who make excuses for bad leadership, incompetent governance, poor decision making or, at the very worse, corruption and malfeasance in public office.

Today… right now… I am at a crossroads. I am here at this nexus because I am struggling.

Why am I struggling?

I am losing confidence. I am losing patience. I am losing my respect for many of the ministers. Correction. I have lost respect for several of the ministers. And for many others, my respect is waning… like a candle with the wick shortening… the flame slowing dying.

I am struggling.

The recent public disunity, publicly displayed by that minister who attempted to humiliate the political leader, and who got his way… even after sprinkling aspersions on his colleagues… is one example of the many things that are causing me to struggle.

The public infighting among ministers, the veiled and unveiled threats to slither over to the other side, is prompting me to re-examine the reasons why I support the UPP.

And… the hundreds of little smoky rumors that keep popping up about corrupt behaviors… are enough to give me pause. Where there is smoke – there is fire. I don’t buy the reaction from UPP die-hards that this is just ALP propaganda. I believe that some on the UPP side have contributed enough to stoke the fires.

And now… the infighting and the conflict and the dislike (bordering on downright hatred among them) has erupted into concrete and visible actions by at least one minister. One minister heaping disrespect on another. One junior minister… not a member of parliament… given a ministry as a sympathetic gesture by a sympathetic Prime Minister… has rewarded his leader with a gross action of disrespect on his colleague and senior minister – and on the Prime Minister who put  him there.

What in the world am I talking about?

Well… this might never hit the news… so I am exposing it right here.

A Junior Minister has kicked a department of a senior minister out of the building where the staff is located.

Now… a junior minister … an unelected minister … but… yes an appointed Junior Minister who reports to… or who is supposed to report to the a senior Minister… an elected minister…   This junior unelected minister has unilaterally decided to throw out a department which he no longer supervises from a building in which he is housed. And he has done this in defiance of the direct orders from his senior Minister… the Minister who supervises him… And the senior Minister personally advised him… directed him… that he could not take any such action.

But he prevailed in that he has not only defiantly decided to throw the Department out of the building where he occupies the second floor… He personally took it on himself to go down to the first floor and pack up their things… disconnect their phones and computers… and internet and told them to get going.

The problem is that they have nowhere else to go. A whole department of Government. Packed up… displaced… told to get out of the building which the Government pays for and where they have been housed for over four years.

The irony is that until 10 weeks ago, this was his department… a department which he supervised, dictated to… and benefited from their high profile policy initiatives. But yesterday, he threw them out of the building which he shared with them.

Why? Who knows? Some people think that he has a grudge against his senior minister… who the rumor mill says that he partly blames for the connection to one of Antigua’s piratical power players. (I will write on this in an upcoming article – watch out for it).

Whatever his reason, this junior minister is out of control. He is displaying a side of him that only those close to him are rumored to know: Young and vindictive; Sully and unresponsive when critiqued; Pious on a certain day and cynically obnoxious on every other day after that; Vengeful, spiteful and resentful; passive aggressive; and in many hidden ways… according to those who know – praetorian, payolan, and liking and organizing perqusites…

Whatever the case, this is dirty… dirty politics within the Government – one colleague on another… one person bent on wreaking vengeance for some unspoken perceived offence against him…

To punish a department… to curtail their ability to serve the people of Antigua and Barbuda… to prevent them from doing what they are paid to do… to kick them out of a building he doesn’t own or control… and to do so himself… demonstrates and signifies a man out of control.

Indisciplined. Uncompliant. Disregard for the primacy of the people’s business over his own ruffled feathers. Dereliction of his duty to be a responsible minister of government… and so irresponsible. A revolt against his Senior Minister and against the Prime Minister. Unruly and rebellious.

Childish and immature.

And the scary thing is… this case… is just the latest of a lot of skirmishes and undercover battles that are being fought throughout the UPP.

So let me end with a question… Where is the leadership? Who is keeping these Ministers in check? Who is captaining the ship?

Mr. Prime Minister – your visible and obvious leadership is needed! Right now! Forget about democracy in Cabinet. You need to lay down the law… or let some heads roll. Or probably let some heads roll and then lay down the law!

If you need help… there are thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans who are willing and ready and able to step up to the plate to do whatever needs to be done.

The ship is not heading in the right direction! You are the Captain… you need to dis-appoint some of your mates… we need steady hands on the wheel… not inflated egos.

Mr. Prime Minister take charge now!

If not, this ship will sink. You are already losing members. You are losing passengers. You are losing supporters. You might even be losing friends…

You need to publicly, decisively and emphatically take charge. Now!

If not…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Thumb in My Eye!

By Mshaka

We heard today that the Minister got his wish: As the new Minister, he will move into new headquarters in a new noice building.

This is the same new nice building which was purported to have been priced at an annual rental sum of $800,000 per year that caused a loud, vociferous and passionate outcry by people from all strata of society... and from both sides of the political divide.

Now our Cabinet has decided that the Minister will get his new building… even in the face of the continuing opposition of the people including very loyal, dyed in blue supporters.

They decided that the old building needs fixing and that the renovations will take six months to complete. They decided that the new Minister in his new ministry will be housed in his new building for six months – or until the renovation of the old building is complete… Although they did not state that the new Minister in his new ministry would have to return to the old renovated building when it is finished… the unstated implication seems to be just that. Or does it?

We shall wait and see.

In the meantime, the new Minister has his new building as he desired. Now it is ironic that he only understood that the old building was not good enough for the Ministry since HE took up that Ministry. Apparently, it was good enough for the past Minister… or that seemed to be the indication when the New Minister was the old Minister who in his old capacity of fixing buildings... failed to and refused to do anything about the same old building which he now refuses to work in. But that is fodder for the mill.

What is more important is that Cabinet, our Cabinet, the people’s Cabinet, UPP’s Cabinet has thumbed its nose at the concerns of the people and has bent to the pressure and acquiesced to the will of the new Minister in his new ministry so that he could get his noice new building with noice new furniture.

The Cabinet has not only thumbed its nose at the people, it has also dug that thumb in the eyes of the people. At least, that is my opinion.

Now the Cabinet also decided that in the current economic climate, it would only pay ‘market rates’ for buildings that it rents.

Huh? What? Did I hear that right? So in other words, in other economic conditions it would pay higher rates?Ah... non-market rates? With gravy on the side?

Now, I also understand that since the rate per square foot has gone down to the ‘market rate’, the square footage of the building has increased! What? Yes… I personally know someone who tried to rent that building and was given a certain rate… at least 60% less than that infamous $800,000 per year. And the square footage of the building was said to be in the 4000 sq. ft range. Yes. Two thousand feet on the first floor… and two thousand feet on the second floor.

Since the ‘market rate’ has decreased, I understand that the square footage has increased… to 7000 square feet and counting…

But my guess is that the Ministry of Public Works will do its due diligence and verify the actual square footage of the building. At, least I hope so.

The more egregious, outrageous and very troubling factor however, is the fact that the Cabinet bowed to the bullying of the man who likes noice things. Not only did they bow to his bullying, they allowed a blatant and disrespectful thumb in the eyes of the Prime Minister to go un-addressed. The bully not only got his way with his noice building, he got away with his very purposeful and public insulting act to the Prime Minister.

Not only did he disrespect his Prime Minister, he implicated his own colleagues in questionable behaviors and activities.

So here his my question: These are the same members of the Cabinet, his own colleagues... who he implicated in questionable behaviors and the same Prime Minister that he insulted…

So... why did they agree to bow to his very public bullying tactics? What is it that they know and he knows that we the public don’t know? What is it that is hidden from our view?

What is it that we are not seeing… and cannot see? If this is transparency... then I can't see it.

I feel thumbed in the eye… first by the Minister… and now by the Cabinet...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are We Ready?


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


In the past five years we have seen major crises hit many countries around the world. These crises include hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars of devastation due to the Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita (in the USA, Central America & Mexico), and the Pakistan Earthquake. In addition to those natural calamities, countries around the world are faced with an increase in terrorist acts and serious criminal activities which threaten their populations.

The countries which experienced these natural and manmade disasters were unprepared for the scope of the death, destruction and large scale human suffering that followed. This is quite evident as the world watched in horror at the incompetence, poor logistical coordination, inadequate decision making and woeful preparation exhibited in the Gulf States of Louisiana, Mississippi and even Texas.

Although Caribbean countries like Antigua and Barbuda have largely been spared the death and devastation from natural or manmade disasters, it is a certainty that they are at risk. In recent years Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba suffered severe damages due to hurricanes which are the bane of our existence here in this region of the world.

There are other dangers which threaten the world’s landscape including the Caribbean. These include HIV-AIDS which according to many reports is already at unacceptably high levels in some Caribbean territories. But, the threat of the H5NI virus, or Bird Flu, and the new threat of the H1N1 – Swine Flu virus is a potential pandemic waiting to happen. Many experts believe that the issue is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

With the potential for such disasters to be unleashed on our shores, Antigua and Barbuda might not be as prepared as we could be to respond quickly and resourcefully in order to protect our citizens and limited the fall out!

The questions that countries like Antigua & Barbuda must ask are these:

1. Are we prepared to handle serious natural disasters, terrorist acts of violence, and pandemics like the ‘Bird Flu’ and ‘Swine Flu’?

2. Are we prepared to handle the medical, psychological, economic, ecological and financial impacts of such disasters?

3. Do we have the logistical capabilities in place now to respond to such disasters?

4. Do we have resource stockpiles in place?

5. Do we have highly trained command and control personnel to lead response, stabilization and recovery activities?

6. Do we have a plan in place now to trigger a multi-agency response to disasters?

7. Do we have alternative communication systems in place to share information with our citizens in the advent of a breakdown in the current communications infrastructure?

The above questions point to a need to boost our capacities and abilities to ably respond before, during and after any natural or man-made disaster.

Here are some other questions:

  • What is the scope of our current logistical capabilities to respond to such disasters?
  • What types of resource stockpiles do we have in place, how extensive are they and what conditions are they in?
  • Do we have a plan in place now to trigger a multi-agency response to disasters?
  • What is the state of common understanding among the various agencies regarding their responsibilities during a natural disaster or emergency event?
  • What communications mechanisms are in place to bring multi-agency heads together for rapid decision making?
  • Who is responsible for convening multi-agency meetings, trainings and forums? Have these meetings taken place? What decisions have been made? What multi-agency agreements are in place?
  • To what extent do we have alternative communication systems in place to share information with our citizens in the event of a breakdown in the current communications infrastructure? To what extent do we have communication equipment in place where agencies can communicate across different platforms in an environment where normal systems (like telephones) have been disrupted?
  • What is the state of preparedness in Barbuda? What is the capacity of the infrastructure (hospitals, electrical power, communication, law enforcement, food) in Barbuda to respond to and deal with a major disaster? What is the capacity of the infrastructure (for example: communication & transportation) in Antigua to respond to a major disaster in Barbuda?
  • Who and/or what triggers the deployment of multi-agency mechanisms, resources, personnel, etc?
  • During an emergency who is the command/control czar? Does this position carry the ability of the individual to command and control across ministries and departments and over public and private sector agencies?


The questions posed here are even more important as we consider the importance of tourism to our economy. Undoubtedly, it is crucial that we have the mechanisms in place to protect our citizens and our economic infrastructure.

It is also important that we are able to convince those who visit our shores and current and prospective foreign investors that our twin island state is safe and secure, and that we have the infrastructure in place to respond to life threatening and economically damaging emergencies. We must convince them that we have a high capacity of preparedness and responsiveness.

Are we ready?

The hypothesis underlying this article is that we are not. The answers to the questions posed herein are needed quickly. I propose that the Antigua and Barbuda Government find answers to these questions, then determine, develop and implement the critical solutions that may need to be put in place.

Subsequent to that critically needed response I propose that the Government establish and appoint a proven and capable individual to lead the multi-agency task force whose responsibility would be to ensure our continued high level of readiness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Public Response Needed – Now!


By Mshaka


UPP is facing a very public matter that should be publicly addressed in a very public way now. This of course is the issue in the last article involving the so-called private matter involving the now infamous new building which was rented or promised to be rented to host the Ministry of Health and Social Transformation.

The public will not wait for the UPP executives’ slow private deliberations to unfold. This public matter has already taken on a life of its own. It has already spread like a virus and is infecting everyone in Antigua and Barbuda. It has already spread through cyperspace…. and it has done so without a whisper from the UPP (well maybe a few private hush hush whimpers.)

It seems to me that the leadership of the UPP does not understand the modern era of communication. You cannot claim a public matter to be a private matter.

There are no private matters anymore! None. Zero.

You have got to respond… and respond quickly.

As a matter of fact… forget responding… You must be out in front of the story… before it is released.

The UPP knew of the story – long before the media did… long before any of us did. The UPP should have led the story… made it public… shaped it in the public’s mind… Put their own spin and interpretation on it. They should have dealt with it and then told us how they had dealt with it. (Or at least told us how they were dealing with it.) And then leave others to respond.

Instead… the UPP is behind. The story is growing… spreading like a cybercancer. Revelations (true and false) are spreading through the airways and through cyperspace. 

And still, the UPP executives have not responded… other than arrogantly claiming the right to privacy and the right to respond ‘in due course.’

Not in today’s world. Mark my words. The arrogance of silence and ‘due course’ will be your undoing and potentially your death knell…

The modern UPP was born of public commentary…. it was born of public discourse… it is the beneficiary of talk radio… And, UPP loved it five years ago. Absolutely loved it.

You can’t hate it now. Silence on a public matter of public concern is like gasoline to a fire. Anything and everything will fill the void… and has… and continues to as I write this article…

UPP must respond now… quickly and thoroughly…

Address the matter. Make a decision. Settle it. And tells us about it.


Private Matter?


By Mshaka


The current issue facing the nation, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the United Progressive Party is NOT “a private matter of public concern.”

The issue at hand regarding the decision of the Minister of Health to propose to rent an $800,000 per year building without the express approval of the Cabinet is a very Public matter of Public concern.

The fact that there there is a sign – a very public sign – saying – The Ministry of Health and Social Transformation – on that building right now… as I write this article is testimony to the fact that this is now a building slated to be used for public purposes and secured for such use by public funds… and that is a public matter of which the public is concerned.

The fact that the Minister would consider paying $800,000 per year for a small building in these economically trying times is a public matter of public concern.

The fact that it is said that new furniture was wanted… and that the current furniture in the current old building was ‘not nice enough’ is a public matter of public concern in these belt-tightening days.

The fact that the Minister would consider paying so much for this building when the ministry is already housed in a solidly constructed building is a public matter of public concern.

OK… so the building needs upgrading. Yes it needs work… which was not done when – some contend – that he could have fixed it when he was Minister of Public Works. Be that is as it may… Yes, the building… the current building… the one down by the wharf needs to be refurbished. But… Public Works has said that it can upgrade and remodel that building while the Ministry continues to occupy it. This is done world wide. Making a decision to rent an $800,000 per year building… when you are already housed in one does not make sense – even in the best of economic times. But certainly… definitely… not in these times of financial distress for all.

That decision is a public matter for public concern.

And then, to resign from the pre-eminent position of Deputy Prime Minister because the populace took him to task… Such resignation from public office by a public official… and doing so very publicly… is a public matter of public concern.

To publicly resign without privately consulting the Prime Minister is a public matter of public concern.

To claim that the reason for the resignation is the lack of support… I guess the lack of public support by the Prime Minister for the private decision to rent the building… such claimed lack of support is a public matter for public concern since the Minister himself made the ‘lack of support’ a public matter for public consumption.

And, more importantly, to claim lack of support for a unilateral action… when there was possibly advice that such action should not have been taken… and possibly advised prior to the action being taken… and possibly advised officially not so to do… and then doing so regardless… blatantly and purposefully… and big-headedly… and then to claim lack of support… such action – blatant and purposeful – is a public matter of public concern.

Who in their right minds could support such an unsupportable action? And based on the response of the people… such support if it had been forthcoming… would have been political suicide for anyone who supported such a blatantly thoughtless action… and such support – coming from any quarter – would have been a public matter of public concern.

To bring this issue to the fore, and to compound this issue with a pouting letter of resignation, in these politically turbulent times, when the opposition is feeling their oats and wagging their tales, and fully knowing the impact of such resignation, and fully knowing the media attention that such an action would draw, and fully recognizing the threat to the party…. these are public matters of public concern.

Fully knowing that this matter – yes a matter of feelings of private hurt… of private thoughts of being put on the sidelines… Fully knowing that when these private feelings of hurt when brought before the public…. would send the party in a tail spin… just to soothe private feelings of hurt… that could have been settled with private meetings… and private discussions… and private negotiations… but instead aired publicly by a pouting letter of resignation – purposefully aired publicly – giving UPP’s enemies mouth watering opportunities for gleeful UPPmanship… triggered by a pouting unhappy Minister – Allllll this…. all of it… are public matters of public concern!

And because it was done publicly, and purposefully, for some questionable, not well thought out unpolitical strategy, it has damaged the credibility of the Minister and the Party… with the in-letter public revelations… and public questions which in the public’s mind might have resultingly raised questions about the integrity of colleagues… pouting because he was caught by the public and questioned by the public over a very public personal un-Cabinet decision to use public funds to rent a building that was not needed… Because he was caught by the public – has lashed out and has made this issue the #1 issue of public concern.

And finally, with unintended rumours (I can’t believe that this seasoned and wily veteran would have purposefully and intentionally threatened to cross the aisle) that he might cross the political divide… there can be no question that this is a very public matter – most certainly of public concern.

So… Mr. Chairman… this is not a private matter… not for the UPP and not for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Certainly the UPP can chose to address it in the public domain whenever they like… That is your private option on this public matter of public concern.

Private matter? Nope! This is a very public matter that is of public concern to all of us.

Privately – my advise to the UPP is that it should address it now – publicly! Or pay a huge very public and political price… and such a public price will affect a lot of people publicly and privately!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Tribute to a Special Mother


By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Last Sunday was Mothers’ Day. I would like to pay tribute to mothers everywhere and to one mother in particular.

To do that I am sharing a reworked passage from my book (Ask, Seek, Knock) and combining it with a ‘bit’ from one of my keynote addresses.


Have there been times in your life when you thought that the difficulties, problems and challenges were just too much to overcome?

Well, there are times in my life… when things are tough and rough…

And, there have been times in the past when few things seem to be going well… when I wondered what was around the corner? How would I make it? What could I do? Would things change? When?

There have been times when doubt and worry clouded my every thought.

When those times surface… I turn to the memory of a woman and her struggles and how she handled them.

She was a woman who was desperate. She had no skills. She had few resources. She worked as a maid and was paid about three dollars a week. She was a stranger in a strange land (Antigua)... and had no one to help her.

And she had a young child to take care of...

She prayed and sought guidance "What can I do? What's possible? How can I do it?”… And then, in the midst of her asking and praying… she got an inspiration ... “What if…”

She took her last few dollars and bought a small suitcase, as well as some trinkets - some combs, brushes, scarves, cheap perfumes (like Cush Cush), etc.

Then every Sunday she would travel through the countryside... trudging from village to village... selling her products... From English Harbour to Falmouth to Liberta to New Village.  From Crabbs Hill to Johnson’s Point to Urlings… and even sometimes walking to Old Road. Round South one Sunday… then in St. Paul’s the next…

Every Sunday, whether cold or rainy, hot, humid or windy ... she would knock on the doors of every house, every hut... approach every villager...

Every Sunday, she would sell, loan, and barter her goods.

And as Sundays, came and went, she built her customer base, developed new friends and acquaintances… Like Mr. Hector and Ms. Minta from Liberta, Ms. Dayliss from Urlings, The Tonges from Johnson’s Point, Mrs. Christopher from New Village.. and hundreds more.

Her business developed… and she was able build a small house… in Perry Bay…

And, with the money she made… she sent her son to one of the best private schools in the country …

This woman… a stranger in a strange land... with no one to turn to… But to her higher power and her inner character…

With strong belief and faith that things not seen can become a reality…

She did not make a living – she built, created and developed a life…

With one hand holding her suitcase... and the other hand draped around the shoulders of her young son...

She had an optimistic and vibrant attitude towards life and a powerful belief that:

  • You can get what you want…
  • You can overcome difficulties…
  • You can triumph over trouble…
  • How: Ask powerful questions… and you shall receive! 
    Seek creative answers and solutions… and you shall Perceive!
    Knock and take decisive, relentless action… and you shall achieve!

Today, May 13, 2009, my Mother, Hyacinth Mottley is 95 years old.  To her, I pay tribute with thanks and gratitude for giving me life and love – and everything else!

Listen Not to The Messenger


By Mshaka


I have long had mixed feelings about the dictate: “Listen to the Message… not to the Messenger.” One of the reasons that I have struggled with this dictate is that it really says that you should not listen to the messenger. Why did I struggle? Well… if you don’t listen to the messenger – how can you hear the message?

So… OK… I will admit that underlying this dictate is the notion that the message is important … not the messenger… and so we should not focus on the messenger. But, I have struggled with that also.

Today… I struggle no longer… at least when it comes to messages from certain politicians. “Don’t listen to the messenger.”

Don’t listen to the messenger!

For example, I tried to listen to politicians from the red party as they charged that UPP politicians and ministers were involved in corrupt practices. Now… without judging the merit of their charges… I was flabbergasted… dumbfounded… stunned… not necessarily by the charges but by who was leveling the charges.

A member on the red side… known to have taken money from that a so-called investor… known to have used that money to develop their own personal housing projects… known to have enriched themselves with money from a disgraced con-man and Pirate. Known. No guessing. The disgraced Pirate said that he gave them the money…. and tendered a minimum amount that he had given.

This individual – on public radio – had the gall to charge UPP politicians with the same crimes that he is guilty of.

Certified corrupt! I tried to listen to him… and said to myself… this is crazy… somewhere between borderline, histrionic or narcissistic – certainly there is need for a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis!

Another member on the red side… known to have failed in his leadership… known to have failed to pay civil servants… known to have emptied the coffers of State Insurance and Social Security and other statutory bodies such that those companies don’t have the money to fulfill their obligations to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

A failed leader…. pompous in his obvious failure… has the audacity to ask us to forget his failures… with the audacity to question the leadership of the current Prime Minister.

A certified failed leader who long before the current global financial crisis… almost ran our country bankrupt by his inept, incompetent, pompous and bombastic leadership.

The audacity of these people… asking us to forget their massive failures of leadership over twenty-eight years.

I will not hear their message because I will not listen to them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Now?


By Mshaka


There are several issues which currently have the undivided attention of Antiguans and Barbudans. One of those issues involves the state of affairs within the UPP.

Some people think that the current ‘troubles’ within the party were triggered by the Minister’s resignation from the position of Second-in-Command. Those people are wrong. The ‘troubles’ were brewing long before the last election. There were rumours flying around (or being spread around) the airways that a post election coup was certain if the UPP were returned to power.

Then, UPP won the election by a razor thin margin. So since some (or one) of the rumored pretenders to the throne were themselves dethroned by a significant ALP politician… it was thought by many that the parliamentary members would now pull themselves together – form a tight unit – and really get back on the right track!

No such luck. First, we heard that the ALP leaders were in ‘secret’ discussions with some of the disgruntled UPP members of parliament – attempting to get them to switch allegiance. The word got out and that seemed to throw dirty water on those coals. Again some people thought… well… now… the UPP leaders know they have work to do... right inside their own party. As a matter of fact… people thought that certainly… they would get on the right track – starting inside the Cabinet!

Again… no such luck… because now we hear that the disgruntled gentleman resigned claiming lack of support by the Chief Servant. Well… it doesn’t sound to me as if the disgruntled gentleman’s feelings of being disgruntled started with the issues over that new building… The disgruntlement began several years ago…

So, why now? Why now?

A. Does the slim margin of UPP victory offer an opportune moment for some hard hand-twisting within the party?

B. Is it time to scare them a bit? “Let them worry about whether or not I will walk away… or walk over the bridge… to the other side.”

C. Or is it real? Is it payback time? “I deserve better treatment. It started in my living room. And, I like nice things… so I deserve to be in a better building. I am the second in command. I deserve nice things… like that office up on the hill… What happen to me? Why I can’t get something like that too?”

D. Or is there a more sinister reason than any of the above? Is there a hidden hand in the background? Is there a hidden puppet master… pulling the strings? Remember Antigua still has one more million million puppeteer left. (The other one – the Pirate – has his own ‘troubles’ in the USA).

The current puppeteer rents buildings to the government and the party, sells ‘power’ to the government, sells cars to the government, sells chip stones to the government… and on and on. This puppeteer has a hand (and a word) in everything that the Government touches (and direct and personal representation right inside the governing inner-sanctum – Still has representation – though not direct and personal!).

So is this puppeteer pulling the strings in this matter?

E. Were those rumors true that some members would agitate for a change in leadership after the elections? Is this current move an outcome of the frustration of having to face another five years in the background – Second-in-Command in name only?

F. Or… to be fair… is this just what it seems to be… the complaints of a disgruntled politician?

So, why now? What do you think?

And more importantly… what will it take to change the course of things and take them back on the right track… and going in the right direction?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Fall of A Pirate!


By Marcus M. Mottley


It is humbling. I was right. All those years of quietly and publicly criticizing Antigua’s so-called billionaire. All those years of castigating the Pirate of the Caribbean who lived in Antigua. All those years of going against the tide… when most people in Antigua… and indeed… throughout the Caribbean were enamored with him. All those years of being careful not to expose myself to the possibility of litigious retribution… but still ‘having my say’ and writing from the heart.

About five years ago I watched as the Pirate humbled an Antiguan (now a diplomat) who had similarly castigated him. The Pirate started legal proceedings against him. And in an infamous televised event, that Antiguan (who lives abroad) was forced ‘to eat crow’ in return for the Pirate’s withdrawal of the legal proceedings which he had started. In public… televised… that proud Antiguan stalwart supporter of the new government… in the presence of top political leaders… was forced to swallow his pride (well – it appeared that way), almost like he was begging pardon – shook the Pirate hand!

I have never forgotten that day. That was the moment when I knew… really knew… that the Pirate had to be fought and had to be brought to his knees. Now let me hasten to say that I had no hand in bringing him down… But I wished that I did! If I had the opportunity I would have.

In any case, the headlines speak to the reality of the fall that this once financial tyrant, the usurper who tried to bring our politicians to their knees (like he did that Antiguan), the individual who fed the corruption of many of our politicians. (Yes – many! – Most on the red side… but at least one on the blue side.)

“Tarnished tycoon is left ‘living on charity’”.
“No money to defend himself.”
”Homeless – living with 30 year old fiancee.”


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Allegiance to Queen Elizabeth?


By Mshaka


I am disconcerted… flabbergasted… totally upset by what I heard yesterday!

“I ‘……’  Solemnly swear that I will faithfully bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the second, her heirs and successors… according to law.”

I thought that there was a law in the constitution of Antigua and Barbuda that prohibits anyone from seeking to be elected as a parliamentary representative or serving as a Senator if that person has sworn allegiance to another country.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Constitution says that “No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator (or to be elected as a member of the House) who by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement or allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”

Yesterday, I watched as person after person, swore their allegiance to the Queen of England!  ‘By virtue of their own act’ all of them swore their allegiance to the head of a foreign state.

I was flabbergasted. And then I was upset and then… even angry. Why? Well… I cannot be appointed a senator. I cannot seek to be elected to the House. Although I am a born and bred Antiguan… and although I lived thirty-five of my years in Antigua… and although I continue to live and pay taxes in Antigua… and although from time to time I work in Antigua and contribute to the development of my country… I cannot be named a senator. I cannot seek to be elected to the House.

Why? Because I am a citizen of the United States of America. Just like Lester Bird. The difference they say… is because “By my own act” I swore allegiance to a foreign power or state!

So… Yesterday… I was flabbergasted when I heard all of those individuals… about to be appointed senators… swore allegiance to the Queen of England!

Today… I am still flabbergasted… maybe even more so!

Yes… I guess that I should have known. I guess that I have ignored listening to the swearing in ceremonies of the past.

But today… the hypocrisy of it… is unbearable. It is mindboggling that you can swear allegiance to the sons and daughters of those who enslaved your fore-parents…. who built their empires on that enslavement… And whose country today is rich because of their enslavement of my great grandparents. It is upsetting that today… in 2009, you proudly swear allegiance not only to them but to their heirs and successors…

And the hypocrisy of it is that in the same breath you tell me… a born and bred Antiguan… that I cannot hold such high office because I chose to similarly swear allegiance to ‘a foreign power’.

Of course this is only one of the hypocrisies. The fact that Lester Bird could not only be elected as a parliamentarian but can hold the highest office of the land is a hypocrisy that could only have been foisted on us by a Machiavellian mind… probably that of the man he is heir to. Who… recognizing that his son was born abroad… that he had to insert… that a person who swears allegiance to a foreign power “By his own act” and not because he was born in a foreign land.

So like Lester Bird, Alan Stanford – the disgraced financial pirate -  (maybe even Data Tan and John Alan Muhammad – the DC sniper… after the ridiculously short qualification period) could not only be appointed as senators, they could be elected as parliamentarians and they could even serve (a la Lester Bird) as Prime Ministers in this land of ours.

This land of ours… Ours? Not according to those senators who swore in yesterday.. According to them this is the land of the Queen of England… and of course this land – her land - will naturally fall to “her heirs and successors”!

Let me serve notice. I am an enemy of this law. I am going to fight this law… this and any other law that disenfranchises me as an Antiguan… a born and bred Antiguan… of my birthright. Unlike Lester Bird, I have no birthright in the United States of America. My birthright, which I did not give up… by any act… is mine forever. No law will take that away.

This is the first time that I am writing on this… an issue on which I have had strong feelings… feelings too strong to even articulate… until now! This is just the beginning.

I do not serve the Queen… I never swore any allegiance to any Queen or King or heirs or successors.

But yesterday… I heard all those Antiguans… appointed to be Senators…  “by their own acts”, out of their own mouths… “Solemnly swear that they will faithfully bear ‘true’ allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, and her heirs and successors” – therefore… forever and ever more!

I am going to work to end that!

If I can’t swear allegiance to the US… then you can’t swear allegiance to the descendants of the purveyors of slavery and crimes against the my great grand parents.

We must swear allegiance to the people of Antigua and Barbuda through our Constitution…  and not to serve any master or mistress from anywhere… not even if the individual was from Antigua and Barbuda!

God Save Fair Antigua and Barbuda!

Monday, April 27, 2009

From Captain to Cook

By Sojourner

If there is one thing this economic recession should do for us here in Antigua and Barbuda, it is that we should look at how we view productivity in the public sector. The recession should help us do some should soul searching around our performance at work and the quality of the services we provide. Most importantly, no where should we benefit more from this collective introspection than from the examination of the Civil Service… and Civil Servants.

Just a few days ago the Government through its Ministry of Finance issued a declaration with respect to austerity measures that the Government and its agencies must take in order to survive these hard economic times. As hard as these measures may seem, the reality is that the Government is not taking in the kinds of revenues that are needed to sustain it. It does not have money to meet its expenses and to manage and carry out its programmes. It is having difficulties delivering on basic services. Therefore, some drastic measures must be taken: No hiring, no new contracts, no unnecessary spending and we must cut back on overtime.

Be that as it may, the reality is that Government must continue to be in business… it cannot declare bankruptcy… it cannot shut down for a month or two… and it cannot close all its offices. Teachers must teach… the police must walk their beat… sanitation workers must collect trash… And so instead of shutting down, the Government needs to seriously look at its operation and ask some very hard questions. Do we need this? What value do we derive from that? Do we need to cut here and then trim there?

For one thing, someone needs to look at the Civil Service objectively! Someone needs to lay things out schematically. How does the whole thing fit together? How does this agency/department /unit/division fit into the national development plan? What is its mandate? What is the present staff complement? Does each Civil Servant have a job description that fits into the department’s mandate? Do we have more people in a unit than necessary? What skills are needed in the department, and how does the present staff complement measure up? How are staff members performing and producing? What does each officer, from captain to cook, from permanent secretary to petty office - bring to the table? How many ‘officers’ does this unit or department really need? How many of the officers now employed put in an honest day’s work for their pay? How many of them fit the positions that they are in?

I propose that when such questions are asked… and honestly answered, it becomes clear what must be done.

I admit that this is a herculean task, and the individuals who are involved in the process must have armor like an armadillo. But desperate times deserve desperate measures… And, no one can doubt that these are desperate times… And desperate measures are needed NOW! As a matter of fact… these measures are long, long, long overdue...

  1. Some departments/divisions/units must go… They must be made redundant. Some of them simply do not serve any useful purpose, and now in these hard times… they represent a luxury we cannot afford. That may seem difficult to fathom… what audacity some might say! But when we look at the Civil Service, you have to wonder why a particular unit or department exists.
  2. Reduce the wage Bill… Cut staff!

    In our labour sensitive culture that may be political suicide. But this is one step that has to be – must be taken.

    The voluntary severance initiative was a humongous failure. This time we need to use more direct means of cutting staff… As a matter of fact… this time we need to cut the right staff members. The Civil Service is stuffed and packed like old-time sardine cans with ‘dead beats’- persons who are on the pay roll, but do nothing but show up to work, put in a few hours and at the end of the month or week they stretch their hands for the reward. And there are claims that we still have ghost workers on our payrolls.

    The truth is that Government pays out millions of dollars (reportedly over EC$30 Million dollars per month) for work not done... to people not seen. The truth also is that government pays people to be lazy, to be inefficient, and to be absent from the job. There is no accountability… and there are no consequences. There is no dressing up this truth. And these dead beats – who are unaccountable and unaccounted for - are all over the system, clogging it up like old grease and gunk in a kitchen sink!

    These dead beats can be found working as permanent secretaries, as directors, as accountants, as SEOs, as PASs; as Secretaries; as clerks, as petty officers, as cleaners, as drivers; as teachers; as police; and as nurses. They are technocrats and bureaucrats; they are consultants and special assistants; they are front line staff and “Top of the line” staff. They are everywhere. And continuing to pay these people is where Government is wasting a considerable amount of money... millions of dollars – each month.

  3. It stands to reason, therefore, that Government can save much by the proper management of its labour force:

    1. Performance appraisals are a must.

    2. Each Ministry must conduct a human resource audit. It must assess and examine its staffing needs and determine the criteria for each staffing position.

    3. Stream lining of departments so that there is adequate staff tooled with the necessary skills to do the task. This may mean that some officers will be transferred to areas where they would or could be more productive;

    4. Productivity and accountability should be core values and ingrained into the ethos of public service;

    5. A comprehensive training programme must be developed to tool the public sector to fulfill the Government’s mandate of national development and effectively deliver its programmes.

    6. Trimming the fat… Cutting those workers that are not needed, who do not add value and who do not work (yes there are many of these);

    7. Workers who have been found to be undermining the policies of the Government must be cut as well. And there are many of those too…..everywhere from captain to cook.

So our leaders have some hard decisions to make.

In reality, those hard decisions should have been made decades ago. But former administrations either did not have the courage or political will to so. And in the case of the Labour administration, they used the Civil Service as a political tool to get elected and re-elected. They also used this system of human resource mis-management to reward their political surrogates and hangers-on.

The current economic crisis has put all that behind us. If the current administration fails to act, Antigua will crash… harder than the Dow Jones stock market did!

It is important to recognize that these problems present us with hidden opportunities. This worsening economic problem has presented our leaders with the opportunity to make and foster significant changes… not just for this moment – but for the future… Not just in policies – but in practices and processes… not just in certain places… but everywhere…

Not just with the labourers, cleaners and messengers within the Civil Service… but from the top… From Captain to Cook!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Need for Speed

Political Leaders Must Master the Art of Speed!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


Today the nation of Antigua and Barbuda is threatened on several fronts. On one front there is the problem of immigration… of foreign nationals moving from there (wherever) to here in order to find and make a better life. On another front we have the energy crisis with our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Then there is the historical problem we face with our water supply (some people have forgotten that this is a perennial problem). And, of course, there is the global financial meltdown that is affecting us not on one front – but on all fronts.

There never has been a time in our history when so much was demanded of our political leaders. The changes we face… and the challenges we confront demand aggressive, assertive, visionary and courageous decision making from the top. But something else is needed… something more fundamental… speed!

My 94 year old mother tells me that when she was a young girl, an immigrant would travel for more than two weeks to get from the ‘West Indies’ to London. Of course, in those days, the only way to get there was by boat. Today, that same trip takes eight hours – by air.

Every facet of our human experience has been transformed by modern innovations in technology. And most of those innovations have resulted in everything happening more quickly. Fedex can now deliver a package from the US in one day! I don’t have to travel to see my friends and family… I can see them now over the internet! I don’t have to go to the bookstore to purchase a book… I can buy it on Amazon… And I don’t have to wait for Amazon to ship it either… I can download some books right away!

Everything today is happening faster and faster. This is the age of speed… this is the time when we need our leaders to be speedy!

We cannot wait for the right decision… going in the right direction! We need decisions now… and we will correct our course as we go along. We cannot wait to see which direction the wind is blowing… before we raise the sails and get moving. No not to throw caution to the wind… but to grab hold of what wind there is.

We need to build a culture of speed in every sector of government: First we need speed in decision making at the very top… and at the top of every ministry and department.

Then, we need speed in delivery of services to consumers in every department of government. We need speed in communication within the government and from the government to the people. We need speed in responding to the current and future threats to the country and to segments of the population. We need speed in implementing new projects such as the car park, the library and those other projects some of which are still on the drawing board… We don’t need any more action plans… we need the government to act on the plans it already has… Act now.

We must build speed that matches our rhythmic style… Ours is not a reggae style… slow and sure… nope. We have a calypso rhythm… So let us develop a rhythmic decision making style that fits us… fast, adaptable… moving to the changes to the beats within our shores and addressing the challenging rhythms from the outside. And, yet within this fast rhythm – we must deliver rock steady results and outcomes.

Antigua and Barbuda must move quickly to respond to the knowledge based economy which is founded on innovation and the ability not only to generate new ideas but to build the products and deliver the services which emerge from the creative minds of our young entrepreneurs and university graduates. We must learn from experiences of our veteran workers and listen to the wisdom of our senior citizens.

We must develop the capacity to go from idea to product to delivery at light speed.

We must remove the bureaucratic prison that is our current system of government where permanent secretaries rule with an 18th Century mindset and 17th Century rules. It takes months to have a simple process completed after fifty pieces of paper have gone back and forth to be signed ten times. No country today can compete at a global level with that kind of pitch-like execution and delivery.

Our leaders must quickly identify and remove those processes – structural and political – that stymie and slow us down and prevent us from achieving success. And our leaders must remove those people with Victorian mentalities who keep us stuck in the past… who use the computer as an adding machine and see it as a typewriter with a screen.

There needs to be a sense of urgency about this.

For too long, we have accepted sloth bound decisions and mediocre results from some of our leaders. We have accepted their excuses as to why things take so long. We have embraced their explanations as to why this project or that project is still on the drawing board.

That attitude of acceptance and understanding, of indulgence and tolerance, of consideration and patience… just because we support them and just because we want to appear supportive… can no longer be the deal.

We need our leaders to embrace a culture of high tempo decision making and we need them to promote a culture of swift execution… and prompt delivery..

Antigua and Barbuda must make that transition to speed now. It is taking too long to bring those people to justice. It is taking too long to fix the airport. It is taking too long to deal with the medical students issue… (one way or another… make a decision). It has taken too long to solve our water problem. It has taken too long to get those Rural West projects going. It has taken too long to fix our electricity problem. It is taking too long bring those criminals to justice (did I mention that already?) It is taking toooooo long…

The up-tempo and percussion must start at the top… by the Chief Drummer. Let’s speed it up!

Them Antiguan Tradesmen


By Mshaka


Antiguan tradesmen: unreliable - undependable, bluffing, inconsistent, mediocre – second rate, superiority attitude, dismissive, disrespectful, inconsiderate, poor customer service… high priced!

I know that some of our readers will respond to this article with resentment… not just resentment but maybe even deep anger. I also know that others will agree with my opinions… not just agree but agree wholeheartedly.

It seems as though each time I talk with another Antiguan about the issue of our “Antiguan Tradesmen” that I hear another horror story about unreliability, mediocre work or the lies that our tradesmen tell their clients or potential clients. I won’t tell any of those stories. Why? Because I have my own litany of disappointments.

Last year, we hired a cabinet maker to redo our kitchen cupboards. As a matter of fact he was the one who had built them years ago. So who better to give the job to than him? That was the first mistake. Plus… he was local. Second mistake. And he promised a speedy job… and we believed him. Third mistake.

Well… he took off all the doors to the cupboards… took them away to sand and stain them and supposedly to put on new more beautiful hinges… or whatever they do to make them look good. He kept them… Of course he could not put them back on before he had re-sanded… and varnished or stained the cupboards themselves.

It took about three weeks for him to do the cupboards themselves… He would send someone on Monday morning to start… By mid-day the person left… and then showed up on Wednesday afternoon… Left and maybe… maybe showed up again on Friday just before 2 PM… or so. You know for what! Same thing happened the next week… and the next…

Of course during this time… all the contents of the cupboards…. foodstuff… dishes… glasses… cups… cutlery… well – you get the picture… All that stuff are in bags… temporarily placed on the table… put up here… placed over there… The place is a mess… for three weeks… Where is the salt? And, oh…. where is the baking soda… and what about the measuring cup??? Didn’t we have some of that… now where is it?

For three weeks…

Then he said he was finished with the cupboards… Of course he still had the doors… That took another week… Oh… and by the way… he took out a couple of drawers that needed new runners… those took an additional couple of weeks… How many weeks now?

That was last year… October… One door is still off… a drawer is missing…

Did I mention another mistake? He gave us a sob story… and he was paid… the full amount… Well… I wouldn’t have paid that scamp…. But… Let’s just say he was paid… So now… I will end up in court… either for our money… (that’s a civil matter)… or we are going to court… well… let’s just say… I might have to go to court for a – well – not civil matter!

Now that experience is one of many many many that I have had…

For the last couple of years, we have had a nagging problem with our plumbing. I have tried and tried and tried to get a local – Antiguan plumber. We have friends who are plumbers… we have associates who are plumbers… we even have family members who are plumbers…. all Antiguans… Do you think we could get one? Bluffing… lying… promising… every week… every month…

I needed an electrician… same thing… Promises that they will come… “Today… after three… look out for me…” That was six months ago…” Of course, I followed up. “What happened yesterday…” “Oh… something came up… I can’t do it today… how about Saturday… Yeah man… you can count on me.” He hasn’t shown up yet… not him… not his colleague… not the other three guys… all Antiguan of course!

And if you think that these issues are just about the little guy… the solo tradesman… then you have to think again. Not so. For years… I have tried to get the most prominent… longest serving Antiguan pest control company to examine and provide me with a key service. I have talked to its proprietor at least six times each year for the last five years…

“Mr. G, when are you coming to look at the house and give me your estimate…” “Oh, I will pass this afternoon… after five… I have to pass that way on my way home…” “Mr. G, what happened?” “Oh… ah… I will come first thing in the morning… I have to pass that way coming to work…” Even Mr. G’s wife now knows me… she has seen me come into the little shop/office at the corner so many times… so many times over the years! Don’t get me wrong… I have known Mr. G for thirty years… He is a nice man… but he is just like all the other Antiguan tradesmen… unreliable… undependable… bluffer!

Now I know that Mr. G, the electricians, the plumbers… don’t do that to the big customers like the hotels and the banks.

So what is it?

Do they feel that we can’t pay? Do they feel that we won’t pay? Well… we pay them what they ask… and they still don’t finish the job. Do they feel like our little jobs are not big enough? Even when times are hard for them… they still behave that way.

Again for years we have tried to get an Antiguan individual or company (doesn’t matter) to come once or twice per month to cut our grass, pull the weeds and trim the trees. This month we may get someone whom a friend recommends. The individual takes a look and charges an exorbitant price (at least, I think so). We pay it. Willingly. Part of what we are paying for is the long term commitment to provide the service every two weeks.

They come the first month and do an OK job.

The next month – we call. Now remember this is supposed to be automatic… They promise but they don’t show. Never show. Again. We get someone else. The same thing happens. Now we are on automatic… we automatically try to get a new person every month!

We got an Antiguan guy to fix the kitchen counter… he did a good job… or so it seems to me. But then he kept the remainder of the Corian… and to this day we can’t get it from him. He took a key part of a table to fix also… promising to bring it back the next day… That’s three months ago…

And the car… and our mechanic and body work friends… Well… that is a whole different story which would take a chapter or so!

What is it about our Antiguan tradesmen… what is it about our Antiguan small business men?

The sad thing is that now… today… those tradesmen have competition. Very serious competition. I needed to have some emergency carpentry work done… A friend referred a Dominican handyman. He brought three other men… scruffy looking… as if they had just come from the rum shop… but I can tell you that the job they did was quick and efficient! They were obviously hungry… maybe for food… but certainly for the work!

Our Antiguan tradesmen do not seem hungry… they don’t seem motivated to give excellent service… they don’t appear to believe in giving a good day’s work for a good day’s pay… they don’t believe in keeping their word… they come with an attitude of “I am Antiguan… I deserve this work because I am Antiguan… I can do the best job because I am Antiguan… pay me before the job is finished… because I am Antiguan… I will come back when I want to… because I am Antiguan…”

Well… I am one Antiguan who is fed up with our Antiguan tradesmen…

Because I am Antiguan I expect better from my Antiguan tradesmen and businessmen…

Because I am Antiguan and I am paying for the work being done… and because as an Antiguan… I have been taken for granted by Antiguan tradesmen and business men… And because I am Antiguan and I have been burned so many countless times by Antiguan tradesmen… I will no longer waste my time… no longer look desperately for an Antiguan to do work…

Let me tell you… this is hard… particularly given how I feel about the non-Antiguan issues we are currently experiencing. But I have been let down too many times… taken for granted too many times… disrespected too many times – by my own Antiguan tradesmen… neighbors, friends and family!

The best tradesmen will get the job… those who do as they promise. Those who keep their word…. those who deliver excellent service… those who respect me as a consumer… those who are dependable, responsible and reliable… those who do an excellent job… in excellent time with excellent results… whatever the price…

Those tradesmen and businessmen will get the job - whatever their origin… Chinese… Guyanese… Dominican… Jamaican…. Santo Dominican… or Antiguan!

If our tradesmen keep up this attitude they will soon be marginalized to the sidelines. Some are already fussing about the Chinese and Santo Dominicans… Well this is just the beginning. Someone needs to host an educational forum or training conference for our Antiguan tradesmen to read them the riot act. The Chamber of Commerce, the Antigua Employer’s Federation, the Small Business Association – somebody needs to jump in – quickly to do something about this.

These tradesmen are committing ritual suicide… every day… every week… ever month. When the big jobs go away… they will want to turn to people like me and you… too late! And the big jobs will go away as more and more builders take advantage of the growing numbers of skilled foreign nationals willing to work for cheaper wages.

Quite soon Antiguan tradesmen will no longer be able to compete with the hordes of foreign tradesmen who have been let in and are being let in to our country. By that time, people like me will have been forced to move on to other sources because of our tradesmen’s current attitudes.

And while the foreign population grows… guess who they will be hiring to work on their cars… to fix their plumbing and electricity?

Our tradesmen need to catch a glimpse of their future… the ones they are creating by their bluffing, disrespect of consumers and unreliability. Their future does not look good – at least not to me! And it is of their own making…