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?