Thursday, 05 April 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Senator Paul “Chet” Greene has come out in support of Cabinet member Wilmoth Daniel, who has asked Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to order a commission of inquiry into the Wadadli Power Plant (WPP) contract.
His stance was part of a rising chorus of ALP support for the embattled minister of Health. Greene took the position on Wednesday, on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers are invited to visit the Caribarena.com video archive to hear excerpts from the conversation.
The ALP senator expressed his firm belief that Daniel’s position on the Wadadli Power Plant issue represents the prevailing public opinion on the matter.
Greene referred in particular to Daniel’s report that Ambassador David Shoul had told him in a telephone conversation that the generator sets were “not new,” that he had negotiated for used generator sets, and that he (Ambassador Shoul) had never told anyone that the generator sets were new.
These remarks were subsequently denied by Ambassador Shoul in a telephone statement to Cabinet.
Greene noted that under these circumstances, either Minister Daniel has severely impugned Ambassador Shoul’s character, or Ambassador Shoul is not telling the truth.
Greene said the prime minister is now required to act, and must either revoke David Shoul’s appointment as non-resident ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), or he must remove Wilmoth Daniel from his Cabinet.
This situation, said Greene, marks either the end of Daniel’s relationship with the United Progressive Party, or the end of the UPP itself.
The ALP senator finds it troubling that three days have passed since Daniel’s letter to the prime minister was published, yet there has been no reaction from the prime minister.
He further noted that based on the date of the letter (March 20), Prime Minister Spencer must have known of Daniel’s call for a commission of inquiry into the WPP contract for at least a week-and-a-half before the matter became public.
Greene, the presumptive ALP candidate for St Paul's in the forthcoming general elections, advanced the view that the prime minister’s tardiness on the matter has frightening implications for democracy in Antigua & Barbuda.
By failing to act promptly and decisively on the issues raised in Wilmoth Daniel’s letter, said Greene, Prime Minister Spencer will have made himself a mere hostage to fortune. Asserting that “something has to be done,” the ALP senator says it is time for the public to make demands of the prime minister and show him that he has to face up to the issue.
Turning to the public criticism of the WPP contract, Greene opined that the “wall of silence” put up by the prime minister does the UPP government no good. It sends the clear message that the UPP does not feel the need to account to the people of Antigua & Barbuda, and can only lead to a further erosion of public confidence in the ruling party.
Greene characterizes as “disingenuous” the prime minister’s attempt to link criticism of the WPP contract with an intent to damage the country’s relationship with the PRC. He regards this tactic as a “feeble attempt” by the prime minister to obfuscate the issue, and suggested that it should be treated with well-deserved contempt.
Greene supports the general public opinion that the Wadadli Power Plant contract must be completely investigated. The central issue, he pointed out, is the principle of “value for money”, and a thorough investigation is required to ascertain whether the people of Antigua & Barbuda have received value for their tax dollars.
The presumptive candidate thanked the Public Works ministry for infrastructural work done on the road at “Bridge Ghaut,” and for surfacing Cemetery Road. He now entreats Public Works to urgently transfer its attention to the Green Hill Bridge, which he fears is in imminent danger of collapse.
For the English Harbour area, Greene’s wish list includes road maintenance and a better system for routing traffic during the Sailing Week period. He recommends close consultations with persons knowledgeable about the district, so that excessive congestion might be avoided.
Greene noted a significant reduction in violent crime, but pointed to an upsurge in housebreakings and thefts of television sets. He hopes that the police department will beef up security operations during Sailing Week 2012, but noted that concerns raised by officers at the Liberta Police Station are yet to be addressed.
Focusing on the critical role played by the yachting industry in the national economy, Greene is calling for comparative and quantitative studies to be done to form the basis for a scientific and holistic approach to developing the sector.
He painted a somewhat gloomy picture of the immediate economic prospects for the English Harbour area, predicting “massive business closures” after the end of the yachting season.
In a related matter, Greene notes one negative effect of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. This has thrown open the marine electronics and satellite communications sector to competition from European-based operators. This competition is unanswerable, since no significant yacht ownership pertains to Antigua & Barbuda. European yacht owners are free to make their own employment decisions.