Leader of the Democratic National Alliance Joanne Massiah is calling for an independent investigation into the drowning of West Africans off the coast of St Kitts and Nevis last week Tuesday.
Massiah, in a statement to the press on Wednesday, said this investigation should comprise well-respected regional and international bodies.
“The efforts of the Gaston Browne Administration to minimize and politicize this diplomatic whirlwind has not fooled thoughtful and right-thinking persons. The government’s involvement in what can be concluded as gross violations of several UN Protocols of which Antigua and Barbuda is a signatory will undoubtedly have negative regional and international fallout for our country for the foreseeable future,” Massiah said.
The minority party leader said the tragic outcome of this ill-fated journey raises more questions than answers.
“The allegations surrounding this tragedy and the purported involvement of the government of Antigua and Barbuda dating back to the arrival of hundreds of Africans on November 1, 2022, aboard the now-defunct Antigua Airways are very serious and troubling,” she added.
According to Massiah, from the outset, it was evident to ordinary citizens and residents, if not to those in authority, that the majority of passengers aboard the inaugural and subsequent flights were not tourists notwithstanding the utterances and protestations of Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, and Ministers Paul Chet Green and Charles “Max” Fernandez.
“Despite the lack of transparency and consultation regarding the government’s involvement in the ownership structure of the airline, and obvious red flags which the government appeared to have deliberately ignored, these flights were arranged,” Massiah said.
“These reasons, coupled with the apparent willful turning of the proverbial blind eye by the government, have caused the DNA to ponder what perceived economic benefits did the Cabinet anticipate would redound to our country given that the majority of the passengers are alleged to have originated from conflict zones,” she added.
She said further, that given that the Gaston Browne Administration has been at the center of this issue and may have facilitated – whether wittingly or “unwittingly” – alleged people smuggling and/or human trafficking disqualifies them from being capable of conducting such an inquiry.
“Our African brothers and sisters, the families of those who perished at sea, and ALL Antiguans and Barbudans deserve to know the truth surrounding this tragedy and the circumstances of the passengers’ travel to our country. Those who are responsible must be brought to justice, “ she added
The Cameroonians are expected to return to the island within days, along with the two Antiguans who were on board the vessel that claimed the lives of about 16 West Africans