HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF WEDNESDAY 31 MAY 2023
The Cabinet commenced its session at approximately 10:45 am with prayers by the Catholic Bishop. He read from the Book of Ecclesiastics which declared that an uneducated king will cause his nation to fail. The denomination changes at the end of each month. The Cabinet meeting ended at 5:00 pm.
1. The Cabinet invited the Head of the Prison Visiting Committee, who is also the Pastor of the Christian Ministries—a church that is engaged in outreach, seeking to turn lives around–to address the body on the issues of youth violence, custody of youthful offenders, and proposed solutions to instructing and training of young offenders in order to rehabilitate them. The Cabinet listened intently to the presentation before providing specific answers to issues raised. The Boys Training School located near the Village of Willikies is under repair and will soon be completed. In the meantime, the youthful offenders may be housed at His Majesty’s Prison or the former Air Force Base which has been declared a prison. The 16 year-old who allegedly shot and killed the business proprietor a week ago, is being held on remand at the Prison. The Pastor also proposed several specific undertakings and lessons which he believes will assist the youthful offenders in thinking and measuring that would lead to better decision-making, likely to enhance their life-choices. The encounter lasted more than 40 minutes though the disagreements were many and the rejections respectfully communicated.
2. The Cabinet invited the new Chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the Acting Manager to report on the successes and failures of the statutory body, especially so the failure to collect garbage from several rural communities. It was explained that the number of NSWMA trucks has been reduced to three working compactor trucks from a total of eight. However, the mechanics were able to cannibalize the non-working trucks and to put two additional trucks back on the road. The two officials from NSWMA also explained that there are operators/owners of trucks that were over-represented; their numbers are being brought in line to fit the norm. The officials were empowered by Cabinet to begin the process of reducing the number of trucks by which several owners/operators exceed the reasonable number. Small and individual truck owners will then be able to receive reasonable payments each week.
3. The Prime Minister reported that the 80% shareholder in the Cancer Center, Eastern Caribbean has appointed a receiver to manage the affairs of the Michael’s Mount medical center. All dealings with the Center will now take place with the Receiver. The Cabinet proposed to make an offer to purchase that would reflect the valuation numbers submitted by a Government valuation officer. The Government has already gone to the Parliament and passed the legislation to acquire the Cancer Centre by eminent domain. If the offer is rejected by the Receiver, the Government will proceed to exercise the eminent domain option, causing the courts to determine what value is reasonable.
4. The Cabinet held a discussion on the issue of the ability of the Governor General to establish a Commission of Inquiry. The Attorney General has persuaded the Cabinet Members that the conclusion rendered by Mr. Justin Simon KC. and Mr. Harold Lovell are grossly wrong. The Governor General’s Office has published a press release in which the Office concludes that based on the opinions rendered by the two prominent attorneys (KCs) that the Governor General must be clothed with the advice of the Cabinet before His Excellency can act to establish a public inquiry. The Cabinet regards the picketing at the Governor General’s office as wrongheaded and potentially eroding the dignity and political neutrality of any Governor General.
5. The Attorney General reported that the High Court has undergone some deep cleaning, the removal of carpeting in the courtrooms, and the cleaning of the walls and other places where mould could have accumulated. The return of the staff to the courtrooms will likely take place on Monday 5th June.
6.i. While the grounds of the National Abattoir have been improved by removing unwanted vegetation, the building itself is in need of a redesign; however, it will be used continuously until such time as a new abattoir can be constructed.
6.ii. The Minister of Sports has reported that the fine dust from the cement plant upwind from the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium has impacted the functioning of the huge screens at the Stadium. The dust has also begun to affect the massive lights that allow sporting events to take place at nights.
6.iii. The Deluxe Cinema Building, owned by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, is shortly to commence renovations.