By Latrishka Thomas
The Executive of the United Progressive Party (UPP) recently announced that the Leader of the Opposition, Jamale Pringle, will not be participating in the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC), but Prime Minister Gaston Browne described that decision as a “dereliction of duty.”
In fact, Browne said that members of the party “are allowing their personal egos to literally undermine any semblance of loyalty that they may have to this country”.
The ERC is a group that is being established to find solutions to the country’s economic fallout in “the wake of the unexpected and severe exogenous shock of the Covid-19 pandemic”
The first meeting of the ERC is set for 3 pm today, April 27, but on Friday, the UPP said “no discussion has yet been held, and no formal invitation has been issued to him [Leader of the Opposition] or to the UPP, who’s Executive and Membership he represents.”
In a release, Pringle also stated that he found it “disrespectful to have been so treated and, accordingly, will channel his efforts into promoting his Party’s proposals for economic recovery directly to the People”.
However, a letter dated April 24 and addressed to Pringle states that a decision was made by the Cabinet to invite him to join the committee aimed at returning Antigua and Barbuda “to a period of growth and sustainability.”
In the UPP’s statement, Political Leader Harold Lovell added that “the Party is mindful of the need for collaborative planning to deal with the economic ravages of COVID-19. It is conscious, too, that having successfully weathered the Global Economic Crisis of 2008-12, the UPP is well positioned to offer sound advice based on experience.”
However, Lovell said “the Party is unwilling to continue exposing its leaders and its reputation to the unabated disrespect and disparagement of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the Chairman of the ERC.”
The UPP’s Public Relations Officer, Cortwright Marshall further explained that the party took the decision because “it is good policy to have consensus and the involvement of all citizens and non-government organization in decision making but it has to be a policy of the government that is quite clear of all individual and groups interested in the development of process”, but the position taken by the government, he added, lacks “serious participation by all individuals and organizations in terms of development.”
Marshall added that a tripartite approach is necessary.
“We need a consistent, open and democratic approach to development of the nation state of Antigua and Barbuda. It cannot be just a situation where the Prime Minister or his government of Cabinet wishes to have the opposition of a group of individuals participate in the development process that he’s going to send out an invitation. That invitation must be done with the understanding of all parties of the approach that is going to take to development,” he stated.
However, PM Browne shot down that idea while clarifying that broader participation is available at the level of subcommittees
“They are making a call for us to put all political parties on the steering committee…what utter nonsense. Now we have several sub-committees so that if they have individuals within the party; if Harold Lovell himself or any other within the party wish to serve on the various sub-committees which we will establish, they will have an opportunity so to serve,” Browne remarked.
According to the PM, the other members of the committee are representatives from the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce and Industry INC, Antigua Barbuda Workers Union, Employers Federation, Christian Council of Churches, and Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association, among others.