Antigua St john's - “All hands are on board.” That was the upbeat report coming from United Progressive Party (UPP) Public Relations Officer Senator Joanne Massiah.
Declaring the UPP governing team to be united in pursuit of solutions to the challenges facing the nation, Senator Massiah made the call, on behalf of the ruling party, for all the people of Antigua & Barbuda to join together in what she terms the “collective process” of government.
This is the message being sent out by the United Progressive Party (UPP) these days, as the ruling party seeks to re-engage with a skeptical public.
Conscious of some degree of disconnect between itself and the electorate, the UPP leadership practically all of whom are in Parliament have embarked on a programme to “remold and rebuild” their party’s links to the voters.
This initiative, said Public Relations Officer Senator Joanne Massiah, must be undertaken with due regard to that “delicate balance” between time constraints, commitment to the demands of their portfolio(s), and attention to the needs of their constituents.
As a consequence, the UPP leaders have concluded that they must make the time, re-adjust their schedules, go back out, and hear directly from the people. Hence, of course, the recent spate of activities aimed at achieving precisely that aim.
Senator Massiah delivered the message on Thursday, during a brief in-studio appearance on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers are invited to visit the to hear excerpts from the conversation.
Following on the opening salvos – a public meeting at Thwaites Corner followed by a Labour Day rally and a townhall-style meeting at the Princess Margaret School on Tuesday. The next event is a rally set for Saturday June 2 at the All Saints Crossroads. Proceedings will kick off at 7:30 pm.
Declaring herself pleased both with the turnout at the May 15 townhall meeting and with the feedback received, Senator Massiah commented on several of the issues coming from the floor.
Perennial among these are concerns about road repair, violence involving youth, access to lands, and food security. Gaining attention, though, is the issue of erosion of wage levels in the construction sector. This trend is widely seen as caused by immigrant tradesmen being willing to work for as little as $30 to $50 a day, according to reports.
The UPP PRO reserved some of her most trenchant remarks for the matter of the recent initiative taken by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) to disconnect electricity supplies to public recreational facilities.
Noting that Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who incidentally is Public Utilities minister, also expressed himself strongly on the matter (terming the action “out of order”), Senator Massiah characterized the move by APUA as a display of gross insensitivity.
She stressed that the disconnections, which took place abruptly while sporting fixtures and other public events were in progress, showed disrespect to the teams, their players and to the public in general, who were utilizing the facilities.
An additional factor, the PRO pointed out, was the message the action by the APUA sent to the youth of the nation. She observed that the sporting facilities are provided for the developmental (as well as social and recreational) needs of these same youth. Such matters, she said, must be taken into consideration when decisions are being taken.
The senator recognised that APUA faces many challenges that are non-revenue cost centers, such as servicing schools and other institutions, and lighting roads, and public areas. In light of this, she opined, it is the responsibility of conscientious citizens to avoid waste of costly energy resources.
The UPP PRO called for a change in the attitude of the people, and for all interests to work together toward improved management of lights at public sporting facilities.
On a note of special interest to first-time homeowners, Senator Massiah hinted that distribution of over 600 housing plots will begin in the near future. People seeking to acquire their first home will enjoy priority, though other applicants will not be excluded.