Trevor Walker was Barbuda’s MP for ten years from 2004 to 2014. On Friday, he and two other members of the Barbuda Council, in a gesture of protest, left the launch ceremony at which the prime minister berated the UNDP officials.
“Totally unacceptable” is how the former MP described the move by Browne, who was accusing the UNDP team of “opportunistic promotion” after it used stickers to identify houses to which repairs had been done with material from a UNDP-People’s Republic of China procurement project.
Work on the homes was done by contractors hired and paid by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, a fact which led Browne to declare that the UNDP team had contributed little more than “a few sheets of plywood.”
Walker declared, “We’ve seen these people working very hard and for the prime minster to give the impression that they have not contributed anything is totally unacceptable,” and added, “The prime minister lacks diplomacy.”
The scolding which the UNDP officials received at the launch ceremony of the Building Back Better project was the second they had gotten that day after the prime minister berated them during a tour of homes at which materials from the project were used. Material was also allocated for work on the Hanna Thomas Hospital – Barbuda’s only medical facility.
“My government will not tolerate opportunistic promotion. I have instructed that every single sticker in [the hospital] be taken down,” Browne declared at the ceremony outside the hospital.
Walker later asked with astonishment, “How can the prime minister behave in such a way in front of the Chinese Ambassador?” He declared, “The prime minister must show some decorum.”
In Antigua, Harold Lovell, Senate Minority Leader was echoing the views of Walker when Lovell appeared on OBSERVER radio on Saturday afternoon. The Senator said he disagreed with the prime minister on whether there needed to be any excitement over the issue.
Referring to the UNDP team Lovell said, “I’m making assumptions here but they have to account to their principles. Their principles as well as the Chinese government at some point would want to do some sort of inspection. They would want to see where their money has been spent.”
A former finance minister, Lovell said that an external agency erecting or displaying signage after contributing to a project in a foreign country is not unheard of but rather, it is “standard procedure.”
The Senate Minority Leader characterized the prime minister’s behaviour on Friday as “pompous and obnoxious.” He questioned whether the intent was to “publicly humiliate everyone.” Lovell said, “Even if [the prime minister] thought he had a point, it’s not the way you deal with it. Call a meeting or pull people aside and you could make your point just as strongly.”
The prime minister’s concern on Friday was that the UNDP stickers were detracting from the effort that the government of Antigua and Barbuda had made to rebuild the roofs of the homes. A UNDP official told OBSERVER media that the team fully acknowledges the substantive role of the government and was not attempting to “take credit” as Browne put it.
- Countries: Antigua_Barbuda