GOVERNMENT’S PRESS CONFERENCE POST IRMA

anguillian
By anguillian November 13, 2017 12:29 Updated

 

 

 

Government officials of the Anguilla United Front met with media personnel on Tuesday afternoon, November 7th, to bring the public up to speed as to the progress made on various fronts following the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Irma on September 6th. Due to Government’s involvement with so many other preoccupations, relative to the aftermath of the storm, Chief Minister, Hon. Victor Banks, apologized for the fact that press conferences were so infrequent – even two months after the disaster – and acknowledged that indeed Government needs to do better.

The Chief made mention of the fact that indeed we are grateful for spared lives. He stated: “We must be also grateful for the fact that we were able to withstand the ravages of the hurricane, and yet be resilient and ready to start again. The entire Anguilla community is to be commended for its response and its willingness to work together to achieve the kind of positive results that we are experiencing today. I am so grateful to all those persons overseas, during the relief period, who contributed to make our people feel appreciated and loved, especially during those traumatic days after Hurricane Irma.”

He went on to say: “We are here two months later and we can reflect on some of the things that have transpired, but certainly there are a number of things that we can be happy about, including the fact that within thirty-six hours of the passage of the storm the airport was opened, and relief supplies were being flown in.”

The Chief Mister continued: “We are also happy that the port at Road Bay was opened so that we could receive shipments of supplies as well. Because of its opening we were able to welcome the naval ship that came shortly after the storm to lend support, and to give us the assurance that the UK response was imminent. We are also happy that the schools have been opened within four weeks of the Irma, even though adverse conditions were compounded by the impacts of Hurricane Maria. I want to congratulate the Ministry of Education and the leadership of the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Permanent Secretaries and staffs. I also want to congratulate and say thanks to the teachers and all who assisted.”

“The clean-up efforts went well,” Minister Banks noted, “and comments coming from outside of Anguilla are that Anguilla is looking great. We have been commended for the way we dealt with beginning to restore ourselves. We are transitioning now from relief to recovery. This is perhaps the most critical step in the process. There are a number of persons who still have needs and therefore I must thank the various agencies and organizations outside of Anguilla who responded. I wish to thank the diaspora in New York, Baltimore and Florida. I thank the APANY groups, support groups in the UK, Anguillian People Living Overseas (APLO) as well as other Anguillians and lovers of Anguilla who have gotten involved in the relief effort. I also thank our colleagues in the OECS. We received support from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St.Kitts-Nevis, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad, Dominica, Guyana and The Bahamas. I wish to thank all the Heads of OECS who came to visit and bring messages of goodwill to our people.

“We are now looking at our budget”, said the Chief Minister, “to decide how we are going to handle the next eighteen months. I used the term eighteen months because I believe that beyond eighteen months we should be already passed recovery stage and being restored to a level of stability. By then, the economy should be so improved so that we can have revenue generation in the key sectors after the eighteen-month period. That is the plan; that is the vision. Obviously, because we have lost sources of revenue there will be short-falls in our budget. We have already figured out how we will deal with 2017. Since 2018 would be a challenge, we need to speak to the British Government. We have made the position clear, that Government does not have the fiscal space to take on loans. As a consequence, as much grant support as is available we would want to obtain. We want to make sure that this would be the kind of strategy to be used for support.”

Speaking next was Mrs. Evalie Bradley who also represented the Minister of Home Affairs, Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, who was unable to be present. Mrs. Bradley began by apologizing for her Minister’s absence. She gave thanks to God for His protection during one of the worst storms in history. She continued: “Let me say thanks to those persons who were able to come to our assistance. Thanks for all those persons who participated in the distribution of relief supplies, those who provided relief supplies, and who have assisted us in one way or another during this trying and difficult time.”

Mrs. Bradley remarked: “There is one thing I would like to emphasize and it is that, as a people, we must be careful to show an attitude of gratitude. It has been disheartening to some extent for those who went out there and sacrificed themselves to ensure that others are assisted, then to hear negative comments from a certain section of persons in the community who were critical about the aid that came to Anguilla. So, I want to impress on our people that we must be able to show expressions of thanks and gratitude in a more meaningful way to those persons who have come to our assistance.”

According to Mrs. Bradley, “the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour had been seriously impacted due to their offices being damaged during the storm. For a short period of time, the Dept. of Labour has been operating under cramped conditions in the office of the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Department of Immigration has been functioning from the building that houses the Internal Revenue Department. However, over a week ago both departments have been relocated to the former NBA building. So persons who need to deal with immigration or labour matters should go to that building to access such services.”
She said that many people are asking about the Labour Code. She noted that currently the Ministry of Home Affairs is busy in making final amendments to the draft which is presently in the Attorney General’s Chambers and, hopefully, by the next sitting of the House of Assembly the Labour Code will be ready for passage.

Following Mrs. Bradley, Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Cardigan Connor addressed the press by first thanking all strong and proud Anguillians. He said he wanted to also thank the repeat visitors who have been coming to Anguilla over the years and have shown much support to Anguillians in need – following the onslaught of Hurricane Irma.

“I wish to thank Anguillian People Living Oversease (APLO),” Mr. Connor noted. I think that after fifty or a hundred years on, Anguillians who left Anguilla to help support their loved ones here at home, can still come to the fore and support at this time. I want to also thank the family of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). I especially want to extend thanks to Mr. Hugh Riley who is the Secretary General of CTO. He was here two days after the storm hit. I also want to say special thanks to Rolf and the staff at Carimar for accommodating Mr. Riley. In recent times, I have been to the State of the Industry Conference in Greanada, and I must thank the Ministry of Tourism there for accommodating us, with the understanding that Anguilla is in dire need at the moment. Also, in St. Lucia where I attended a one-day meeting – again, the Ministry of Tourism in St. Lucia has accommodated us well. Of course, in those meetings, all of the affected islands like Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin and the Turks and Caicos Islands were very much to the forefront, being so much impacted by the recent disaster.”

Mr. Connor stressed: “Of course, for us in Anguilla, we must keep an optimistic view. We at the Anguilla Tourist Board, and the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association, are determined to move forward. In fact, I have been making statements that Anguilla is alive and kicking. There are deep shades of green now, and we are getting better news day by day. Chances are that we will have a tourist season by the end of 2017, and news is out that the season for 2018 will start even earlier than initially predicted.”

The final Minister to address the press was Mr. Curtis Richardson, the Minister of Infrastructure. He firstly noted that as the Minister responsible for fisheries he continues to be concerned about the losses suffered by fishermen due to the hurricane. He stated that, where funds are available, contributions will be made to certain programs that will come to the aid of fishermen who have lost fish-traps, buoys – and those who have suffered damage or loss to their fishing vessels. He noted that the same thing goes for agriculture. He said that a special meeting was held with farmers to assess their losses, and a report is being put together to indicate the loss of chickens, crops, seedlings etc.

“The next issue,” Mr. Richardson said, “is transportation.” “I am continuing to push legislation to make sure that persons do not continue to operate taxis with “C” plates. The final meeting on that legislation will be this coming Thursday, at the Attorney General’s Chambers. It should be then taken to the House shortly after for passage.” In speaking on the subject of ferry- boats, he extended thanks to Anguilla Air & Sea Ports Authority (ASPA) for the work they have been doing to get the services back on stream. He said that all the ferries have to undergo a re-certification process, which poses some setbacks for certain ferries which have had some re-occurring issues that must be dealt with before they can be certified as being seaworthy for the trade.
As far as electricity was concerned, Minister Richardson said: “I wish to thank the Chief Minister, the Governor and Mr. David Gumbs, the CEO of ANGLEC, for their continued support and the efforts that they have been making to make sure that we do have electricity restored throughout the island. I also wish to thank Mr. Gareth Hodge, Chairman of the Board at Anglec, and the workers of Anglec who have been doing a tremendous job towards the restoration of electricity. I am extremely proud of those workmen who have been spending tireless hours on the poles, in an effort to have power all across the island in the shortest possible time.”

Concerning the airport, Minister Richardson stated: “We continue to thank the Chief Minister as well as the British Government for their support in three key areas with the airport: 1. three miles of fencing; 2. the tower; and 3. the lights. These items for the airport will be acquired at a cost of approximately 1.5 million pounds. The British Government has pledged this amount towards these needs. I wish to thank Mr. Marcel Fahie, Chairman of ASPA, as well as Mr. Sherman Williams, Acting CEO. I also want say thanks to all of the ASPA staff for the tremendous job that they have been doing so far. There are a lot of accomplishments that I get credit for, but I want the public to know that these accomplishments could not be reached without the diligent work of all these people.”

Regarding the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal, Minister Richardson noted that he was adamant that it will be ready and operational by Christmas of 2018. “ I have a burning passion for this,” he said. He insisted that what is to replace the demolished facility will be a structure that will make us proud as Anguillians and make our guests happy and comfortable as they come to a five-star tourist destination. “I do believe that we have the wherewithal, and the brain power, to acquire the funds to get this done within one year, and completed by next Christmas.”

The members of the media present were appreciative of the informative press conference. A number of questions were posed to the Ministers who answered them in a comprehensive manner.

anguillian
By anguillian November 13, 2017 12:29 Updated

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