It was a celebration like none ever seen in Antigua and Barbuda, since the twin island state attained political independence in 1981.
Shortly after 4p.m. on Wednesday, the official Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda (ABLP) was installed amidst much pomp and ceremony, and its officers given their instruments of appointment. The ABLP one week ago, emerged victorious following highly anticipated and strongly contested campaigning leading up to general elections (June 12). In what has been described as an overwhelming defeat against the former United Progressive Party (UPP) administration – which led the country for 10 years – the ABLP secured 14 of the 17 constituency seats, with the three losing candidates having lost by very slim margins.
Former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who retained the position of Member of Parliament for his constituency, St. John’s Rural West, conceded defeat well before midnight election day, after the fifth candidate for the ABLP was declared. A very sombre political leader of the UPP, in offering brief remarks at the time, gave the assurance that he would work with the new administration for the benefit of Antigua and Barbuda.
Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony, though, was anything but solemn and the excitement from the people of the state was most palpable. After the ceremony at the Government House, Prime Minister Browne along with his wife, First Lady Maria Bird-Browne, and his cadre of candidates made their way to the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) in an historic celebration ceremony for the people. In a show of support, Prime Minister Browne and his team were accompanied by regional Caribbean colleagues: Prime Minister the Hon Roosevelt Skerritt of Dominica, Prime Minister the Hon Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada and the Hon Dr. Denzel Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis.
In offering remarks on behalf of his country, Prime Minister Skerritt spoke glowingly of Prime Minister Browne, describing him as a young, dynamic man. Prime Minister Skerritt noted that when Prime Minister Browne addressed the Delegates Conference of the Dominica Labour Party in September, 2013, he (Skerritt) received a call later that night which lauded the then opposition leader and spoke of the strength he would lend to the development of Caricom. The prophetic words came to pass.
“Comrade, you have gotten your wish; Gaston Browne has been elected Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. I go further to say…no one in Dominica who met Gaston Browne on that visit, or heard his address at that conference was in doubt, that here is a future Caribbean leader.”
The Dominican Prime Minister continued, “I speak for all Dominica this evening when I extend heartiest congratulations to Gaston Browne and his team of candidates in the last general election. And to say how warmly and enthusiastically we welcome you to the mantle of Caribbean leadership at this crucial point in our region’s development. Antigua and Barbuda is a crucial cornerstone in the Dominica Diaspora. It is home to thousands of Dominicans…and therefore, their celebration this past weekend is also a source of great joy to me as leader of their native land.”
The new Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda comprises Prime Minister Gaston Browne as Minister of Finance and Corporate Governance; Hon Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin (Attorney General, Minister of Labour, Immigration and Police); Hon Robin Yearwood (Minister of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Transportation); Hon Asot Michael (Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy); Hon Molwyn Joseph, Minister of Health and the Environment); Hon Eustace Teco Lake (Minister of Works and Housing); Hon E. Paul Chet Greene (Minister of Trade, Commerce & Industry, Spots, Culture, National Festivals and Community Service); Hon Samantha Marshall (Minister of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development); Hon Charles Fernandez (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade); Hon Melford Nicholas (Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology); Hon Arthur Nibbs, Barbuda (Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs); Hon Michael Browne (Minister of Education, Science and Technology.)