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Thursday 24th June 2021

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 1)
The Cabinet discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and the success achieved in its management, nationally. There are no active cases, no COVID-19 patients in hospital, and no new infections within the past two weeks.

-The Cabinet applauded the Minister of Health, the CMO, the frontline workers including the doctors, nurses, and hospital workers, the Police, the military, the Quarantine Officials, and the people of Antigua and Barbuda, especially those who have stepped forward to receive vaccination, for making the policies articulated by the Cabinet, and appearing in the Gazette, so very successful.

-When the issue of the extension of the State of Emergency, for an additional 90 days, was brought before the Parliament on Tuesday morning, June 22, 2021, the two members on the Opposition Benches voiced their objections. The Cabinet concluded that the members failed to understand how the State of Emergency and the Public Health Act intersect, allowing both the Constitution and the Law to be jointly invoked in order to reach the goals of zero infections. The Cabinet agreed that mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent sanitizing have contributed to the zeroes displayed on the dashboard and these approaches will continue as the nation remains vigilant, and as tourism begins to grow with more visitors entering into the country.

-The Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Health that the vaccines which are set to expire in eight days, numbering less than 2,000 doses, will be consumed by the Antigua and Barbuda population during the days remaining. There will therefore be no reason to share the vaccines with a fellow Caribbean country, as previously announced.

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 2)
The Cabinet spent considerable time discussing the need to end corporal punishment within schools and, possibly, homes as well. While there was no consensus among the 12 members, the Cabinet agreed that consultations will continue and experts are to be heard as the Cabinet seeks to reach a consensus.

2.ii. The Cabinet invited the Chairperson of the CHILD JUSTICE BOARD, a Magistrate in our Court system, to make a presentation. The Magistrate shared a paper that was prepared by her, pointing out that Antigua and Barbuda has signed and ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which speaks to ending punishment of children by inflicting pain on the child. The Magistrate quoted several officials who expressed differing points of view on the subject, publicly, including the current Minister of Education, and a former Director of Education with divergent views. The religious intonement that speaks to “sparing the rod” was significantly challenged by members who are themselves fathers; and, it was upheld by other members who believed that the biblical expression ought to still be invoked.  Notwithstanding their differing views, the Magistrate pointed out that when treaties and conventions are ratified by the Parliament, they become the law of Antigua and Barbuda. The Education Act which stipulates how corporal punishment is to be administered in schools, conflicts with the adopted treaties and conventions that seek to end corporal punishment as a means of correction; it also conflicts with the Child Justice Act  which outlaws corporal punishment of children. The courts will be compelled to provide protection to children under the law, should this issue be brought before the Magistracy or the High Court.

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 3)
The Cabinet also examined the rise in domestic violence which has ended with the death of several women at the hands of violent men during the past three years. The most recent killing of Ms. Althea Henry, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend, has once again brought the subject to the nation’s attention. The Attorney General noted that the battered women frequently refuse to testify against the men, because they are the breadwinners in the family; hence, the abuse continues.

3.ii. The Cabinet examined ways in which a conviction can nevertheless be successful without the testimony of the battered women, utilizing the sworn statement of a deponent and viewing the complainant as a hostile witness. There is some indication that successful convictions may be achieved through this route. It was also agreed that where the issue of provision of support for children arises, the law would take into account the deprivation which a jail sentence would cause to a family, and the law could immediately assign the children to the Board of Guardians for material support.

-The debate will continue as the nation seeks to achieve zero gender-based violence. The Cabinet will invite the Department of Gender Affairs to its next meeting, tying gender-based violence to corporal punishment in schools.

Notes from cabinet: (PT. 4)
The APUA will hold a public ceremony on Monday, July 5, 2021, to celebrate its Fiber-To-The-Home project. This ongoing investment of APUA’s resources is intended to ensure that improved broadband service can be delivered by APUA Telecomms at a fraction of the current cost. APUA will also invest in its own underwater-sea-cable, in order to avoid usurious charges it is required to pay to a competitor.

6. The Maria Holder Trust will construct three more centers across Antigua, following its $7 million dollar build in the All Saints West region. Although the specific placements of the three new centers has not yet been identified, the Cabinet agreed that one center will be built in the south, and two will be built within heavily-populated urban centers. The Centers are intended to serve very young children, relieving families of the cost of certain childcare expenses that would otherwise be incurred by young families whose breadwinners may be challenged.

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 5)
The Cabinet repeated its long-held policy that immigrant children, brought to Antigua and Barbuda by parents, are to be accorded special treatment leading to citizenship. The children, who have now become adults, know only Antigua and Barbuda, and their immigration status may not have been regularized since childhood, are to be granted continuous amnesty in order for them to make the best use of the schooling and other benefits accorded them over the years. The Cabinet has eliminated the need for them to purchase return tickets, waived the accumulated fees, and to be un-blocked from attaining police records, so that they may make use of the forgiveness leading to citizenship. Antigua and Barbuda remains the most diversified of the independent Caribbean countries.

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 6)
Only fully vaccinated patrons will be allowed to attend the cricket games, West Indies women vs. Pakistani women as spectators. This measure will ensure that the likely spread of the Covid-19 virus is minimized.

-Fully vaccinated workers at Heritage Quay are also required as the State of Florida, from which many cruise ships originate, has made unlawful a requirement for the cruise lines to allow only vaccinated passengers to board; hence, un-vaccinated visitors could come ashore when cruises resume. All taxi drivers and tour bus operators will also be required to be vaccinated, in order to lessen the likelihood of transmission and illness. Restaurant workers and workers in stores visited by tourists will also be required to vaccinate. Vendors and those operating sports, diveshops and beach services are also to be vaccinated. Each vaccinated, All protected.

Notes from Cabinet: (PT. 7)
The Prime Minister, with Cabinet’s support, has proposed to his CARICOM counterparts the reduction by 50% of regional air transport taxes, in order to encourage regional travel, as the threat from Covid-19 declines. Such a reduction would encourage greater use of LIAT’s services, in our Caribbean, while causing stronger economic activity within the region. Travel within the Caribbean is the third largest source of income by airports, but Covid-19 has decimated this sector. The issue is how to revive this important sub-sector. The CARICOM Heads are scheduled to meet on Friday, June 25, 2021.

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