The pomp and ceremony which accompanied the instalment of the Antigua and Barbuda Members of Parliament was the first of its kind in the twin-island state since the country attained political independence in 1981.
The ceremony began shortly after 4p.m. on Wednesday, with the swearing in ceremony of the new Ministers of Government and, them having to pledge allegiance to Her Majesty and heirs, swear to an oath of secrecy regarding the Cabinet, before receiving the official installation from the Governor General at Government House.
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.)
On Wednesday, the size of the well-wishers and the excitement from the people of the state was most obvious both at Government House and at the Antigua Recreational Grounds. After the ceremony at Government House, Prime Minister Browne along with his wife, First Lady Maria Bird-Browne, and his guests from the neighbouring Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and, Grenada, in addition to his entourage of newly installed Ministers made their way to the historic ARG.
This was an historic celebration ceremony for the people whose cheering voices swelled with every step made by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet as they touched hands and were embraced by the people warmed also because of the open invitation to all Antigua and Barbuda. The regional colleagues attending included: Prime Minister the Hon Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada and the Hon Dr. Denzel Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis. Prime Minister the Hon Roosevelt Skerritt of Dominica was to attend but due to aircraft difficulties could not be there in person, but was very much part of the celebrations with his message of congratulations gleefully received by the public through the use of technology.
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. 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.”
From Grenada, Prime Minister the Hon Dr. Keith Mitchell took the opportunity to congratulate PM Browne, whom he calls friend. PM Mitchell noted that the experienced team of minister under the guidance of their leader will make sure that Antigua and Barbuda is a model state within the region. “Prime Minister, you and the members of your team are beginning a journey at a difficult time in the Caribbean region where all our countries are struggling to come out of an episode of prolonged recession. Members of the Cabinet, I urge you that one of your most important role is to be a real team member; when the team members are united and strong…the government is united and strong.”
St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, the Hon Dr. Denzel Douglas, applauded the ABLP’s win. PM Douglas, having worked hand-in-hand with the new government even before they took office, stated amidst thunderous applause, “The people of Antigua and Barbuda have chosen Gaston Browne to lead them and your party to lead this proud nation. This evening, I ask of you full support to the Prime Minister and his new Cabinet; full confidence, full support to Gaston Browne and his new members of his Cabinet. May God bless the people of Antigua and Barbuda, may God bless your newly elected government and may God bless the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.”