May 22, 2015...St. John's, Antigua....His Excellency Bahij Mansour, Ambassador to Israel paid a courtesy call on the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy on Wednesday.
The Ambassador said, “I am overjoyed to be here with you and I hope that the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and the State of Israel can deepen cooperation, especially in Tourism, Agriculture, and Energy. I am here to reinforce this relationship and I hope that in the coming years, the relationship will grow stronger.
Ambassador Mansour met with Tourism Minister Honorable Asot Michael, Tourism Consultant Shirlene Nibbs, and Advisor on Energy Brian Challenger, Solicitor General Lebrecht Hessey and Project Manager St. Clair Soleyn.
Minister Michael said “with the Ministry's thrust to increased Tourism arrivals and having a more diverse source market, he is looking forward to Israelis visitors making Antigua and Barbuda a destination of choice. With this as a major focus the waiver of visas for visitors from Israel will be looked into. Ambassador Mansour stated, "Once agreements are put in place more tourists will be able to visit Antigua". Another area Minister Michael spoke on was that of renewable energy and he looked forward to Technical support from Israel that has a lot of expertise in the area.
In the area of Tourism Education and Development the Ambassador indicated that Israel provided quite a few scholarships for Caribbean Nationals. The exploration of offering courses in Kosher Cuisine was discussed. The Ambassador indicated with the inclusion of Jewish cuisine or offerings on the menu in hotels, this will indeed be another plus to lure visitors from Israel to Antigua and Barbuda. The Ambassador is also responsible for Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
TRIBUTE BY THE HONOURABLE ASOT A. MICHAEL, AT THE FUNERAL FOR MS. RACHAEL JEROME HENRY RICHARDS ON THURSDAY, 30TH APRIL, 2015 AT THE ST. ANDREW'S ANGLICAN CHURCH LOCATED AT FORT ROAD
Good afternoon, Church. “Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you. It was but yesterday we met in a dream You have sung to me...and built a tower in the sky. But now our dream is over... and we must part. If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together, and you shall sing to me a deeper song. And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky.” Friends and family, these are the parting words of Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, poet of the poor Kadisha Valley in northeastern Lebanon. He was one of the spiritual artists of the western world. Today, we have gathered to bid farewell to Rachael Jerome Henry Richards, whom I loved dearly and whose love for all in her family is legendary. She was kind and generous, calm and caring, unflappable and unpretentious. She possessed the generosity of a Saint and the firm hand of a Mother Theresa. God has blest us by sending her to be our adult guardian and peacemaker; and, we thank the Almighty for his everlasting goodness. It is often the case that the love which flows among the members of a household or a family can indeed be traced to those at the very pinnacle of that family. Love often obeys the law of gravity, percolating downwards effortlessly. But, human love can also generate outwards and upwards, flowing against the tide just as easily, whether there are barriers or defenses. Rachael was able to cause love to spread out in every direction. She was loved, as she loved others; strangers loved her and she shared great joy and glad tidings with those she encountered. For her the season of Christmas was every day. On behalf of my own family, I begin by expressing condolences to the family of Rachael Jerome Henry Richards. She was an extraordinary woman whose death has left the community, the Constituency of St. John's Rural East and this country poorer. To the entire family of Ms. Richards, her children, her grandchildren, her relatives and friends, I want to assure you that I feel your pain. I feel the emptiness, the pain, the disappointment which naturally accompanies death. Death always robs families of loved-ones and, no matter the age of the deceased, the pain and emptiness are almost always beyond endurance. It is our belief in God and the promise of a better life in the hereafter that help to soften that pain. We feel your pain. Our presence here, in God's House, is intended to convey the assurance that we all need God when death strikes its final blow. But death has not struck its final blow. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are a part of the living memory of our Rachael. She did as God commanded. Our sister was the beloved mother of five children. Like the Antiguan woman then and now, she was very strong. She became the matriarch of her family and ensured their well-being. Rachael, whom was like a second sister to my mother, Mrs. Josette Michael, worked closely with my family for over twelve years. My mother when recollecting on Rachael's time with us, would speak of her with great fondness. She was one of the most kind-hearted, generous, honest, sincere person you will ever know. It was a sad but joyous day, my mother used to reminisce, when Rachael left our employ to pursue greater opportunities to support her beloved children. Rachael embarked on the most unlikely, but in the end most rewarding career part as an employee of Her Majesty's Prison, where she worked diligently for over thirty (30) years. I think many of Rachael's co-workers could testify to her character. She considered her position in the Prison as her “niche” in life. She loved the responsibility it gave her, the opportunity to learn and self-improve — either through experience or the trials she endured in order to do her job better — and she loved the people that she worked with. Rachael's dedication and perseverance shone through in everything she did. Her commitment to her work and to her friends will be greatly missed. Rachael's love and devotion to her family will always be dearly remembered. Her examples of love, caring and determination lives as an inspiration to all of us. Our religion also seeks to comfort us in death. Those of us who are Christians believe that faith in the Almighty will cause us, on Judgment Day, to see that faces of our loved ones who have gone before. We believe that to love God, to do good works, and to live a life of charity will cause God to look favorably upon us after death, and that as a reward for goodness, we will see God's face. If this is indeed the formula for everlasting salvation, then I am compelled to believe that Rachael Henry Richards has already been welcomed into the arms of her Jesus. She has seen God's face. When Rachael was an infant, born on April 30th, 1938, sugarcane and cotton were all around us. Antigua and Barbuda was one huge patchwork of sugarcane and cotton plantations. Poverty was also everywhere, since wages and salaries were meager. Rachael's parents could only pray that she might have an opportunity at moving beyond Primary School. Rachael's future was limited by the opportunities available then. The transformation of Antigua and Barbuda from a place of extreme poverty to a modern developing island-state began in the earnest after 1976. The transformative years brought greater wealth and greater opportunities. Rachael wished for her children to make the best of the opportunities. And they did! The value of a person's life to her family, community or nation is often not measureable until the moment of death. Human culture, the world over, has a tendency to focus on valued human traits at the moment of death. Rachael is no exception. We remember her energy and her forthrightness, her strength and determination Today, as we grieve over Rachael's passing, we recall the strength, the determination, the faith, the love, the unyielding dedication to her family, and their love for her. We recall her struggles, her victories, her many successes. We may have suffered a great loss. But, she fought the good fight, she did God's will, she pressed forward to make the best of the opportunities available for her children, she was exemplary in so many ways. She will forever be remembered. May God continue to bless her and keep her, and may his face shine upon her, and be generous unto her. May he lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace, now and forever. And so, we must take her death as a sign and symbol that we do not know the hour of our final parting. It may be sudden. It may be long. It may be now, it may be later. But whatever and whenever, we must know that those who would sum up our lives must confidently say, that we worked by the sweat of our brow and with the brow of our brain to change the world. That for sure, and in sum, was true of Rachael Jerome Henry Richards as it is true of all truly remarkable men and women. In one of the well-known songs which we sing at funerals, the songwriter recalls: Death, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons and daughters away They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the close of day. Rachael Jerome Henry Richards will continue to live on in our memory. May the God who guided us in our years as an oppressed people, continue to guide her footsteps in the other life. And when the earth shall claim your wings, then shall you truly dance. Dance Rachael, my dear Rachael dance on! May her Soul Rest in Peace.
In addition, the Morris Bay resort will see the construction of a high end resort valued at US$120Million and Barbuda will benefit from a US$250M luxury resort for high net worth individuals. The property will be developed by a renown American Celebrity and an Australian Billionaire.
Our Government pledged to treat Barbuda and Barbudans as our co-equals and we will ensure that Barbuda is developed concurrently with Antigua. This US$250M investment project will change the economic land scape of Barbuda for the better, providing investment opportunities and hundreds of sustainable jobs for Barbudans.
These and several other smaller properties, will break ground in 2015, stimulating economic growth and development, thereby reversing the many years of economic misfortune.
The cruise and cargo ports will be expanded and modernized to facilitate increased trade. Through assertive leadership, my government in partnership with members in the private sector have been instrumental in attracting more tourists to the island. 2015 will see a significant increase in cruise arrivals, as well as, an increase in stay over visitors.
And 500 new homes will be built in 500 days across the nation.
To date, we have incorporated the National Housing & Urban Renewal Company, a wholly owned government corporation and have capitalized the company primarily through private grant funding, with an initial EC$13M, and a further EC$7 million to follow in a few weeks, bringing the initial capital to EC$20 Million.
The company is presently acquiring and developing land to commence construction in a few weeks.
National Housing will serve as a development company and will also be involved in contracting activities in the public sector to assist with the repairs and maintenance of government buildings.
Government properties that are to be rehabilitated, including the Police Headquarters, the Newgate Street Police Station Building, and Government House.
Our Administration has requested concessionary funding of US$40 million from the Government of Mexico to assist in housing renewal and expansion. We are determined to rid the landscape of all those dilapidated homes that are littered across the country.
It is expected that National Housing will provide several hundred jobs for citizens and residents before the end of the year and thousands of jobs in the near future.
The new University College of Antigua and Barbuda will be launched at Five Islands, a site to which the Antigua State College will be relocated.
The old State College site will become a Secondary School to meet growing demand. In excess of six million dollars will be invested in the decrepit structure that stands unfinished on the college compound. Construction is expected to commence before the end of the year.
Presently, we are pursuing sustainable strategies to resolve the water crisis that has plagued our country for the past year. This includes the acquisition of a mobile reverse osmosis plant to service the English Harbour area, as well increased production from, SembCorp and APUA existing water production facilities.
We will rebuild our country. We will provide hundreds of jobs within our first few months in office. We will put our people back to work and provide them with good quality housing.
And, in that rebuilding there is a place for every willing citizen and resident of our country. No one will be left behind.
One of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda is the venerable, emeritus leader of the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party, the Honourable Lester Bryant Bird.
Sir. Lester was an outstanding athlete during his youth. He was an outstanding cricketer, a footballer, and he earned his spurs in high jump and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning home to Antigua to practice law. He served our country in excess of 40 years as a Parliamentarian, including18 as Deputy Prime Minister and 10 as Prime Minister.
The Honourable Lester Bryant Bird is a heroic figure in our recent history. Unarguably, he has made the second single largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of our country.
In recognition of his contribution and keeping with the authority vested in the Prime Minister by The National Honours (Amendment) Act 2000, the Governor General has been advised, with the concurrence of Cabinet and the Honours Committee, to confer upon this great citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, during the 33rd Anniversary of our country's Independence, the honour of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero. I am certain that Antiguans and Barbudans consider Sir Lester most deserving of this honour and also share the enormous outpouring of love and admiration that we all hold for this outstanding son of the soil.
He will enjoy his flowers while still alive.
My fellow Antiguans and Barbudans, Independence is not just a word or a concept. Independence is what gives us the right to make our own decisions as a nation; the privilege not to bend our knee to any but God; the opportunity to claim our entitlements in the international community and to resist the pressures and demands of external forces.
But, we will not preserve our independence like large nations with military might; we can only defend it and enlarge it by economic success. That is why we all have to work together; strive together and achieve together. That is why we must work in unison in the transformation of our country into an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean. Independence is a time for rejoicing and reflection on past challenges and achievements. It is also a time to look to the future. The Antigua and Barbuda we want for our children and their children is one that perpetually rises – producing jobs, and communities free of crime. We want an Antigua and Barbuda where everyone can share in prosperity; where opportunities are available to all who are willing. Achieving those worthy goals is within our capacity and within our reach. Let us make this 33rd Anniversary of Independence, a celebration of Team Antigua and Barbuda, and all that our nation can achieve as one. I am happy to lead this team and to lead by example of hard work, sharp focus and a resolve to deliver. I invite you all to join me, in what for all of us, will be an exciting, dynamic and wholly beneficial journey in the advancement of our nation.
God bless our beautiful twin island state. I thank you