PM thanks George Wehner for ‘blowing whistle’ on sand mining

By Elesha George

(Antigua & Barbuda) – In a rare showing of gratitude among politicians in Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has thanked whistleblower and United Progressive Party (UPP) caretaker for the St George Constituency, George Wehner, who alerted officials to the unauthorised mining of sand at Maiden Island.

The unsanctioned mining made headlines last week, after Wehner shared photographs of a barge harvesting sand from the seabed at the marine reserve within the North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA).

“I think it’s a very unfortunate development and I want to thank those who alerted the officials, including George Wehner, who I’m told is the one who took the picture and posted it on social media. I’m even told maybe the young lady there — Mary John — may have been involved so I want to thank them very much for making the information available to the public.

“Clearly, as the executive, we don’t have eyes and ears to be all over the country and having responsible citizens providing that type of surveillance is important and I want to commend those who literally brought it to the attention of the officials and also the quick action of the officials to stop them from destroying the environment,” Browne said.

When contacted by OBSERVER media, Wehner — who has had his fair share of disagreements with the prime minister and his ministers in the past — declined to comment on the prime minister’s statement.

None-the-less, Browne claimed that despite what people think, his government is very committed to preserving the environment. “From time to time, developments may create some level of environmental impact, that is in inescapable, but the policy of my government is to limit the impact and where we can mitigate impact we will do so,” he said.