Soon after the 2004 General elections it would be fair to say that the Antigua Labour Party (ALP)/Birds were ‘history’ never to be heard of again, at least not in the near future.
The ALP/Birds ruled Antigua & Barbuda for 28 years from 1996 to 2004.Except for the period of 1971-1976 when the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) held the seat of power, then in 2004 to present ALP/Birds was in control of government after the colonial leaders left.
That the Birds are synonymous to the ALP is not unfounded.As a matter of fact some may even suggest that the Birds are synonymous to Antigua & Barbuda.
The country’s first premier and Prime Minister, Vere Bird Sr. is the “Father of the Nation” a name that implies that Bird Sr. is the founder of Antigua & Barbuda.
His two sons who got into active politics, Vere Jr and Lester have held senior positions within the party as well as the country.
Lester was the country’s second Prime Minister from 1994 to 2004 while Vere Jr held a number of ministries during his tenure in politics including Public Works and Agriculture.
With the media firmly in their grips while they held power, the ALP/Birds ruled with an iron fist dominating all aspects of life in Antigua & Barbuda.
Now the ALP/Birds are in opposition and following multiple allegations of corruption the thought was the ALP/Birds were done.Not so fast, the ALP/Birds, especially former Prime Minister Lester Bird have been resuscitated and mounting a comeback for the reins of power.
The self proclaimed ‘comeback kid’ is upbeat, even confident that the ALP/Birds is ready to ‘run this place again.’The former Prime Minister even admitted that he never expected to be in the race for power so soon after losing in 2004.
So how is that possible?
Well first of all, members of the ALP/Birds were expected to be ‘fighting’ for their political lives and freedom, taking into consideration the number of investigations into their ‘dealings’ while in power.
Less than five years later however, there has not been one arrest much less conviction of corruption of any of the members of the ALP/Birds.In addition to that and perhaps more pointedly is the fact that it is the UPP who has to take responsibility for the resurgence of the ALP/Birds.
On Wednesday, Chairman of the UPP Leon “Chaku” Symester gave a sneak preview into the rebirth of the ALP/Birds.
Speaking at a press conference at the UPP’s headquarters and secretariat Symester suggested that the UPP made at least two critical errors when they came into power.
Symester stated: “You cannot have a person who is adverse to your policy implementing policies. When there is a change of government, those who are responsible for implementing policy, must support your policy. Not that they must supported your party but your policy, otherwise you are headed for a downfall.”
Symester suggests that the UPP inherited and accepted persons who are adverse to the UPP’s policy.
Surely if the government is headed for a downfall, the chairman of the UPP understands why.
Additionally Symester also belies that the party erred by not properly restructuring boards to manage certain government entities.
Also, according to the Chairman the Commissioner of police who the UPP met in office should have been sacked sooner than he was.“No one could deny that the Commissioner of Police who should not have been there in the first place was kept too long in that office. It was the same Commissioner of Police that on Labour Day 2003, at the intersection of Independence and High Street, blocked the Antigua Workers Union procession when Lester Bird gave him the ‘cut throat’ signal. I witnessed it myself.” Symester confirmed.
“The same commissioner of police which a high court said should not be sitting in that chair.”The chairman continued:“We had a Chief Immigration Officer who should not have been in that position for so long. Why, because we know that there was widespread corruption within immigration and immigration had been used as an agency of the political directorate for election purposes. We saw it in 1994 in 1999 and they attempted to do it in 2004. You move persons not because of the party they support but if they don’t support your policy”.
Symester went on to quote Malcolm X, ‘if you are part of the problem you cannot be part of the solution.’
With all that in mind, the UPP made a number of fundamental mistakes that’s why the ALP/Birds may fly once more and the UPP, notwithstanding its performance may only be able to serve one term.
The question remains whether or not the UPP can cage the ALP/Birds once more or will their mistakes prove too costly with the elections just around the corner.
At least one person, (Lester Bird) appears overly optimistic that the reins of power are at his fingertips and he is ready to take up the mantle, one more time, even for his father’s sake.
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