Statement by the ABLP’s Senator Samantha Marshall
I listened to the Honorable Attorney General, Mr Justin Simon, in his attempt to justify the troubling and frustrating decision of the Honourable Prime Minister to refuse to call the election.
In the course of his statements, Mr. Simon referred to many provisions of the Constitution and also referred to the history of past elections. Of course, much like the Prime Minster who appointed him, he concluded that it would not be right to call an election before the judgments are delivered on two outstanding court cases involving the election.
The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party rejects entirely the premise and conclusion of the Attorney General. The Prime Minister has the authority to call elections now, he is clearly violating well established constitutional convention and does not need to wait for the courts to rule.
But before I further explain why the Labour Party rejects the statements of Mr. Simon, let me remind you why we are in this position. The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party remains unflinching of the view that the architects of this delay are Mr. Baldwin Spencer and the United Progressive Party. For example:
1. The Prime Minister delayed the appointment of the Boundaries Commission;
2. The Prime Minister further delayed the work of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission with his nakedly malicious machinations to get rid of Sir Gerald, QC; the sole purpose of which was to get ‘friendly hands’ on the Register. This took years;
3. The Prime Minister orchestrated the legislative scheme to strip the supervisor of Elections of her registration powers;
4. The Prime Minister was the engineer behind the witch-hunt of Commonwealth citizens; and;
5. It was the Prime Minister who suffocated the free exercise of these Commissions by the appointment of zealots like, Juno Samuel who to this day is seeking to undermine the rule of law.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party is firmly of the view that these partisan actions of the Prime Minister threatened the rule of law, the right to vote and free and fair elections. The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party acted to preserve our democracy and stop one party from undermining the principles of our constitution.
Having laid out that background, I will now address the Attorney General’s comments and why I believe they are not correct.
1. The constitutional provisions and history of elections provide no basis in law or fact for fettering or tying the hands of the Prime Minister. The power of the Prime Minister to dissolve the House and call elections under section 60 of the Constitution is absolute, perhaps, the only example of complete and absolute power under the Constitution.
2. The absoluteness’ of this power was expressly recognised by the Privy Council in previous court cases. No doubt the Attorney General sought refuge in section 64 (2) of the Constitution. But this section of the Constitution has nothing whatsoever to do with the power of the Prime Minister to dissolve the House or call an election. I repeat, absolutely nothing to do with the power of the Prime Minister to dissolve the House or call an election.
3. The only possible lawful or constitutional obstacles to the calling of an elections are whether there exists in fact boundaries for the constituencies and a Register of Voters. No other constitutional or lawful obstacles exist.
4. It is an undeniable fact that as I speak there presently exists lawful boundaries and a lawful Register which can be lawfully used for the purpose of free and fair elections. Of this there can be no question or doubt.
In light of these very transparent circumstances there is no, I repeat, no lawful reason or barrier, which is remotely capable of supporting the position of the Attorney General or the desperate attempt of the Prime Minister to hang on to power.
I also heard the Attorney General speak of the Court. This respect for the judgments of Courts must be something new. Previously, and in respect of Sir Gerald Watt, QC the Baldwin Spencer administration showed utter disregard for due process and the judgments of the High Court. Mr. Spencer and his UPP majority in the House of Representations used their legislative force to destroy these judgments, and legislatively eliminate Sir Gerald from the Electoral Commission. That said, the notion that we could not reach a deal or work through any court decision to have free and fair elections is propaganda meant to further obscure this government’s delay. The courts nor their judgments do not provide any impediment to action. The choice is the Prime Minister’s to make.
In view of this history of legislative abuse by the UPP, the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party maintains its full demand that the Prime Minister must call the election, and call it now!!!!
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