ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda: Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has accused members of the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) calling for elections a desperate attempt to skirt prosecution for crimes they allegedly committed while in office.
The ALP has been clamouring for the Spencer-led United Progressive Party (UPP) administration to demit office following a recent court ruling that deemed the election of Spencer and two government legislators to be invalid.
Last Thursday, the opposition party drew thousands of its supporters onto the streets of St. John’s for a “black march” to “mourn the death of the economy”. Although the march was planned before the March 31 judgment handed down by Justice Louise Blenman, the ALP used the occasion to brand the government as illegitimate and press for fresh elections.
But Spencer, in a televised address to the nation last Sunday evening, dismissed the opposition’s actions as “power hungry”, especially since the government has been granted a stay on the ruling and is appealing the matter.
“These people are not only hungry, but they are drunk on the whole question of power, and would seek to take power in Antigua and Barbuda by any means necessary,” said Spencer.
During his address, Spencer accused Opposition Leader Lester Bird and members of the ALP of misleading supporters for selfish reasons.
“The actions of the ALP and its leadership have nothing to do with the interest of Antigua and Barbuda and its people. They are desperate to get back the reigns of government to again plunder the national treasury like they did before. They want to get back to save themselves from prosecution, which the State has started against them and which they are using legal gymnastics to avoid” said Spencer, referring to Bird and five former government ministers who are facing legal action for alleged wrongdoing.
“We believe that justice might be delayed but justice will not be denied. The process is slow but I believe it is sure, and the leaders of the Labour Party will be brought to justice for the corruption and criminal abuse that marked their reign as the government for 28 years,” said Spencer.
Spencer also said his government has appealed the High Court decision in keeping with the provisions of the country’s constitution.
“In accordance with the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, the UPP continues to duly form the government and I continue to preside as your Prime Minister. No amount of political posturing and uncivilized behaviour by a rowdy minority can change that fact,” he said.
Spencer said the government would move swiftly to address deficiencies in the electoral system that was highlighted in the judge’s ruling. Blenman pointed to a number of polling day irregularities at the 2009 general election, including the late start of voting in the affected constituencies and the use of a photo list.
“Cabinet will be giving serious consideration to measures required to improve the system, including the possibility of a complete system of voter re-registration,” said Spencer. “The human resource and financing needs of the system must also be addressed as a matter of urgency.”