Electoral Commission row could end in court

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda: The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) could turn to the courts to block Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer’s attempts to have a tribunal set up to remove three of the four remaining members of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).

ALP leader Lester Bird announced last Sunday that his party would also bring the international community into the row, as he accused Spencer of trying to get rid of the current commissioners and fix the election list.

“On behalf of the people of our country and in the cause of upholding the principles of democracy which we fought to establish, we will use every legal means to prevent such perverse manipulation. Spencer can expect his attempt…to have a hearing in the Court, for we shall surely take the matter there.

“Further, early (this) week I shall be writing to the international community to bring this latest malevolent action of the UPP (United Progressive Party) regime to their urgent attention. They must begin now to take careful note of the infractions of the democratic principles which the United Nations, the Commonwealth and CARICOM espouse,” said Bird.

Bird also insisted that Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack had no basis for referring the removal of any of the commissioners to a tribunal.

He suggested that she seek legal advice from senior counsel, not connected to the UPP or the government, for guidance before acting on Spencer’s request.

“The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 clearly states at Section 4 (1) that a member of the Commission may be removed from office only for inability to exercise the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour,” said Bird. “None of these reasons apply.”

Spencer wrote to the Governor General last Thursday asking for the tribunal, citing the failures of the commissioners in the last general election and the partisan behaviour of three of them, including Chairman Sir Gerald Watt QC as those he wanted investigated.

Two ALP-appointed members of the Commission have already said that efforts to remove them would be faced with legal challenges.

During a press conference last week, Sir Gerald said he had no problem walking away, but he wanted his name to be cleared first.

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