Fellow Citizens and Residents of Antigua and Barbuda, we now know the decision of the Court of Appeal in respect of the litigations covering the ‘Boundaries’ and the ‘Re-registration of Voters’ for the upcoming General Elections that should have been held already. In as much as we disagree with the finding of the Court of Appeal, in the re-registration case, that the 2010 Act altered existing rights prospectively and not retrospectively, we still respect the decision of the Court. Had time permit, we could have considered appealing the decision.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party feels vindicated with the decision of the Court of appeal on the boundaries matter. We won and we won fairly. It is clear that had the member appointed by the former Leader of the Opposition acted in good conscience, we would also have succeeded on the ground of gerrymandering.
Mr. Spencer and his cohorts attempted to impugn the Court – which included Her Ladyship, The Chief Justice – with improper motives, because it set today as the date for the delivery of its decision.
This timing of the decision is well within the 90-day standard set by the Privy Council for such urgent matters. The Court did all it could to expedite the hearing of the two matters, granting urgent hearings, in St. Kitts and St. Lucia, weeks ahead of its scheduled March sitting here in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Labour Party also expedited the hearing by withdrawing its request for injunctive relief for both cases. The Antigua and Barbuda Labour party acted responsibly and in the protection of our people and our democracy. It is evident, that the court acted independently and responsibly without any partisan considerations, adjudicating these litigations in accordance with the law.
The allegations of improper motive were therefore, unfounded and we trust that the Prime Minister in particular, will in the future, treat the court with respect and civility. His disrespect for the Court, while in keeping with the disgraceful character of his regime, is most unfortunate.
It was always in the power of the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament, so the decision of the Court to give their judgement after the automatic dissolution of Parliament, had no bearing on the Prime Minister’s abdication of his responsibility, to dissolve the Parliament and to set the date for the elections. He chose not to do so, just as he chose to try to hijack the general elections by waiting until the 11th hour to change the electoral boundaries and the voters’ register.
Prime Minister Spencer had five years to do so. Any miscalculations in the time required to effect these changes and to ensure the readiness of the Electoral Commission are exclusively his responsibility. By delaying, he was convinced that he could force through these wicked acts at the eleventh hour in an attempt to steal the elections.
But, he did not count on the vigilance of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and its unflinching resolve, to protect the political rights of the people and the democratic system that our forefathers fought to establish as our heritage.
Citizens and residents, the matter of the ‘Boundaries’ and the ‘Electoral Register’ are now behind us. What is ahead of us is a general election, the swift holding of which the people of our beloved country have every right to demand.
The UPP has overstayed its elected 60 months in office. It has no right to occupy the seat of government without a mandate from the people and without Parliamentary oversight. There may be a Constitutional technicality that allows Mr. Spencer to prolong his regime until July 27th, but we all know that the framers of our Constitution never intended that this should happen, except in extreme conditions such as a horrendous natural disaster or in the event of a state of emergency from civil unrest. This has been the convention and the convention ought to be respected.
We also know that it would be unconscionable and unacceptable for Mr. Spencer to foist himself and his regime upon us for five months longer than they were elected in 2009. His time and the time of his UPP regime is up, it’s over, it’s expired, it’s done. It is time for our country to move on and not to be trapped in a situation of uncertainty, instability and flux. The confusion and chaos that exist are entirely of Mr. Spencer’s making. He is holding on to government without a mandate and without the authority of the people of our nation. His actions are a travesty of justice, and an insult to all Antiguans and Barbudans.
Mr. Spencer must place the authority for a functioning and mandated government where it rightfully and properly belongs – and that is in the hands of the electorate. Therefore, I call on Mr. Spencer to stop dithering and to release the reins of government that are now, no longer his to hold. I call upon Mr. Spencer to set the date of the elections now. No more excuses will suffice – call the elections now. I also warn him and his regime that they are nothing more than a caretaker government.
In that connection, they should make no decision, sign no contract, and make no agreement that in any way binds our nation. They have no such authority now, and any decisions that they make or agreements, or contracts that they sign during this period, will be treated as wholly and entirely wrongful.
I also take this opportunity to advise Mr. Spencer and his government to stop their efforts to rig the general elections. They have failed with the Electoral Boundaries and we will not tolerate any attempt by the UPP regime to defraud the electoral process by imposing on the Constitutional authority of the Supervisor of Elections.
In other words, on behalf of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, I caution Mr. Spencer, the UPP, and their politically-controlled Electoral Commission, not to interfere in the work of the Supervisor of Elections or we will seek legal redress from the Court to restrain them.
The people of our country have had enough of the antics, deceptions and delays of Spencer to prolong his Government’s period in office that has brought this nation nothing but misery, oppression and destruction. Our people want free and fair general elections now. They want to get on with the advancement of their lives under a competent government that they would elect and give a mandate to govern.
I, therefore, call on Mr. Spencer, once again, to call the elections now. The country is suffering and the people have had enough. Call the elections now. I thank you.