WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

Dead In Its Tracks

VotingOn Monday March 18, the High Court held a suitably prompt hearing of the application by two Antigua Labour Party parliamentarians for an injunction to stop the tabling or debate of the latest Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The report under reference is a document that the Constitution of Antigua & Barbuda says must be prepared in advance of every general election season. There is good reason for this exercise. The framers of our constitution, in their selective wisdom, understood that conditions and environments change; that people change their residence or occupation; economies evolve; populations shift – and with shifting populations come changing electoral requirements.



After all, those worthy personages who sat on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office side of the table in those weeks prior to our new nation’s birthday in 1981 had studied their own people’s history. Life on their “right little, tight little” island had seen many movements, changes and adaptations, all in a relatively small space. One valuable outcome of the British struggle to survive, overcome all challenges and thrive on their postage-stamp piece of real estate is a highly developed respect for the value of good governance systems: royal blood has been spilled to fertilize it.

So the drafters of our constitution took care to include in that document mechanisms for the programmed periodic review of the systems that deliver parliamentary representation to the people at grassroots level, right where they actually live. Our EBC has only just completed perhaps the most contentious and leaked review of this country’s electoral boundaries in our history. The results so far have been spectacular.

Gone are the days of 1984 when a paramount Antigua Labour Party could re-jigger the nation’s constituency map with hardly a peep from the weak opposition. That was then … this is now: and the opposition ALP is in no mood and far too energized to take the sort of challenge being leveled by the ruling UPP lying down.

No sooner did the news break that the EBC had filed its report than two ALP Members of Parliament whose constituencies were severely affected by the proposed revision – one to the point of extinction – secured the assistance of the courts: their mission, to stop the EBC report dead in its tracks. This they have managed to do, at least in the immediate term. As things stand at this moment the Report of the EBC is stalled. On April 11, the High Court will hear arguments to determine whether or not the injunction will be upheld.

Whatever begins on April 11 will continue for as long as legal counsel for the ALP can draw it out. The longer the process meanders on, the more pressure will be placed on the ruling party to either deliver an acceptable compromise solution, or abandon their “reform” process entirely. In this connection, it is significant that both sides readily agreed to move the matter forward to the initial hearing stage.

The “joker in the pack” here is the long-anticipated re-registration of voters, due to be completed this year hopefully well in advance of general elections due in March 2014. It would of course be ideal if anxious voters and campaigning political hopefuls alike knew well in advance exactly where they would be voting and which voters they would hopefully represent in parliament.

The question now arises as to what should be deemed a reasonable time within which all issues relating to electoral boundaries and re-registration are to be resolved. Simple logic should dictate that allowing for anything less than a full calendar year for constituents, political parties and prospective candidates alike to settle into new modes of operation in advance of general elections in particular is bordering on undue pressure – and could possibly skew voting in the direction of one party or another, or one candidate or another.

The entire situation poses imponderable questions, and is rife with opportunities for Murphy’s Law and the Law of Unintended Consequences to work their will. To grasp the truth of this, the thoughtful should consider what occurred in the lead-up to the two previous general elections in 2004 and 2009, as well as what has already occurred and is still to occur (hopefully) in advance of the 2014 general elections.



After that one need only survey the results of the 2004 and 2009 general elections to harbor grave doubts about the ability of the ruling party to weather the coming storm.

In 2004 free media, people-driven electoral reform and a complete re-registration of voters helped to cut the ground out from under the feet of the Lester Bird government. In 2009, the UPP’s suicidal lack of attention to the electoral reform process combined with instability at the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission to damage the ruling UPP at the polls. While these were not the only factors contributing to the near-defeat of the UPP, it is important to note that delays and uncertainties relating to constituency boundaries and the work of the EBC were a contributing factor to the confusion that eventually reigned at ABEC.

Since 2009, a chagrined UPP government has led an unprecedented assault on the nation’s electoral institutions. The ruling party’s self-serving tinkering with the process has already entirely discredited ABEC in the eyes of the general public. Now, what amounts to a barefaced attempt to shift the electoral balance decisively in favor of the party in power is providing the opposition ALP with leverage. Their mission: to sow confusion and engineer delay at the same time as ABEC is attempting to re-register all voters in all constituencies.

In a way, the ALP and UPP are both victims of the success of those who drafted our constitution in unfairly “weighting” the makeup of the EBC in favor of the ruling party. Now, both government and opposition are shown to have been rather too free with that privilege. Years of non-oversight by a cowed and apathetic electorate have led incumbent politicians to be grossly over-confident of their ability to corrupt the process forever without challenge.

The late great Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham is reported to have said that no ruling party should ever lose an election. In that connection it is noteworthy that to this day, much as it was in Burnham’s time, the media in Guyana is not considered free.

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13 Comments In This Article   

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@professor

#13 student » 2013-03-21 04:35

@professor ... You sound like Vere Bird lll, Sean Bird or one of them ALP supporters who still vex Gaston Brown bang Lester Bird!!!
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Professor

#12 Jane » 2013-03-20 21:47

Is the Professor saying that there has never being a successful challenge with regards to gerrymandering in the commonweath caribbean? Is the Professor saying that the learned Judge granted an injunction with out prima face evidence?
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Professor

#11 tenman » 2013-03-20 18:47

Professor, how do we fix it? Its not only a problem for the ALP but practically all organizations in this country. Though some tell tales of pastors pulling in good money, the truth is even there, in most churches, its a few individuals who are depended on for major funds (they tend to sit in the front reserved rows). The current PM also admitted, just after being elected, that the same issue exists in the UPP. MP Daniel via ABS TV some time ago stated that a reason for hiring the contractors was to help create a situation where they (Political party) did not only have to depend on persons like Mr. Hadeed for funds. There is a wikileaks memo from the US embassy in Barbados which revealed that the said person is rumored to have financed MP Spencer's opponent during the 2009 election campaign. All of this happens but I hear no one shouting to proper campaign financing rules. Is it that there is individual benefit for this method because clearly the country does not benefit? ie Fencing scandal, IHI, MBS scandal etc
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@ Tenman & Just Saying

#10 Professor » 2013-03-20 18:15

I know that Tenman already understands this, but I also want the other bloggers like Just Sayin to also understand that anything I say here is transmitted with the utmost respect and lightheartedness ... If you come from Antigua you have to can take a little "grining" I enjoy a good debate, but I also like to be respectful to my opponebts.

Since the best use of Jus Saying head is to wear hat, let me state unequivocally that embeded in what he is revealing is the problem with the ABLP. It is a tremendous problem when the financing needed for the proper functioning of a 60 year old political organization that collects dues, is comming from one man whose only allegiance is to himself.

If my memory serves me correctly, just yesterday Tenman correctly pointed out that who pays the piper calls the tune. Do you really understand what that means When the piper is a political party or even worst a government.

It is a travesty for a nation to accept that certain individuals should be able to CALL THE TUNE with respect to a democratic government or even a political party.
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Professor

@tenman

#9 Just saying » 2013-03-20 17:32

Folks like the professor loves to type but when times comes for them to step up and assist, all they can do is talk. Your dunce cap looks so much better on you professor.... keep it, I do not want you to catch a cold. I guess ABLP have a money tree, oh yeah, he wants them to cut ties with the man who is helping to pay for these legal challenges.
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Just saying

@ TENMAN

#8 Professor » 2013-03-20 17:27

I accept your well-reasoned arguments, but my lingering contention is why is the leader of the opposition and the ABLP Senators as well as misguided bloggers talking about taking the matter to court, when it obviously to sensible persons like yourself that it is a complete waste of time and money to do so.

It is exasperating how politicians treat the electorate like fools. Is it really that difficult for our politicians to just tell the people the truth? The actions of the ABLP politicians in this regard is disrespectful and is tantamount to an insult to the intelligence of the people from whom they seek votes.
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Professor

professor - at best they could only delay the inevitiable

#7 tenman » 2013-03-20 16:26

professor, in their position considering the cost and the best outcome of a legal challenge would you waste the money? Even if they got the court to agree with their interpretation, this would not prevent the government from going back to parliament, follow the procedure deemed correct, and pass the bill. Though they may be able to get the court to listen to the case, I am not sure they would be able to convince the court of a need for an injunction. This simply means that by the time the case is heard we would be in a new session of parliament, essentially making any judgement meaningless. You may argue how did they manage one with the boundary issue, try and recall, the augment, that once that recommendation made it to parliament, there was nothing the court could do. An attempt to handle the matter via Court at best would only provide the ALP good PR initially which may be negated after the UPP simply follows the procedures.

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tenman

@ Just Saying ... HE KNOWS NOT THAT HE KNOWS NOT ...

#6 Professor » 2013-03-20 14:41

Before I send you an ELECTRONIC DUNCE CAP, let me make certain that you even understand what you are saying. The whole point of taking legal action is to prevent the UPP from passing the CIP by means of Resolution. It defeats the purpose if you wait until after the bill is passed to mount a legal challenge. Maybe you do have a CLUE.

ABLP has been saying that the back door method of using a resolution to pass the CIP is unconstitutional and contrary to the Standing Orders. Obviously, the legal challenge in these circumstances must include ABLP getting a temporary Injunction to prevent the bill from passing until a judge decides whether or not what the UPP is doing is lawful.

There is a free gift for you on WWW.DUNCECAPS.COM
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Professor

RE: Dead In Its Tracks

#5 Just saying » 2013-03-20 14:04

Professor you really have no clue.... they could not go to the cours until the issue was 'ripe'.... now is the time to do so. I just hope that all of you sitting down and waiting for the ABLP to work is willing to help them financially.
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Just saying

THE GREAT PREENDERS ...

#4 Professor » 2013-03-20 13:50

How long has it been since the ABLP leadership known of the UPP's intention to sneak in the CIP through the back door (using a resolution)?

Why did they wait until after the Bill became a Law to be pretending like they are going to try and derail something that we all know is close and dear to the heart of the leader of the opposition and his moneybag.

Of course the NEW BATTIE & POE have to pretend to be strongly against the CIP because the majority of Antiguans are not in favor of selling passports to international criminals. But the truth is that the unholy union of GX & AX are secretly celebrating that the CIP is finally the law of the land.

Hoping to win the pending elections GX/AX are salivating at the prospects of selling passports like they are going out of style. This is one for the UPP element in the ALP, affectionately known as "New Labour".
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Professor

fire

#3 tenman » 2013-03-20 12:06

Fire the headline story "CIP Bill could be headed for court" for the Daily Observer stated "Opposition senators are threatening to derail the Citizenship by Investment Bill (CIP) from being gazetted into law, even as the policy is virtually green lit after passing through the Senate."

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tenman

fire

#2 Colin » 2013-03-20 10:52

Sniff ... sniff ...
Who's this strange fellow I have in my bed?
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Colin

RE: Dead In Its Tracks

#1 fire » 2013-03-20 09:12

Why couldn't the labor party do the same thing for the CIP? Do I smell a fish?
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fire

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Mr. Colin Sampson

 Mr. Colin Sampson is a Journalist and the host of "The Colin Sampson Show" on Caribantigua TV 

 

 

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