The Elections Petitions Matter in Antigua- An Analysis Part II

Missing the busMissing the Bus; but Redeeming the Time- Ideally, the High Court should have reserved handing down a judgment, and instead call both political principals in and say something like:

“This court’s finding of fact is that election violations are significant and equivalent to disenfranchisement in affected constituencies. Yet the court is reluctant to proffer a judicial ruling. Accordingly, this court directs you gentlemen to put your heads together (along with colleagues) and come up with a political resolution acceptable to both sides and the court by X date.”

And what prevented the Appeals Court (especially since they concurred with Judge Blenman that significant violations had occurred) and the Chief Justice, as a very senior public servant of the sub-region, from stepping boldly out of tradition and facilitating a salutary political resolution when handed the matter? Instead, he chose to sit enthroned in hallowed precincts and full regalia, muttering Judge Judy quirks before rendering an inglorious verdict.

Solomonic wisdom by either court would have effectively forced both parties to act in a politically mature way for the good of country. It would have also responsibly redressed flawed results, while diplomatically avoiding the perception of usurping the will of the people. Regrettably, things have only become more politically divisive, while sentiments of apathy, even antipathy, have set in towards regional jurisprudence.  

Still, while censuring the courts, intellectual honesty demands equal blame is laid squarely at the feet of politicians. Truth is, not only the courts demonstrated low judgment; political leaders did also. The situation required political acumen and nobility - attributes demonstrably absent.

It was obvious as daylight that serious elections violations had occurred in some constituencies. Certainly, the High Court made its concern clear regarding the egregiousness of those violations and their undermining impact on enfranchisement. Further, the length of time taken by the Appeal Court provided ample opportunity for politicians to come up with an acceptable resolution which would have preempted the courts having final say in the matter. Yet they never seized the initiative in a politically mature way.

Mind you, both parties were absolutely correct in seeking relief from the courts (ALP at the High Court and UPP at the Appeal Court). But this should have only been for purposes of establishing and leveraging negotiating capital (with the other) in the midst of an untoward situation, and never for the purpose of making the court final arbiter.

It seems both leaders lacked the pragmatic insight and mature statesmanship needed to realise an urgent political resolution was needed, and was in fact the only viable and sustainable option. Both have enough experience and should have known that at best, courts could only provide the right to rule, but can never confer the emotional acceptance and goodwill needed to govern.

While it was tactically correct to use the courts to maximize negotiating positions, the urgent task of both leaders was to prevent the courts from having final say in the matter. Sadly, a situation requiring mature statesmanship was served only by juvenile one-upmanship, to the eventual disadvantage of all. In the end, the bus was missed due to failure of leadership.

A negotiated political resolution was always going to be far superior to any final ruling the courts could render. And there were many worthy options for consideration:

1.    Agree to hold fresh general elections immediately

2.    Agree on by-elections in the constituencies under review; but include any other held by the opposition which might have been equally affected by excessive delays, though not contested by the government due to statutes of limitation.

3.    Agree to let results stand, but also agree to earlier than usual general elections (by mid-term for example).

4.    Take elections off the table and go for a power sharing formula instead. For example: the opposition gets deputy prime-minister-ship and control of some ministries etc.

5.    Combinations of any of the above.

Failure to reach for political compromise is a classic shortcoming of our island politics. All too often, at crucial times power, greed, and narrow adolescent leadership get in the way of imaginative, noble politics. At vital moments, political leaders must demonstrate a mature, self regulated, co-operative capacity for putting national good front and center. This was one such time.

Regrettably, this failure of leadership and the courts has left an outcome that is for all intents and purposes legal, yet not intellectually, emotionally, and politically kosher. The only solace is that it’s teachable.

From this object lesson, politicians should reflectively examine where their thresholds lie regarding political decency, democratic piety, and leadership integrity, not to mention imaginative statesmanship. I am not at all suggesting we baptize politics. There are times when strategic gamesmanship is necessary, and commendable, in advancing political advantage. Equally, leaders must be mature enough to appreciate and respect; none can win if democracy must lose.

Pedantically suggesting folks simply forget it and move on is a further fickle leadership response to this matter. Intellectual and emotional catharsis begins by recognizing and owning that the courts did not serve the matter well; but also that political leaders failed to exercise mature leadership at a crucial national moment.

Yet, I firmly believe in redemptive notions, and the unrelenting pursuit of greatest good. I have had the opportunity of private conversations with both political leaders in A&B. Both unquestionably possess the capacity for mature responsible reckoning. Perhaps it’s not too late for them to sit at what MLK liked to call the table of brotherhood and come up with a political accommodation concerning this matter that lends for greater intellectual and emotional acceptance across a wider spectrum of A&B society. The critical challenges presently facing this twin-island deserve, and demand no less.

(PS: Look out for part III: This Matter & the CCJ, Fri Jan 21.)

Raymond S. Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion- is an International Development Consultant and Executive Leadership Specialist. © 01/13/11. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Elections Petitions Matter in Antigua- An Analysis Part I

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5 Comments In This Article   


@ RJ: Wheeling to come again!

#5 RSE » 2011-01-19 20:45

While I hear your frustration and appreciate a reality check, how do we help ourselves and our future by simply embracing an animal farm mentality? Trust me, present conditions are more a reflection of the low bar we have set ourselves and our leaders; and not a true indication of what is REALLY possible! Yes, definitely it’s easier for me to fall in with prevailing mindsets. But it will be way more rewarding if collectively we ‘wheel and come again’!! Let’s do the heavy lifting my friend; that’s how other societies got there! The more important questions are: what can you do to help; and are you willing?


Welcome to the club

#4 Atilla » 2011-01-19 14:51

Dear Raymond S. Thank you for this good thoughtful article. I have had thought along the same line. Especially with the removal of the ABEC Chairman. It should have been a mutual decision brought to parliament voted on by both parties. But I have to be a bit pessimistic as Raymond J. This is Antigua and things do not change that fast. And country is never placed first. But who knows, maybe this is the first step for those in authority to start thinking about. Although I won’t call them leaders. They have not demonstrated any leadership in these trying times. That is why the country is so much divided and cannot move forward. Will the real leader come forward and lead the nation in to the promise land. We are in the wilderness now for several years. A house dived will not stand.


@ Raymond Jonas

#3 my way of helping » 2011-01-19 12:41

What you have blogged in true and i like what you have said, i agree, it is sad this is the Antigua and Barbuda we have. only one comment i disagree that you made is the wheel and come again.

Do you see such deep to the core article like this does not attract much blogger because they are more into the blue and red thing but not really what is best for the entire. This article right here should be the talk of the town today. we should be seeing 70 plus post on this. instead we are on the parliament blue and red soap opera drama.

Raymond, in another blog, you will see we blogged the same things and i thank you for confirming what i am saying or I thank you that i can confirm what you are saying. What you have said is short but powerful, you should send Carib-arena deep articles like your blog, i would be a reader and supporter of anything you send with such core.

We are all smart but we do not have the love to apply our intelligence the way it should be.

my way of helping

How Serious Can you Be?

#2 Raymond Jonas » 2011-01-19 11:53

Your analysis is sound except you miss the context of ANU. What you are advocating is the hallmark of political maturity to which political leaders in ANTIGUA should strive for. But you are asking average pre-Ks mindset to complete an A level chemistry test. This would never happen under the current system of blind loyalthy and where politics penetrates every area of a person's life. This entire generation would have to die out for this proposal to take root. In ANU power matter over democracy, right and wrong is not based on principles but on which party did or say something. ANU is such an odd case study that your recommendations will go to waste. Rather than reflect upon it, folks are already trying to decide whether you are red or blue or blue posing as red or red disguising as blue. You are dealing with a poltiical pathology sir. Wheel and come again.

Raymond Jonas

@ Mr. edwards

#1 my way of helping » 2011-01-19 05:17

Oh my Goodness, who are you? Lovely article, I do not want to use the same words i have used to describe other awesome articles on here. I want to use something different to justify how amazing this article is. This is deep in the core, this is what I call speaking and following the core, wow.

Now, I must continue to say what I have been saying this JUDICIARY system is very narrow-minded and in every way has been contributing to the downward spiral of our United Islands which we know can be great. When I was in court in Antigua and Barbuda and found out the things that is not possible in court to prove innocents and to fairly apply the law, it hurts me because in stricter and civil jurisdictions, these are possible.

I prove again, we are intelligent people but we lack the love to apply our intelligence the way it should be.

I concur with your article in its entirety, even where you put the coma and the periods.

my way of helping

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Dr. Raymond S Edwards

 Dr. Raymond S. Edwards is a Columbia University trained organizational psychologist & international development expert; as well as a New York state certified staff development and training specialist. His consulting services include Cabinet retreats, Executive Team workshops and Organizational Change seminars. He is also an ordained minister, qualified educator, prolific writer and motivational speaker.

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