Electoral Quandary - Vying for Elective Office

L- PM Baldwin Spencer; Opposition leader Gaston BrowneAs the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer appeared to have placed the nation on tenterhooks, legal practitioners have advanced arguments in open forums over the “...non-appointment of a date for the conduct of general elections.”

Thus, likened to the exploits of a magician, the citizenry appeared to have fallen under an inescapable spell of “...Political Mesmerism.” While Prime Ministers do not conduct polls, where constitutional powers allow, only a person appointed to such position may lawfully determine the conduct of elections. The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981, provides for, (i) ...the dissolution of Parliament;   (ii) ...appointment of a Date; (iii) ...the issuance of a Writ under the Public Seal, by the Governor General, addressed to the Returning officers for particular constituencies under the Representation of the People Act” [Section 30].


The citizenry had become disillusioned over the apparent “...Psychological Antics” of the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer.For instance, when he had psyched up the mind of the nation with the promise of “...an Important announcement,” it could never be said that voters and supporters gathered at a “...public rally for the announcement,” it meant a “...month’s notice of the spectacle of the Lunar Eclipse” [April 15, 2014]. Therefore, as the anticipated “...Date for General Elections” appeared to have become illusive, “...candidates, electorate and the citizenry,” gripped by uncertainty and anxiety, had been placed in the middle of a situation that had spelled “...Hopelessness and Despair.”


Had Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer appointed a “...date for the 2014 elections,” this may have been contingent upon the “...State of preparedness” of the Supervisor of Elections and the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), in conducting a relatively flawless poll. Conversely, groups in opposition may have contended, rightly or wrongly, that on “...Existing Boundaries and Voters Lists,” they shall have been in a “...State of Readiness.” The currency of the legislative measures under judicial considerations may still have meant the “...inevitability in delays” in the electoral processes. Consequently, given the Date for the delivery of the “...ECSC Judgments,” a Prime Minister may be prudently advised to “...Dissolve the Parliament,” lest history records him as running out of time.


It may have been “...Chaos after Chaos.” Evidence of chaos may have been seen from the official Statement prepared by the ABE Commission, Data Processing Manager Samantha Leacock after the chaotic March 12, 2009 elections. She wrote “...The Effecting Boundaries Legislation caused many changes to be impacted on the register for Elections; ...These changes caused the Constituencies of St. George and St. Peter; ...St. John Rural North; ...St. John Rural West and ...St. Mary North” to undergo many revisions due to the elector’s address as reflected by the new boundaries” [ABEC Statement: April 22, 2009: P 60]. It may, therefore, have been seen that an announcement made incircumstances of uncertainty,due to “...unpreparedness and/or un-readiness” may have been fraught with difficulties.


Since the controversial “...March 12, 2009” general elections, “...Five Years” have elapsed.Those years appeared to have been marred by electoral controversies of one kind or another. Two days short of the first Sitting of Parliament on April 27, 2009, confusion reigns over the “...Dissolution of Parliament and appointment of a Date for parliamentary elections, constitutionally due in 2014.” There was no doubt that leading up to, and during the “...March 12, 2009 general elections,” the ABE Commission (ABEC), was bedevilled by glitches of one kind or another. Though these may not necessarily have precluded the “...widely anticipated announcement of an election date,” incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer may have argued that repeat of the “...Chaotic Occurrences” had provided reasons, legitimate or illegitimate, in refraining from making such announcements.


Interestingly, in the aftermath of the 2009 elections, several Commissioners were affected. Bishop Ewing Dorsett took the high ground and resigned. Commissioner Agnes Blaize, apparently apprehending fear of the “...Wrath” of Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer, may have cowed into submission. A defiant ABEC Chairman Sir Gerald A. Watt KCN QC; ...Deputy Nathaniel ‘Paddy’ James and Commissioner Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst were subjected to “ ...an Elections Tribunal”[August 16, 2010]. Ironically, at the end of the proceedings, only Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst fell under the guillotine of Governor General Her Excellency Dame Louise Lake-Tack.”  Then as claimed by former Chairman Sir Gerald A. Watt KCN, QC, “...Motive of acrimony and an Act of Parliament” had seen his removal from office” [January 25, 2012: Gazette No. 16: December 31, 2012].


 The year 2014, therefore, may be seen as one of “...important decision-making.” It has come upon the nation, not as the adage “...Like a thief in the night,” but with “...full consciousness and heightened expectations.” Ironically, Two days before the compulsory prorogation of Parliament on April 26, the “...Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC),” was expected to deliver what may be the “...Mother of all Electoral Judgments.” Such judgments were reportedly scheduled to be delivered in one of its “...Itinerant Sittings in the British-protected Virgin Island of Tortola on April 28, 2014.” Mutually agreed, a “...Consent Order” had replaced a voluntary withdrawal of “...Stay of Execution” to accommodate “...an Expeditious Hearing” of the two contentious issues.” Logic dictates that its urgency required delivery before Parliament was prorogued. Though “...Legally Binding,” “...Judicial sanctions for contempt,” may not be imposed upon reneging parties for that which they had “...mutually agreed and consented.”


When it was obvious that Information Minister Senator Dr. Edmond Mansoor had demonstrated a commitment in using “...Information and Technology” in helping to transform education in a society far removed from the “...Dark Ages of Illiteracy,” there were individuals who believed that the age of “...Story Book Children” still exists among the adult population. Failing in his delivery of the highly anticipated “...Announcement on March 15, 2014,” reasonably believed to be the “...Date for General Elections,” the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer may have been trapped between the “...Right psychological moment and circumstances” that clearly got beyond his administration’s control. Then, adding insult to the intelligence of the citizenry, individuals had “...deceptively argued that no such announcement was ever intended.” Many disappointed people had treated such deceptive arguments as “...Intellectual Gibberish.”


Likened to the Seven Wonders of nature, every once in a while, events had developed, reflecting the unpredictable nature of man. Invariably, these had marvelled the mind, and either lifts or kills the human spirit. Leaders had often found themselves in awkward positions. Adults, who may have participated in the early childhood games, appeared to have been driven into a state of perplexity that when some had chosen to “...Hide,” others were forced to “...Seek.” Even with the close relationship between Church and State, it defies logic that anyone may have assumed that Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin intended to announce a “...consummation of a heretical marriage” between Reverend Dr. Cortwright Jarvis’ Church and his administration.” Without a shadow of doubt, pending judicial proceedings over contentious legislative measures for “...Re-registration of voters and Constituencies boundaries changes,” were seen to have affected the electoral processes. Consequently, these were seen to have impacted upon the “...State of Preparedness and/or Readiness for Polling.”


Politically, the climate has undoubtedly changed.  In spite of agitation, the citizenry remains calm. The arguments so advanced had focused upon the “...constitutional provisions; ...precedential practice and/or principle.” While some conventions were usually observed, it was obvious that where it may have been seen as “...Disadvantageous,” established provisions appeared to have dominated the discussions, compounding amicable resolutions. Conversely, “...Practice” and/or developmental trends had provoked discussions on Principle.” Invariably, that which was seen as “...Advantageous,” practice was often ignored. Similarly, expediency and/or necessity had often overshadowed established principles.


From time immemorial, there has been a “...recognized principle and an accepted practice,” not only by Parliament, but also both the inferior and superior Courts, in granting adjournments, “...whether in criminal and/or litigious proceedings.” There may be no legitimate reasons why this “...Principle and/or Practice” might be excluded from consideration for matters affecting the electoral. When House Speaker D. Giselle Isaac-Arrindell recently adjourned a sitting of the House of Representatives, Hansard may reflect that only two members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition were present, while less than seven members on the government side were in attendance” [Caribarena: March 15, 2014]. The apparent lack of a quorum had necessitated the postponement of the parliamentary proceedings. Even recent postponements of the “...Claims and Objections Exercises” in the electoral processes, make the very point.


It may have been seen that the “...Constitutionality” of whether a date shall have been announced was NEVER under judicial consideration.” The contentious issues occupying the attention of the Judiciary were matters affecting administration and legislative enactments, respecting “...Re-registration of eligible voters and electoral boundary changes.” While the constitutional provisions for “...Dissolving Parliament; ...appointing date for election, along with pending litigious proceedings” appeared to have occupied the minds of many luminaries, legal services providers may have inadvertently overlooked provisions affecting conduct of elections as contained in the “ ...Representation of the People Act” [No.17 of 2001]. Parliament anticipated that circumstances, whether “...seen or unforeseen; ...created or not,” may impact the state of readiness. However, while they have argued, provisions contained in the “...Representation of the People Act,” may have escaped the attention of legal practitioners. 


There was no doubt that Parliament had anticipated preparatory glitches. For instance, the Representation of the People Act states “....When at anytime the issue of a Writ and the day appointed by the Writ for the holding of a poll at any election, the Governor General, after consultation with the Commission, is satisfied that it is expedient so to do because of (b) ...The likelihood that the registers of electors for any constituency will not be ready before the day appointed for the holding of the poll; or (c) ...The likelihood that any essential electoral supplies or materials  will not be available in adequate quantities upon the day appointed for the holding of the poll, he/she may by proclamation adjourn the holding of the poll to some other day specified in the proclamation not being more than thirty days after the day specified in the writ” [No. 17 0f 2001: Section 31].


Seizing the moment, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Honourable Gaston Browne, his parliamentary colleagues and legal team led by Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, along with junior partner Samantha Marshall and the “ ...Principal Legal Adviser,” Attorney General Honourable Justin L. Simon QC, had respectively advanced opposing arguments on developments respecting the “...appointment of a date and pending judicial proceedings.” It was irrefutable that “...Constitutional Powers” reside with the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer in (a) “...Proroguing Parliament (b) ...Setting the date for general elections due within the year 2014” [CO. Section 60]. While these issues had been “...legalistically and constitutionally argued,” both sides appeared to have been looking at the situations from different lenses.


Had Prime Minister Dr. Baldwin Spencer appointed a date for the holding of the 2014 poll, if one accepts the “...administrative role, functions and responsibilities of Supervisor of Elections Lorna Simon, and the policy-making decisional role of the ABE Commission, an announced date will have undoubtedly shifted the focus of attention on those concerned with (i) “...Conduct of the polls; (ii) ...state of preparedness.” Other than administrative, logistics and/or operational challenges,Parliament may not have anticipated “...accusations of disenfranchisement through re-registration of voters or tinkering with constituency boundaries,” for any incumbents to gain “...Unfair Advantages.” Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have contended that such changes within the electoral system were akin to “...gerrymandering.”


However, Principal Legal Adviser to the government and Minister of Legal Affairs, Honourable Justin L. Simon QC and incumbents had argued that the measures were “...consistent with constitutional provisions” and more particularly, intended to ensure “...equal distribution of eligible voters as electoral demographics” dictate. Member of Parliament Honourable Molwyn Joseph saw the legislative measures affecting “...Re-registration of voters and Constituency boundaries changes” as intended for “...Cracking and Packing Constituencies.” These issues were submitted to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), to test the professional judgement of His Lordship, Justice Brian Cottle. There was no doubt of His Lordship’s impeccability of character, legal knowledge and professional competence. However, the appellatereview may not only be focused upon his “...Powers of Reasoning,” but also on the “...rationality of the policy-makers; ...constitutionality, legitimacy, reasonability, relevancy of the amendments and applicability” to the electoral system.


In electioneering mode, people have always entertained legitimate citizen’s expectations.” Such may include “...economic prosperity; ...safety and security and a better quality of life.” These were some of the promises often advanced by prospective candidates. Invariably, the elected have breached the people’s trust.  It was the experience that in such environment, individuals had used “...Political Expressions” that were to be vexatious to the spirit.” Similarly, assertions made were to be seen as “...callous, reckless and contemptible.” Then there were those who had calculated uttered remarks that were to be seen as “...inflammatory and/or inciting.” Thus, whether the voices heard were that of people considered “...eligible or ineligible to vote,” La enforcement shall analyze “...utterances, expressions, assertions and/or contentions” that had the potential for trouble and be guided accordingly.


At public rallies, there were those who had called for “...Peace and Unity,” while others had advocated “...Declaration of War.” However, with the visible presence of uniformed law enforcement personnel, the law abiding had acted responsibly, showing “...Maturity, Civility and Restraint.” Many may have listened to Senator Shawn Marissa Nicholas who had appealed to the citizenry to show tolerance and restraint as she intimated that “...We as Parliamentarians eat together and share the same bathroom” [Observer Media: Voice of the People]. Thus, the heckled remained unfazed over the extraordinary antagonistic antics. While such antics may have been seen as offensive and/or objectionable, they were not necessarily behaviorally new. These, nonetheless, reflected the mentality of persons “...attempting to excite the audience or ignite fire.” These may very well have been all part of the strategy in energizing a frenzied crowd.


Likened to current climatic conditions, the sun-drenched earth, showing fissures everywhere in varying degrees, the “...Political Climate,” has been showing increased intensity of verbal war among opposing candidates and supporters. Though ‘NOT’ dangerously explosive, the atmosphere has become somewhat charged; ...heightened tension was evident among incumbents and opponents. Those in public office and those seeking to unseat them” had been making spurious remarks, while others have been exchanging sentiments far removed from the currency of the situation. Relations have become strained, resulting in uneasiness. Some people had delighted themselves in “...Sensationalism and Showboating,” while supporters had engaged themselves “...nitpicking.


Still there were others guilefully countering with assertions of their own. Some seemed anxious and desperate- bashing and smashing. There were “...drama and excitement, with some candidates urging and spurring supporters to “...greet opponents with hostility.”  Thus, likened to the instinctive “...crustaceans venturing too far from their habitats and had ended in pots,” to all intents and purposes, opponents seen as “...straying too far from their camps,” were reportedly “...booed, heckled, jeered and driven away.” These were to be seen as an introduction of behaviors bordering and/or obtained among tribal peoples communing in harsh environment characterized by competitiveness and struggling for survival. This may have been taken “...Beyond the Antiguan and Barbudan Civilization.” These were the contending and/or inescapable situations.


When members of society speak to “...Religious Heresy,” they are speaking to “...those who professed faith in Jesus Christ Corrupt its Dogmas” [Wikipedia]. Even with some knowledge of “...Religious Heresy,” several identifiable religious leaders had been accused of compromising their “...spiritual calling.” Senator Joanne Massiah may have been aware of the presence of several “...Religious Heretics” on State-run Boards, yet seemingly abstained from imploring them to invite “...Divine Interventions” on her behalf. Many leaders within the religious community were said to have been at variance with their religious doctrines and their “...Secular Marriage.” Skeptics believed that such union had been consummated by “...Duty-Free Concessions and by positions on Statutory Boards.”


Even though former opposition leader, Honourable Lester Bird may have prudently avoided identifying and/or linking governmental benefits for the deafening silence of the religious community, Moravian religious leader, The Reverend Dr. Cortwright Jarvis had reacted with denials that the “ ...Church was being politically manipulated.” He may have missed the gravamen of the assertions that was clearly directed at the “...Leadership” and not necessarily the “...congregational membership.” While Reverend Dr. Jarvis was opposed to religious pastorsusing the pulpits to share political views, he was adamant that “...Christians should be in politics” [Caribarena: April 7, 2014]. He too had carefully avoided offering comments on those who may have been seen as “...heretics.”


Though His Grace, Bishop Kenneth Richards may not have been engaged in serving on “...State-run Boards,” Bishop Charlesworth Browne of the Christian Ministries Center may still have seen such advocacy as that of a “...heretic.” An online dictionary defines a heretic as a “...Person who holds controversial opinions, especially one who publicly dissents from the officially accepted dogma of the Roman Catholic Church” [Merriman]. His Grace Bishop Kenneth Richards may not have been alone in his advocacy.For instance, when an active religious group called “...Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), appeared to have been fighting against “...decriminalization,” there was also advocacy by Jamaican and Dominican Bishops “...The Right Reverend Dr. Howard Gregory and Gabriel Malzaire” [Caribbean Catholic: March 28, 2012].


Even as some religious leaders had advocated “...Codes of Conduct,” the majority of Church leaders, so long as they were seen as neutral, remained “...silent and seemingly less interested.” The religious community and its leadership have been preaching against “...acts of immorality” within congregational bodies and by extension, through other medium to the wider society up until 2004. While the Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) had earlier attacked previous administration like African Bees,they had seemingly released themselves from the position of being the “...Religious Watch Dog.” They had frequently appeared on the electronic media and conducted national prayers. It was never about “...Winning and/or saving souls.” In their religious sermons they had advocated   “...Good Governance.” Thus, it was all about the national interest and the common good. They had attacked “...prostitution and corruption among public officials.” Thus, they had implored God for the healing of the nation.


Contrastingly, while others had condemned “...corrupt practices and acts of immorality,” His Grace, Bishop Kenneth Richards,” had been advocating “...decriminalization of Buggery Laws” [Observer Brenton Henry: Belizean LGBT: March 3, 2013]. His advocacy might even prompt “...a donkey” to ask “...Why is your reversionisn so perverse?” [Number 22: 28]. He shall have known or may have been reckless not to know of the “...Principles upon which the nation was founded.” Foremost was a solemn proclamation that states “...Whereas the people of Antigua and Barbuda proclaim that they are a sovereign nation founded upon the principles that acknowledges the Supremacy of God” [Constitution Order 1981: (a)]. In ignoring the “...people’s sovereignty and acknowledgement of God,” he may have been guilty, not only of callousness, but also of “...Religious Heresy.” The goodly Bishop may be the first to invite congregants to “...confess their secular sins” and then urge all to sing “...All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”


Those vying for elective office came from a wide cross-section of the society. Many came from a knowledge-based background, possessing “...Degrees and/or Certificates” in various disciplines. These include “...Legal Education; ...Medicine; ...Media; ...Economics and banking.” Others came from “...Trade unionism and Teaching.” Except one is in a state of illusion, few may deny that “...administrating public affairs,” had not only presented opportunities for personal advancement, but may have seen that when the “...ego” had apparently overpowered the “...id,” it had brought miseries to those succumbing to its ugly influences of “...corruption, bribery and fraud.” There was no certainty in winning the support and confidence of the electorate. In a “...Legal Practice,” however, barring ill-health and impropriety, there is “...Security and viability. Thus, if service was delivered with professional competence, alacrity, efficiency and diligence,” not only will there be prosperity, but also endless opportunities. Some smarting under pretext of “...Serving the People,” opportunists had reportedly used their positional power and influence in “...generating wealth void of transparency and legitimacy.”


When former Turks and Caicos Premier, ‘Mystic’ Michael Misick, an attorney fled the Turks and Caicos Islands,” he was attempting to evade criminal charges of “...Corruption; ...Maladministration and Fraud.” The flamboyant Premier was accused of “...amassing wealth estimated at £180 million” [2003-2009] siphoned from the “...public purse and sale of Crown Lands” [Mail: December 8, 2012]. He was “...Captured and caged” in Brazil, but has since been extradited to the Turks and Caicos Islands” [Stabroek News: January 7, 2014]. A recent classic case might be that of “...United Kingdom Culture Media and Sports Minister Maria Miller” [2010-2014]. She was accused of “...fraudulently claiming housing allowance, estimated at £45, 000.” Internal investigations by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson, reportedly unearthed evidence that showed that (i) ...She had shared a property with her mother in London; (ii) ...had knowledge that property was funded by British taxpayers; (iii) ...Sold property and had derived profits of £1.2 million.” In spite of reported efforts by Prime Minister David Cameron in applying adhesive dressing to her fingers, “...public anger and pressure forced her resignation” [Huff Post: Politics: UK: April 9, 2014].


For the visionary leaders, many had shown their ability in “...inspiring confidence and trust” in those they had led. They were able to influence people in using their imaginations; ...focusing their attention and exerting their energies in achieving “...individual, group, organizational, community and societal goals.” For instance, when United States President Abraham ‘Abe’ Lincoln had reportedlydelivered the impassioned “...Gettysburg Address,” the American people accepted that which may have been conceived in the cleverly coined phrases “...Government for the people; ...By the people; ...and of the people” [Wikipedia: November 19, 1863]. He had inspired confidence, trust and hope. Subsequent use of these phrases by other leaders, was to be seen as connotations of “...ingratitude; ...selfishness; ...anguish and misery.” Hence, even though a leader knows that something done or said in earnest may either hurt his “...pride and ego, and/or may impact negatively on his status,” he shall face the truth. Whether or not he may be “...Set free” or held captive for punishment, he shall readily speak it.


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Mr. Rawlston Pompey

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