Antigua St John's - The Lone Wolf group picketing the Chinese Embassy for the past several weeks has given the Chinese an ultimatum to honour demands contained in a letter dated April 24, or face the wrath of “phase three” of the planned approach to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Chinese-funded Wadadli Power Plant in Crabbs.
Caribarena.com obtained a copy of the letter on Monday, and according to one of the protesters, Vere Bird III, the timing of the letter that explains the purpose of the protest is of no consequence when considered against the fact that the demonstrations have been ongoing since March 28.
The protesters are part of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union’s Industrial and Political Action Committee (IPAC), which has also been holding weekly village meetings, led by Sinclair Simon.
The picketing followed Chinese officials' presence at a government press conference to answer questions about the power plant.
“Had representatives of the People’s Republic of China not attended the press conference and interfered in our internal affairs we would not have picketed your embassy,” the letter said.
Caribarena.com asked Bird whether IPAC had considered legal avenues to force the governments of Antigua & Barbuda and China, and possibly the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), to release the documents governing the multimillion-dollar loan that covered the cost of the power plant engines.
Bird said he had not discussed any possible motions or subpoenas that would compel them to produce the necessary documents. He said nothing had been considered besides the marches, pickets, and meetings, but the possibility exists.
“We have just chosen as the Lone Wolf picketers to take this (demonstration) route,” Bird said.
He added that the group only opted to submit the letter, addressed to Ambassador Liu Hanming, and copied to the governor general, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, and Ambassador David Shoul – after a month had passed with no acknowledgement from the Chinese of their toils in the sun.
“Why we wrote the letter is because people maybe think we are just a bunch of crazy people walking around in the hot sun," Bird said. "At the end of the day, we believe there is a procedure that should have been followed with these loans… We are going to hold them accountable - anyone who was involved in the agreement, including the Chinese."
The letter gives the Chinese an ultimatum to respond within 14 days, or face "intensified” protest actions “in a peaceful manner until goals are achieved”.
Caribarena.com questioned Bird about the tone of the document, as well as the seemingly strong language used against the nation’s leader and the country’s relationship with the Chinese.
Bird said neither he nor the rest of the group saw any issues with the language, and they were comfortable with the manner in which the concerns were presented.
The Chinese were chastised in the letter for not retaining legal counsel locally to ensure that the Antiguan government was following the laws governing foreign loans, even though there was no documentation to support that China or any other lending country was subjected to such a requirement prior to the existing controversy.
To this, Bird said the pressure group would not determine whether such a practice had been employed before, but rather, it was up to the Chinese to make sure they were operating under the authority of the law, and their representatives should have been familiar with these laws before going forward, especially since China had been in relations with Antigua for over two decades.
In the letter, the group cited the laws of Antigua, enacted under the current government, regarding the procurement of loans, which state, “No money shall be raised on the credit of the government except under the authority of an Act of Parliament or a resolution of the House.”
The correspondence also went on to rebuke the Chinese for not ensuring that Antigua’s public accounts were audited, up-to-date, and in the right order before granting the country a loan.
“In our opinion it is bad policy and contrary to the maintenance of good diplomatic relations with Antigua and Barbuda for the People’s Republic of China to grant a loan without we the people being informed by audited public accounts for the years 2005 to present; letting us know the country’s financial position and whether Antigua and Barbuda can repay this multimillion-dollar loan when it becomes due,” the letter said.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer was called a “liar” and “lawbreaker” in the letter for failing to uphold the constitution he swore to protect.
The picketers believe the electorate of Antigua & Barbuda will hold the prime minister and his government liable for breaking the law. But for now, they want to compel the Chinese to provide all documentation supporting the procurement of the generators and auxiliaries for the Wadadli Power Plant, from the initial loan request to Exim Bank in 2006 to completion.
The full letter is printed below:
24th April, 2012
H.E. Ambassador Liu Hanming
St. John's, Antigua
We write to you as law abiding patriots of our beloved Antigua & Barbuda and are collectively known as the Lone Wolf Protesters who have been picketing your embassy concerning The People's Republic of China's fmancial assistance to secure the loan for the Antigua & Barbuda government's purchase of the generators for the Wadadli Power Plant.
From press statements and various comments made by government officials prior to the pictures that were posted on Caribarena.com of the Wadadli Power Plant in late 2011 it was our belief that the Antigua & Barbuda government had purchased "new" generators initially at a cost of US$4 7 ,000,000.00.
Our definition of new means that the generators were not used prior to purchase. In addition, that the cost Antigua & Barbuda would be incurring for the generators made us believe our government in our best interest would logically have purchased state of the art generators to maximize their productivity and efficiency throughout the period of their use.
At the press conference held on the 6th February, 2012 you, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and Ambassador David Shoul kept repeating that the generators were "new". However, we are not convinced that the generators are new or even provide value for money after all that was said for two and a half hours at the press conference as no documentation has been provided in entirety to validate your claims. Reporters from various media houses have also asked for documentation concerning the purchase of the generators and have been denied full disclosure.
Our group is concerned with the way the procurement of the generators and auxiliaries for the power plant was transacted by the government of Antigua and Barbuda and The People's Republic of China without transparency and accountability and in breach of the Constitution and other laws of Antigua and Barbuda, in particular:-
(1) The loan agreement for the Wadadli Power Plant which your government helped to finance was never brought before the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda as is required by law. Section 47 Finance and Administration Act, 2006 states:
"No money shall be raised on the credit of the government except under the authority of an act of parliament or of a resolution of the house." This breach of the law is a fact that was acknowledged by Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer at the press conference. The law was enacted in 2006 whilst Mr. Spencer was a legislator in Parliament, the Prime Minister, and self appointed "Chief Servant" of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
Breaking the law of Antigua and Barbuda appears to be of no great importance to Prime Minister Spencer, Ambassador Shoul or the People's Republic of China and we hold that China has knowingly interfered in the internal affairs of Antigua and Barbuda by allowing Exim Bank to grant a loan to the government of Antigua and Barbuda that is not "under the authority of an act of parliament or of a resolution of the house".
(2) Antigua and Barbuda has not had an audit of its public accounts since 2004 as required by our Constitution(S97 The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981). In our opinion it is bad policy and contrary to the maintenance of good diplomatic relations with the Antigua and Barbuda people for The People's Republic of China to grant a loan to the government of Antigua & Barbuda without We The People being informed by audited public accounts for the years 2005 to present; letting us know our country's financial position and whether Antigua and Barbuda can repay this multimillion dollar loan when it becomes due.
(3) On the 13th March, 2009 Mr. Spencer swore the Oath of Office in order to become Prime Minster of Antigua and Barbuda(Schedule 3 The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981). Prime Minster Spencer swore that he will " ... honour, uphold and preserve the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda and the law ... ". Prime Minster Spencer admitted that the generator loan was not presented to Parliament at the press conference on the 6th February, 2012 when he said "It has been put out there that the loan agreement was not presented to Parliament and that is a fact it was not presented to Parliament ... ". We therefore hold that Prime Minster Spencer has broken his Oath of Office and is a liar and law breaker by failing to uphold the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda and the law as aforementioned above.
Antigua and Barbuda is a nation ruled by law and not by the whims of men. The People's Republic of China's policy of not requiring our laws sited above to be adhered to as a precursor to the signing of the loan agreement in March, 2008 has allowed Prime Minister Spencer and Ambassador Shoul to saddle the people of Antigua and Barbuda with a debt the terms of which We The People who they serve know nothing about and whether we are in a financial position to repay the loan as they have succeeded in taking the requirement by law that the loan be presented to Parliament away from the people.
We the Loan Wolf Protesters think that your attendance at the Government Press Conference was a blatant meddling in the internal political affairs of Antigua and Barbuda as a Government organized press conference can never substitute for the loan agreement being presented to our Parliament for proper scrutinization and authorization by elected members of the lower house; neither can the one or two questions that were allowed to the journalists in attendance substitute for questions posed by elected parliamentarians.
The question whether the generators are old or new and whether we received value for money were to be asked by law of Mr. Spencer and other Ministers involved in the negotiations with China in our Parliament and not at a press conference organized and managed by the Prime Minister's office staff.
Mr. Ambassador, your presence at the press conference gave Prime Minister Spencer and Ambassador Shoul support in the illegal manner the loan agreement was signed and gave the impression that The People's Republic of China answers only to Baldwin Spencer and David Shoul, and not to the people of Antigua and Barbuda through their Parliament based on the laws aforementioned.
We therefore enclose copies of s47 Finance and Administration Act, 2006, Section 97 and Schedule 3 The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981 for your ease of reference as ignorance of our laws is a poor excuse for you attendance at the press conference.
It is hoped that in the future The People's Republic of China retains independent legal counsel to advise on the Laws of Antigua and Barbuda when giving the government loans.
We ask that you provide us with all documentation supporting the procurement of the generators and auxiliaries for the Wadadli Power Plant from the initial loan request to Exim Bank in 2006 to completion in order to avoid any suspicion that China is assisting Prime Minister Spencer and Ambassador Shoul in breaking the law of Antigua and Barbuda that would allow the loan agreement to be scrutinized.
It would be greatly appreciated in the future that The People's Republic of China disassociate itself from Prime Minster Baldwin Spencer's admitted failure at the press conference to present the loan agreement to Parliament whilst you were regrettably in attendance. Parliament is where the peoples' business is conducted and not at a press conference designed to fend off political pressure by labelling pertinent question that would have nonetheless been raised in Parliament as
unpatriotic when the laws of Antigua and Barbuda had already been broken by Prime Minster Spencer and his administration. Had representatives of The People's Republic of China not attended the press conference and interfered in our internal affairs we would not have picketed your embassy. We ask that The People's Republic of China show respect for the laws of Antigua and Barbuda in the future when assisting our government to get a loan. China should insist that future loans be presented before the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament to inform the citizenry of the matter. In addition China should insist that all public accounts be audited before any more loans are granted in the future as this would avoid any' debts being surreptitiously placed on the shoulders of Antiguans and Barbudans with6Cifiheir knowledge, or consent through the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament.
In closing we await a response to this letter within fourteen(l4) days from receipt and hope that our demands, concerns and recommendations are given full consideration and adopted as policy as an amicable solution to thi s situation is desired by us; failing which we will have no other alternative but to intensi fy our protests in a peaceful manner until our goals are achieved knowing full well that the rule of law is greater than Baldwin Spencer, David Shoul and The People's Republic of China combined.
Loan Wolf Protesters
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