Thursday, 24 May 2012 02:31
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) has released the text of a resolution calling for a parliamentary vote of "no confidence" in Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Leader of the Opposition Lester Bird has announced his intention to place the resolution before the lower house at the earliest opportunity, which he hopes will be when Parliament resumes its sitting on or around May 30, 2012.
Although the Speaker of the House will have the final say as to whether or when the resolution will be placed on the order paper, the ALP confidently expects that the Speaker will permit the resolution to be tabled, whereupon its contents will be debated and voted upon.
According to ALP Public Relations Officer Dean Jonas, sufficient disaffection exists within the ranks of the ruling party to induce two or more members of the United Progressive Party (UPP) parliamentary group to support the resolution. A successful vote of no confidence will mark the end of Baldwin Spencer's tenure as prime minister, and clear the way for the appointment of what Jonas refers to as a "caretaker leader" to take the country into the general elections constitutionally due by 2014.
The ALP PRO advanced the view that in the event of a successful motion of no confidence in Baldwin Spencer's leadership, the ALP parliamentary group would throw its support behind any member of the UPP majority who stepped forward to assume the leadership role as interim prime minister. While this would by no means amount to a UPP/ALP coalition government, the ALP would provide critical support for a caretaker government pending general elections.
Jonas made the remarks on Wednesday, during an in-studio appearance on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers are invited to visit the CARIBARENA.COM video archive
to view excerpts from the conversation. The full text of the ALP resolution is attached to this article.
While the ALP PRO expressed confidence that "two or more" members of the UPP parliamentary group are willing to vote in favour of the ALP no confidence motion, there are issues to be addressed regarding the precise voting mechanism that will be employed.
Voting on most matters in the lower house is usually done by voice vote, giving rise to the famous phrase: "The ayes have it." There are concerns that insistence on an open "voice" vote will act as a form of not-so-subtle coercion on dissident ruling party Members of Parliament, preventing them from expressing their true judgment on Spencer's stewardship.
The ALP would therefore prefer that voting on the resolution be by secret ballot. Dean Jonas suspects that Prime Minister Spencer and his supporters will fight tooth and nail to avoid a secret ballot at all costs, thus ensuring that UPP elected members will "toe the party line".
CARIBARENA.COM consulted House Speaker D Gisele Isaac-Arrindell on the issue of voting in parliament, and was forthrightly advised that a "secret ballot" is not in the cards.
According to the Speaker, voting in parliament is done either by "collection of voices" (the voice vote) or by "division". By division is meant a formal, individual, and public polling of each Member of Parliament. Any MP can request that a division be taken on any matter. However, nothing in the Constitution or in the Standing Orders provides for a secret ballot to be taken on any matter other than the selection of a Speaker of the House, and this only in cases where more than one candidate has been nominated for that post.
In support of her position, Isaac-Arrindell referred CARIBARENA.COM to Sections 44 through 47 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which deal with the procedures for voting on matters before the house.
The ALP motion of no confidence is based on four concerns.
The first is what the resolution refers to as the "parlous and fragile state" of the economy, high unemployment, a declining Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and escalating crime levels.
Prime Minister Spencer's refusal to accede to a request made by MP Wilmoth Daniel that the Wadadli Power Plant matter be made the subject of a public inquiry, or to release documentation relating to the power plant contract, provides the second leg of the motion.
The third rationale for the no confidence motion arises from the manner in which Prime Minister Spencer as handled the so-called "Fences Scandal", the expenditure of "tens of millions of dollars" in ways that contravene applicable legislation. The PM is therefore accused of failing in his fiduciary responsibilities to the nation.
Finally, the ALP resolution notes the "continuous failure of the Prime Minister and/or his Minister of Finance" to seek parliamentary approval for more than 50 separate loan agreements totaling more than $1,500,000,000 since 2004."
In short, the ALP resolution asserts that Prime Minister Spencer "has not acted in a responsible, transparent, lawful and dutiful manner" in the performance of his functions as leader of the government. The resolution seeks the support of dissident UPP Members of Parliament in rectifying what the ALP regards as an unhealthy situation.
Opposition Leader Lester Bird will ask that Members of Parliament vote to revoke Spencer's instrument of appointment as Prime Minister, effective either June 7, 2012 or seven days after the date of the vote in Parliament.
Below reprinted the ALP draft resolution in full:
A VOTE OF “NO CONFIDENCE”
HON. BALDWIN SPENCER M.P. / PRIME MINISTER
Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda
May 30th, 2012
THE PEOPLE of Antigua and Barbuda:
1. The Parlous and Fragile State of the Economy
a. Aware that the economy of Antigua and Barbuda is collapsing, where adult unemployment stands at 20% and youth unemployment rates exceed 40%, where the cost of living has skyrocketed and anti-social and criminal activity has increased exponentially among the youths and young adult population;
b. Acknowledging that for three consecutive years, as announced by the present Minister of Finance and the Economy during the last Budget debate, the economy has experienced a 9% decline in 2009, a 4% decline in 2010, and a 3% decline in 2011, and that in 2012 a further decline is forecast by several experts;
c. Under the watch of the Prime Minister the Offshore Financial Sector, created thirty years ago with the passage of the 1982 International Business Corporation Act, has declined since 2004 and is now on the verge of disappearing. The Tourism Sector has suffered a similar fate.
2. The Chinese Built Power Plant
a. Despite a call by the Member of Parliament for St. Phillip’s South, Hon. Wilmoth Daniel, the Prime Minister with responsibility for Public Utilities has announced that no investigation is warranted and that there is no need for an inquiry into the Chinese-built power plant at Crabbes;
b. Having been denied access to the documentation that would conclusively prove that the APUA was supplied with a power plant as contracted for, and that the expenditure of US$47,000,000 or 300 million RMB, loaned to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, was justifiable;
c. That Prime Minister Spencer, who is also Minister of Public Utilities along with the Board, Administrators and Technicians of APUA, having failed to perform the due diligence required of them, have clearly convinced reasonable people in Antigua and Barbuda to conclude that incompetence has contributed to the debacle.
3. The Fences Scandal
a. Having been persuaded that Prime Minister, Hon. Baldwin Spencer is aware that tens of millions of dollars were wastefully expended on fences, unfinished bathrooms, viewing stands, and other projects that have yielded no economic benefit to the taxpayers and that he has nevertheless failed in his fiduciary responsibilities to act as is required under the Prevention of Corruption Act;
b. Having noted that the REPORT ON THE FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION OF EXPENDITURE AT THE MINISTRY OF SPORTS dated May 31, 2010, presented in the Parliament on Thursday, June 23, 2011, reveals that a sum of money totaling East Caribbean dollars $54,438,615.00 was unlawfully spent on the fencing projects during the years 2007 thru 2009;
c. Knowing that the projects were not authorized by the Development Control Authority, highly inflated, poorly constructed, inappropriately and unlawfully funded by way of Special Warrants and Petty Contracts, contrary to the Finance Administration Act of 2006, and that there was an unlawful but successful scheme to circumvent the requirements of the Tenders Board Act;
4. Failure To Receive Parliamentary Approval and to Submit All Audits
a. Noting the continuous failure of the Prime Minister and/or the Minister of Finance to seek the approval of Parliament for more than fifty (50) separate loan agreements totaling more than one billion, five hundred million East Caribbean dollars (EC$1,500,000,000.00) since 2004 to the present;
b. Noting the failure, up until today, to have audited statements of the Government Accounts set before the Parliament for examination by the Public Accounts Committee, since 2004, contrary to the Finance Administration Act 2006 and the forerunner Finance and Audit Act that has been repealed;
a. Prime Minister Spencer has been the architect of a failed economy that has not delivered the jobs, economic opportunities, or profits required to keep enterprises healthy; that if allowed to remain in leadership, the country will be plunged into a deeper economic crisis as a result of his government’s poorly-designed fiscal and tax policies;
b. Prime Minister Spencer has not acted in a responsible, transparent, lawful and dutiful manner pertaining to the Chinese built Power Plant as anticipated by The Freedom of Information Act, 2004 and the Finance Administration Act, 2006, which require parliamentary approval for the loan of US$47,000,000 or 300 million RMB and access to the documentation by the public;
c. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer continues to prevent access to the Chinese built Power Plant by the media, and has actively prevented the release of all documentation as required under the Freedom of Information Act 2004; unjustly accusing the media and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition of being “unpatriotic” and of engaging in accusations that he intentionally misconstrues as an “attack on the relations between Antigua and Barbuda and China”;
d. Prime Minister Spencer does not intend to advise the Governor General to establish a Public Commission of Inquiry to examine the facts of the likely mal-spending of tens of millions of taxpayers’ money in the “Fences Scandal”;
e. Prime Minister Spencer has failed to cause the required public accounts to be laid before Parliament; leaving them un-examined and unaudited for more than seven continuous years;
f. Prime Minister Spencer has been the architect of the emasculation of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections and the unlawful removal of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, contrary to the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act;
g. Prime Minister Spencer has set out to make elections in Antigua and Barbuda unfair and un-free by oppressive actions in the Parliament, to alter the outcome of two separate judgments by changing the law while decisions were pending, and by appointing a new Electoral Commission Chairman when he knew that he had no authority so to do;
THE PARLIAMENT OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, sitting at the lawfully designated venue, located at Queen Elizabeth Highway, on Wednesday, May 30, 2012,
THE MAJORITY OF ITS MEMBERS, having voted, do hereby
DECLARE THAT THEY:
HAVE NO CONFIDENCE in Mr. Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister, and agree to the revocation of his instrument of appointment as Prime Minister effective June 7, 2012, or seven days from this day as ordered by the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981, Section 73(1), and that Her Excellency The Governor General be so informed by the Speaker of the House, and that the Governor General act under Section 69(2)(b) of the Constitution to appoint another member of Parliament, in whom the majority of the House repose confidence, to serve as Prime Minister commencing in seven days, or on Thursday, June 7, 2012.