Saturday, 09 June 2012 02:30
By press release
Antigua St John’s – We reproduce in full a statement made by Opposition Leader Hon. Lester Bird on Friday, as he addressed remarks made by Attorney General Hon. Justin Simon pertaining to the Motion of No-Confidence.
On Monday16, April, 2012, the Steering Committee of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) made a decision, at my prompting, to submit to the Parliament through the Speaker, a Resolution of No-Confidence in Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. On the Friday following, April 20, 2012, at the official ALP Executive Committee Meeting, the decision was ratified.
On April 23, 2012, a copy of the Resolution and a letter signed by me were dispatched to the Speaker. At the very next official meeting of the Executive, ALP parliamentarians agreed to present and debate sections of the Resolution covering various issues in the Resolution.
At that time, the date for the presentation of the Resolution in Parliament was not known. When the Notice for the Wednesday May 30, 2012, parliamentary sitting was made known to the ALP parliamentarians on Thursday May 24, 2012, the ALP held an Open Forum on Friday, May 25, 2012, to affirm their readiness to address the Resolution in parliament. Only one ALP parliamentarian was absent, because he was off-island.
I relate these dates and events in order to demonstrate the kind of pre-planning and the complex processes that occupied our thinking in the six weeks preceding Wednesday, May 30, 2012the day on which the parliamentary debate was set to take place. No one contemplated delaying the Motion, or withdrawing the Motion of No-Confidence, up until that Friday, May 25, 2012. Changed Circumstance
When my lawyer reminded me on Sunday, May 27, 2012, that I was scheduled to appear before the Chief Magistrate, along with City South Representatives Gaston Browne and Asot Michael on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 29,30, and 31, 2012, to answer to Public Order charges dating back to March 2011, I instructed my assistant to prepare a letter, addressed to the Speaker. The Sunday, May 27, 2012, letter sought to have the date for discussion of the Resolution moved to Thursday, June 7, 2012. I further instructed my assistant to deliver the letter to the Speaker that Sunday at the Moravian Church where the Speaker was scheduled to be present. The Speaker was not seen at the service, and the Monday was Whit Monday, a holiday.
On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, following three hours of testimony by one witness, the Chief Magistrate postponed the (two other days of) scheduled hearings until August 27 and 28, 2012. At that point, there was no need for any delay in the presentation of the Motion of No-Confidence on Wednesday afternoon. My Attendance at the Parliament
I dutifully attended the morning sitting of the Parliament on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. I arrived at the Parliament at 9:15 am, took my seat and never once moved from my seat until 3:15 pm when the morning session ended. When it became evident to me that my energy levels began to wane, I asked the Member of Parliament from St. Peter’s to raise the issue of postponement with the Speaker.
All those present could see the consultations between both officials which were taking place while the sitting continued. I never instructed the Representative to speak with the Attorney General about anything. Under the Standing Orders, the Speaker has enormous adjudicative powers and I wished to rely upon the fairness and equity which the Speaker has publicly declared that she demonstrates to both sides of the aisle.
The discussion with the Attorney General, I later learned, was proposed by the Speaker. That discussion flowed from “postponement” to “withdrawal”, but those were not my instructions to the Representative in his discussions with the Speaker. The Attorney General has not claimed that I spoke with him; neither has he claimed that the Representative broached the subject of “withdrawal of the motion” on my behalf. I never asked anyone to enter into discussions with the Attorney General.
At any rate, it strikes me as rather odd that it took an entire week, following the May 30, 2012, discussions between the Representative and the Attorney General, for Antigua and Barbuda to learn that the issue of “withdrawal” was raised with him by the St. Peter’s Representative. I have noted that the Newspaper and the Big Stories of today, Friday, June 8, 2012, have given prominence to the Attorney General and his claims.
I repeat once more that had I not felt unwell, I would have returned after lunch to present the Motion of No-Confidence and to debate it for an additional six hours or more. Every Parliamentarian is entitled under the Standing Orders (or rules of Parliament) to speak for one hour; the debate could have lasted until mid-day of the following day had it started at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. Conclusion
I will again submit a request for a new date for the Motion of No-Confidence in the Prime Minister. I will request— as I did in my May 27, 2012, letter to the Speaker— that a specific day and a specific starting time be set aside for the debate. It is patently unfair to the Antigua and Barbuda people, who are extremely interested in this very important debate, for them to be required to forego their night’s rest, when the Parliamentary sitting can be so scheduled as to allow for a reasonable starting time.
As the nation continues to pay attention to the issues that confront us, it is my hope that they will let their UPP Representatives know that the Parliament is the place for a discussion of this nature and that excuses and maneuverings to avoid its discussion are not acceptable.
May God continue to shield us from harm and danger in these perilous and parlous times. I thank you for listening.