Wednesday, 01 August 2012 02:30
By press release
Antigua St. John's - On Monday, July 30th, 2012, the UPP Government presented to parliament a motion to install an information commissioner to fulfill the requirements of the Freedom of Information act, passed by the UPP in 2004.
The Freedom of Information act includes safeguards to ensure that a politically unbiased and impartial information commissioner is installed.
The specific safeguard that is applicable in this instance is found in Section 35(2)(e) of the Freedom of Information Act (2004), which reads as follows, “A person shall not be qualified to hold office as Commissioner if that person - holds office in, or is an employee of, a political party or is a political activist.”
It should be noted that the act did not speak about eligibility, but rather ineligibility, which allows wide latitude for the Prime Minister to appoint someone who in his judgment has the necessary competencies to fill this position.
The Act however specifically bars the Prime Minister from appointing an individual who “holds office in, or is an employee of, a political party or is a political activist.”
The Prime Minister’s nomination of Mr. Alister Thomas for information commissioner is, in my view, in breach of the Freedom of Information Act (2004). Mr. Thomas’ is a founder and an officer of a political organization, the National Movement for Change, and is a known political activist to all Antiguans and Barbudans.
In my presentation to Parliament, I did not concern myself with the qualifications of Mr. Thomas or his competence to hold the position, as that was the responsibility of the Prime Minister to execute at his discretion. That was not the responsibility of Parliament as I interpreted it. The Law mandated the Parliament to determine whether or not the nominee is ineligible according to section 35(2) of the Freedom of Information Act (2004).
It was inappropriate and ill-advised of the Prime Minister to speak on behalf of the nominee in terms of his current political activism or his status in his political party. In light of the fact that the nominee himself has not publicly declared that he is neither an officer of the political party he founded or is a political activist, the Prime Minister’s comments are unfounded.
It became clear to me that the Prime Minister and members of the UPP Administration were again engaged in another act of wantonly and callously breaching the laws of Antigua and Barbuda.
Since elected in 2004, the UPP regime has consistently breached the laws of Antigua and Barbuda, particularly the Finance Administration Act (2006).
Loans such as the Wadadli Power Plant, the Construction of the new Airport Terminal, the new Transport Board Headquarters, and the loan from President Chavez of Venezuela, to name a few, should have been brought before Parliament for approval. Up to this day, they have not been presented to Parliament.
The Government is also in breach of the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, Section 92(3)(b), which requires that supplementary appropriation bills be brought before Parliament for approval. There has not been a single supplementary appropriation bill since the UPP took office in 2004.
The UPP Administration appears determined to manage the country outside of Parliament, blatantly breaching the laws of Antigua and Barbuda in the process. The Opposition Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) has repeatedly pointed to instances where the Baldwin Spencer Administration has failed to comply with legislation that his Government has passed since 2004 when first elected.
The support extended to the Prime Minister’s nominee for information commissioner by Members of the Opposition, in my view, is an unwelcome departure from previous efforts of the Opposition to halt the law breaking habits of the Baldwin Spencer Administration.
The moral authority to chastise the government in acts of law breaking might well have been forfeited.
Consistent with the oath of office of all Parliamentarians, I wish to restate my position that as Member of Parliament representing the people of St. Mary’s North, I will continue to fulfill my duties in safeguarding the interests of all Antiguans and Barbudans to whom I am accountable in all aspects including observing the laws of Antigua and Barbuda without exception.
As Parliamentarians, we should not forget that we were elected to uphold and protect the law, not to break the law.
Hon. Molwyn Joseph
Member of Parliament for St. Mary’s North
31st July, 2012