Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Opposition Members of Parliament Robin Yearwood and former Prime Minister Lester Bird are against a Boundaries Commission proposal that appears to target the Antigua Labour Party’s stronghold constituencies.
Caribarena learned of the leaked proposal over the weekend, and exposed some of the proposed changes that would strip Yearwood of his Willikies, Seatons, and Glanvilles strongholds. They would be shifted into the St Peter constituency currently represented by ALP MP Asot Michael.
Molwyn Joseph, who represents St Mary’s North, would lose Ebenezer and Jennings, while former prime minister Lester Bird’s constituency would be split in two. However, he would keep his strongholds of St Johnston’s Village and Skerritts Pasture, with the others shifted to St Johns City East, currently represented by Deputy Prime Minister Harold Lovell.
“They are taking off all areas where Robin has done well and they are taking Jennings from Molwyn. It is clearly an attempt to knock out Robin, Molwyn, and myself,” former ALP leader Lester Bird said.
He has not received an official copy of the proposed changes, but said information reaching him from the ALP’s lone representative on the Boundaries Commission, Jimmy Fuller, said the government’s attempt to gerrymander the country’s constituencies is becoming more apparent.
Bird said the ALP would not allow these measures to go unchallenged, and would undoubtedly take legal action against it.
“It is gerrymandering,” he stressed. “When we add the figures, I had 4,900 people voting for me last time, and if we take each constituency and put 5,000 people in them, they would have left mine unfairly high. … I don’t have the actual figures, so I am speaking from what I have been told. There is no reason to split Rural East. If they are looking at the equalization of all constituencies, then they should leave this one alone.”
Joseph said while he had received a copy of the proposal, he had not yet been able to do a statistical analysis yet.
“But it appears that there are certain members of Parliament who are being targeted in a way that weakens their position in their constituency,” he said. “It cannot be by coincidence that myself and Robin Yearwood, who have served for many years in Parliament and have a base, find ourselves in a position where our stronghold is being removed out of the arrangement.”
He added, “It is strange that you don’t find it in any other sitting members of Parliament. That is not the case for the other four MPs on the opposition side, and it is certainly not the case for any member on the government side.”
The veteran MP said the government’s representatives on the Boundaries Commission appear to be shamelessly assaulting the democratic process in Antigua & Barbuda, where people would no longer be able to have their choice expressed in a manner that is fair to everyone.
Nonetheless, Joseph pointed out that he was still confident that the changes being made would not allow the United Progressive Party (UPP) to overcome the alienation between the government and the electorate.
“The people have already decided that the UPP has failed them, and even though I intend to join with the ALP effort to fight, it is not because I am fearful that they would lose,” he said. “It is not a precedent that is democratically healthy and we must fight on the basis of the principle of having the democracy operate in a fair manner.”
Efforts to reach Yearwood for a comment were unsuccessful.
It was reported, however, that other constituency changes have been proposed for St Pauls, where English Harbour and Falmouth would be moved to St Philips, while Swetes and Old Road would be shifted to St Pauls.
No mention has been made about possible changes to St John’s City West, currently represented by opposition leader Gaston Browne.
On Tuesday, the opposition party issued the following statement after examining a copy of the draft report.
ABLP on Boundaries Report
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) has received a copy of the incomplete Draft Report of the Boundaries Commission, chaired by Clarence Crump.
The Draft confirms the worst fears of all electors in Antigua and Barbuda.
The United Progressive Party (UPP) Government is engaged in gerrymandering!
The United Progressive Party (UPP) hopes to win the next general elections by unfair means.
The proposals contained in the Draft Report of the Boundaries Commission, as feared, reflect the “packing and cracking” which theABLP parliamentarians alleged during the parliamentary debate late last year.
The Constituencies of St. Peter’s, St. Phillip’s North and St. Phillip’s South will no longer exist as they have been since 1970; they have been gerrymandered.
Parts of St. Peter’s will be combined with parts of St. Phillip’s North; and,St. Phillip’s South will be combined with parts of St. Paul.
The St. Phillip’s North Constituency, which M.P. Robin Yearwood has represented since 1976, will cease to exist in the Draft Report. MPRobin Yearwood will not be an elected Member of Parliament when the Report is adopted by the Parliament.
The St. John’s Rural West Constituency which Mr. Spencer represents will be reduced significantly, restricted to areas where Mr. Spencer has a strong showing during consecutive elections since 1989. The areas where Mr. Spencer has shown weakness during previous elections have been attached to the St. John’s Rural South Constituency, currently representedby MP Eustace Lake. The entire Draft Report reflects the division of boundaries based on past elections and not on “the number of inhabitants” as required under existing law.
Other Constituencies, such as St. Mary’s North and St. John’s Rural East has been “cracked” into separate constituencies.
The “cracking and packing” as expected from the UPP, in an unfair attempt to steal the 2014 General Elections, is virtually guaranteed, except for the intervention of the High Court.
The ABLP is finalizing its pleadings to present to a High Court Judge with the hope of having an injunction issued that will halt and defeat the illegal effort to engage in gerrymandering, which the ABLP has charged the UPP of unlawfully engineering.
This issue will be addressed this Thursday evening at the Public Rally which the ABLP will stage at 46 North Street beginning at 7:30 pm.