Thursday, 23 February 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - A slander on the political leader of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) is a slander on the entire organisation, and should be viewed with utmost concern by all citizens of Antigua & Barbuda.
This is the message brought, in so many words, by ALP PRO Dean Jonas. The presumptive ALP candidate for the constituency of St Georges took the position on Wednesday during a telephone appearance on the Colin Sampson Show.
Jonas’ remarks followed the recent High Court ruling in the defamation suit brought by ALP political leader Lester Bird against Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. Clearly on a high after the release of Justice Jennifer Remy’s decision favouring Bird, the ALP PRO hailed the victory as a damning indictment of the prime minister’s integrity and credibility.
In Jonas’ view, the ruling by Justice Remy demonstrated that PM Spencer clearly had no concern for breaking the law either by word or deed. Jonas sought to draw a parallel between Spencer’s actions and those of former Jamaica PM Bruce Golding.
Golding, he pointed out, chose to step down after he confessed to breaking the law (ie violating the Constitution). Golding, by permitting Christopher “Dudus” Coke to be removed from Jamaica without due process, in effect made himself party to a kidnapping.
The ALP PRO offered an example of what he termed the “egregious” behaviour to which the United Progressive Party leadership is prone. Harking back to his days as PRO for the UPP, Jonas stated his firm opinion that the infamous “Monique Barua” affair (circa 2002) was fabricated by the UPP in collaboration with a local radio station where Barua’s “confessions” were recorded.
The now PRO for the ALP maintained that, despite his repeated questioning at the time, then Opposition Leader Spencer refused to either confirm or deny the veracity of Barua’s allegations.
Pointing out that no case ever came out of the Barua affair, Jonas drew a parallel with PM Spencer’s behaviour in the Wadadli Power Plant matter. He observed that by withholding the relevant information that could provide transparency, the prime minister is similarly refusing to confirm or deny the allegations concerning the state of the generator sets.
Jonas posited that issues such as these, when seen against the background of the defamation ruling by Justice Remy, reveal a pattern of deception that points to a lack of integrity. The ALP PRO maintained that Prime Minister Spencer has exhausted not only his credit, but his credibility.
Jonas’ aggressive posture comes as the ALP has stepped up its programme of activities aimed at bringing political pressure to bear on the ruling UPP. As public meetings are held in various areas and loudspeakers patrol the streets, ALP pickets on Tuesday patrolled the sidewalks outside the offices of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).
The ALP PRO also targeted what he described as the UPP's fiscal indiscipline. Denying that Antigua & Barbuda has any revenue problem, Jonas insisted that what the government really has is an expenditure problem. He repeated the ALP’s often-stated position that the UPP has collected far more revenue than the ALP has ever done in any similar period of time, and done nothing with it except increase spending.
The Antigua Labour Party’s definitive position on this issue, Jonas said, is that there should be no new taxation without a proper and transparent accounting for what has been collected and spent over the past eight years. Jonas dismissed the idea that the deductions from benefits and allowances now being proposed are anything but new, because they were enacted in 2005.
The ALP PRO also poured scorn on the notion that the average person on the street will not be affected by the new PIT regulations. He zeroed in on the reality that when benefits and allowances (which are paid in kind) are viewed as taxable income, the affected workers who are thus boosted over the $3,000-per-month threshold will be required to pay their taxes in cash, out of their pay packets. This must have the effect of reducing the workers’ take-home pay.
In this connection, Jonas paused to take a swipe at the Antigua & Barbuda Trade Union Congress (TUC), accusing that organisation of pandering to the ruling party in this and other matters.
In effect accusing the UPP government of inefficiency in its allocation of public funds, Jonas noted an imbalance between the relative amounts government spends on operational as opposed to capital costs. The ALP PRO offers the opinion that the only way for the ruling party to avoid an economically damaging redundancy program is to apply urgent public sector reform.
Noting that nothing significant has been done along these lines, the ALP PRO sees no reason to expect any action in this area in the foreseeable future.