Senator Michael Freeland’s name is now off the list of potential candidates for the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) in the St. John’s Rural East constituency, and word is, Maria Bird-Browne, the prime minister’s wife, is the most likely candidate.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed the information in an exclusive interview with OBSERVER media yesterday afternoon.
He said that an ongoing scandal involving Senator Freeland forced the party to decide his fate.
“He did an auction and the funds remain unpaid, again I don’t want to pronounce further on this issue until I speak to him but on that basis, we did put a hold on any potential candidacy because it is a serious issue, and again it is fair that I give him an opportunity to find out exactly what he has to say,” the PM said.
Browne explained that this situation with Freeland did not warrant the kind of action that he, the prime minister, took against member of parliament Asot Michael. The MP was stripped of his portfolios as Minister of Tourism, Energy, Economic Development and Investment as soon as he was arrested in the U.K. for questioning regarding alleged bribes by a U.K. investor in exchange for contracts in the Caribbean.
“I certainly hold my ministers and candidates to a higher level of probity, in fact to the highest level of probity. The level of integrity required to be a candidate of the labour party or to serve in my government as a minister is far higher than perhaps other public positions; not that I am saying that at the lower tiers any form of wrongdoing should be condoned or that there should not be consequences for any such wrong doing,” Browne said.
Freeland was reportedly working as an auctioneer with the Customs/Port Authority and the alleged issue about the monies arose in the course of his duty in recent months.
The prime minister said that Freeland intimated that “he had certain peculiar things known to him he would like to explain face to face so I [the prime minister] could get a better understanding of the issue.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)