ABPSA to meet next week following court’s dismissal of vaccine mandate challenge

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By Orville Williams

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The Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) is set to meet next week to discuss the way forward, following a decision by the court to dismiss an application by the body challenging the government’s mandatory vaccination policy.

Soon after the policy was announced, the ABPSA made known its intention to challenge it in court as certain elements, along with amendments to the Public Health Act Regulations, were “unreasonable, irrational and disproportionate among other things”.

The association also disclosed then that it was seeking a “stay of the policy and amendment, pending the final determination of the issue by the High Court”.

That final determination was made on Monday, with reports that the challenge was dismissed on the grounds that the association does not have the authority to put forward the motion – given the ongoing state of emergency – and also that it is not a duly registered body.

ABPSA President, Joan Peters, shared with Observer the details surrounding the lack of registration, also calling their efforts somewhat a victory, despite Monday’s court determination.

“Because of the Covid [pandemic], we weren’t able to have a conference for the last two years. We had set up a conference for this year, but it didn’t come off, because just as we were about to have it, the [infections started rising] and they cut down on [gathering] numbers.

“That caused us not to be duly registered, because the finances had to go to the conference to be approved and then we’d take it to the Labour Department.

“So, it’s just a little technical issue that happened, but we can say we won, at least in terms of being able to take the matter to court,” Peters explained.

Meanwhile, Attorney General and Labour Minister, Steadroy Benjamin, spoke on the court ruling and reiterated that any similar attempts at challenging the mandatory vaccination policy would end just the same.  

“I’m not surprised at the decision [and] the judge’s findings. In my view, the action was frivolous and had no merit, so it was doomed to failure.

“I said so in Parliament; any matter by any other organization would have the same result, bearing in mind the situation in Antigua and Barbuda with respect to Covid, I feel that.”

In its meeting next week, the ABPSA will decide whether to escalate the challenge to the vaccination policy any further.

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