Asot says only the people can determine his political future

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Member of Parliament for St Peter, Asot Michael.
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Member of Parliament for the St Peter constituency, Asot Michael, has warned that only his constituents can decide his political fate.

One of the country’s longest running MPs, Michael has been at loggerheads with the ruling ABLP for some time. He departed his ministerial post in 2018 amid allegations he had sought bribes from a British investor.

Yesterday, during his contribution to the 2022 budget debate, he told Parliament, “Mr Speaker, only the people of the St Peter constituency will decide whether I continue as their representative – and only the people of Antigua and Barbuda will decide when I hang up the boots of political life and call it a day.”

His remarks were directed at Prime Minister Gaston Browne who confirmed last November that Michael would not run on a labour party ticket in the next general election.

But Michael, after saying how long and to what extent he had improved the lives of his constituents, said a primary, which is a constitutional requirement of the party, would decide whether the people wanted him to remain as their representative. 

He claimed that he had personally used family funds to assist his constituents because even after the ABLP won the 2014 general election, he was asked to “be patient” as he watched other MPs receive funds to improve their communities.

“I reflected Mr Speaker, with great sadness and tribulation, on the appalling treatment of my constituents by my sitting Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party government. I could not believe it,” he said.

“I had to then dig back into the financial resources of my family. I decided that something had to be done.”

At the heart of Michael’s speech yesterday was what he described as “victimisation” by the prime minister which resulted in the further “neglect” and “abandonment” of his constituency.

“We have a crisis of parliamentary representation in this country. A crisis in which the resources of the state needed to finance development across all constituencies equitably are used by ruling party politicians to punish or reward, according to the requirements of their political agenda to control the public will… A crisis in which opposing and/or victimised parliamentary representatives are rendered voiceless and their constituencies suffer for want of government attention to their development needs and interests,” he continued.

“The constituency I represent sits on the horns of that crisis, which hopefully we will find the courage to address and resolve in this 2022 budget debate.

“Today, that same ABLP leader wants to violate the ABLP constitution to dictate to the people of St Peter who their ABLP candidate should be at the next election,” he stressed.

Businessman Rawdon Turner has been pegged by the ABLP to replace Michael in the upcoming elections. But whenever there are more than one potential candidates, a decision has to be made via a primary.

However, Mary-Claire Hurst, the General Secretary of the ABLP, explained to Observer that even before getting to the stage of a primary, candidates must be seen as “suitable” to contest.

She explained that there is a Suitability Committee which determines who is appropriate to run, utilising polls, interviews and community feedback.

“Before you get to a primary you have to be suitable,” she remarked, noting too that the party does not “protect incumbents”.

However, if there is a primary, the constituency branch prepares for the event and whomever wins will run in the upcoming election.

Last year, the ABLP told Michael that he was not eligible to attend meetings because of “several hostile lawsuits” against the party.

Michael last served as Minister of Investment and Trade but was forced to resign from Cabinet in May 2018, after allegations emerged that while he served as Minister of Energy in 2016 he demanded money, a car and campaign financing from British investor, Peter Virdee.

Virdee and his business associate Dieter Trutschler founded the company PV Energy, which at the time signed a contract with the state-funded Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) for a green project to provide solar renewable energy and grid-stabilising energy storage facilities.

Michael was the one who introduced the investor to the government, according to an interview with Prime Minister Browne in May 2018.

Virdee and Trutschler would eventually be targeted for tax fraud. During court proceedings it was revealed that the pair had been secretly taped by law enforcement, making references to payments or gifts to government officials.

International media reported that in one transcript, Virdee said that the ‘’Antiguan energy minister’’ asked for money.

On October 23 2017, Michael was arrested at Gatwick Airport in London. He was subsequently released and has denied any wrongdoing. At the time, Browne said that Michael was relieved of ministerial responsibilities pending the outcome of his arrest, however there has been no news since regarding the circumstances of his arrest.

Meanwhile, in January 2022, Virdee received a suspended sentence of more than three years in prison for his role in a carbon credit VAT fraud.

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1 COMMENT

  1. What I find most interesting about this article is that no mention is made of the Speaker of the House
    having to, on two occasions, reprimand Asot Michael for the manner in which he was attempting to
    deliver his speech yesterday.

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