Editorial: A reward for no work

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The prime minister, in his attempt to explain how his wife Maria Bird-Browne was able to secure her bid to become the Antigua and Barbara Labour Party candidate for Rural East – a seat currently held by her uncle, former prime minister and living hero Sir Lester Bird – said, she “did no work.”  The tone of delivery seemed more boastful than a statement of fact but regardless of how you perceive his intonation, the fact is Maria Bird-Browne was gifted the ABLP candidacy not because of hard work in the constituency or her political experience but because of who she is.
This has rankled the ire of a great many as they view the move as a slap in the face of the rank and file party members who work hard and expect to be rewarded for their efforts at some time in their political career.  And if not “rewarded,” to at least be given a fair shot at achieving their dreams of representing their party.
More than a few are baffled by the PM’s explanation and that coming from the branch executive. According to the executive in a letter to the party’s chairperson, they “utilized a poll that was conducted by Cadres in October 2017, to determine the most suitable candidate to contest the Rural East seat at the next General Elections.”  It has not been lost on anyone that the poll seems to have been conducted in secret and the scope of engagement and criteria have not been made public.
Interestingly and conveniently enough, the PM has stated that his wife was only included in the poll as a “benchmark” to “see how the other two were doing.”  That, the PM says, was “the thinking of the institution.” The point, and the boast, being that Maria Bird-Browne is the most popular and the best option to win the seat and she doesn’t even have to work at it.  Like the party, people will just give her the seat.
The executive stated: “During the examination of the poll, we noted that Mr. Michael Freeland tied with Mrs. Maria Bird-Browne for first place. The candidate with the second highest support was Ms. Shenella Govia, followed by Alincia Grant in third place.”  
The PM has stated that the seat was reserved for a female but a decision was taken to give Senator Freeland the seat; that is, until his dear wife decided that she wanted to run in Uncle Lester’s seat. That decision meant that Freeland had to go, and go he did. Taking advantage of Freeland’s bad luck at being the victim of a robbery, the PM announced that he would not be considered as a candidate in the upcoming election. Although, according to Senator Weston, he did no wrong, Freeland was deemed to have “integrity challenges” by the PM and the ABLP Rural East branch executive and was kicked to the political curb in favour of the prime minister’s wife. Think of that for a moment.  We have a man with “integrity challenges” appointed to the Senate.
None of this is speculation or propaganda (except maybe from the ABLP).  All of this information is from the ABLP horse’s mouth. It was the PM who made the revelation that his wife “did no work.” It was Senator Weston who detailed how Freeland was the victim of a robbery and was paying back the money due to personal integrity. And it was the PM who announced that Senator Freeland was axed as a candidate, prior to the branch executive labelling him as someone with “integrity challenges” and eliminating him as a potential candidate.
In response, candidate hopeful and President of the Senate, Senator Alincia Williams-Grant, has strongly objected to the process expressing her “grave disappointment” in a letter to the branch chairperson that “no consideration has been given to fairness, natural justice and no regard whatsoever has been paid to the express provisions of the Constitution of the ABLP …”  She described that process as “a slap in the face of all that is fair, just and reasonable,” adding, “your actions reek of procedural irregularity and are utterly unconstitutional.” She has demanded that a primary be called.
Her most stinging comments came at the end of her letter where she stated, “I submit to you that you have wronged, not just me, but you have done the people of Rural East and the ABLP a disservice. The people will judge you; history will judge you and reject your legacy!”  We note the exclamation point.
We expect that nothing will change and the senators will either be ignored or placated in some way.  The unfortunate thing in all of this is the message being delivered to the people. In the world of politics and power, it does not matter how hard you work; it is always trumped by who you know, what your last name happens to be and who you are married to. Like any good monarchy.

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