EDITORIAL: Axed for being a victim?

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Want a way to rile up the conspiracy theorists?  Just give them an excuse which they find unbelievable; especially one, that is meant to explain a situation for which they already have a theory.  That is exactly what the leader of government business in the house, Senator Lennox Weston, did when he sought to defend his colleague Senator, Michael Freeland, from criticism being delivered by opposition senator Chester Hughes.
To bring you up to speed, Senator Hughes was in Parliament lambasting the government for its handling of the Freeland matter and calling upon those in power to give an accounting of what happened.  Up until that point, the public was mostly in the dark as to the details of what led up to the prime minister’s announcement that Senator Freeland would be dropped as a potential party candidate for the upcoming election.  
In that announcement, PM Browne simply stated that “He did an auction and the funds remain unpaid.”  He added, “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.”
For many, at the time, the PM’s announcement seemed more like removing competition for the Rural East seat than being “fair.” They concluded that if this was about fairness, Senator Freeland would have been given an opportunity to explain the situation before he was axed as a potential candidate for the seat currently occupied by Sir Lester Bird and being contested by the prime minister’s wife.
“Another case of shoot first and ask questions later,” they proclaimed, adding, “Asot has company.”  For the conspiracy theorists, they saw nothing but evidence of a grand plan for a reshuffle of power in the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and a gift of the Rural East seat to Maria Bird.  “No primary necessary!” they declared.
That was then, but more recently, additional details have been revealed about Senator Freeland and the auction funds.  According to Senator Weston, “Senator Freeland, is an auctioneer, and he did an auction.  The very night of collecting the [proceeds] he reported a break-in in his vehicle to the police … $160,000 was stolen.  And he went the next day and make arrangements to pay back the sums in three tranches, and has been meeting those requirements in a very straightforward manner.”  According to the good senator, he believed that there was just one payment remaining.    
“Really?!?!” shout the conspiracy theorists as they ask rhetorically, “So Weston is saying that Freeland got the axe because he was the victim of a robbery and offered to pay back the money?”  They continue, “And the PM did not know any of these details when he unceremoniously eliminated him as a potential candidate?”  
That does create some interesting scenarios.  If the PM did not know that one of his appointed senators was the victim of a massive theft, why didn’t he – how couldn’t he know?  If he did know, why take that kind of action against Freeland when the senator was making good on the stolen funds?  And, as an aside, who keeps $160,000 in their car?!?!
This is fodder for the conspiracy theorists and the language being used to describe the entire situation is not fit for publication.  They claim that they do not need to advance any theories because a blind man can see the massive inconsistencies in the explanations given by the the prime minister and Senator Weston.  
We must admit, it is difficult to reconcile the most recent explanation to the earlier reason given for his kick to the political curb.  We cannot imagine why the PM would couch his language in the way that he did when it seems obvious that he would have been told that Senator Freeland was the victim of a robbery and had made arrangements to pay the money back. And, according to Senator Weston, he has been sticking to the financial arrangements made, describing it as “nothing hanky-panky” and “a straightforward matter in terms of a transaction.”
Now, we say “obvious” because it is hard to imagine anyone would seek to mislead the PM in an instance such as this but this is politics and maybe some bit of mischief entered the process and the PM took action based on misinformation or bad advice.  Only he can set the record straight on that.
From where we sit, we would love to hear more from the PM and Senator Freeland on the situation. We have heard enough from our friendly conspiracy theorists – they are beginning to repeat themselves with the same old “I told you so!” line.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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