Editorial: PM Browne misguided as usual

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The recent secretive agreement between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and Global Ports Holding (Antigua) Limited (GPH) has generated much debate and consternation since the terms of the agreement came to light. In fact, the opposition to the agreement has been widespread and has spawned the creation of an entity called the FAITHFUL NATIONALS comprised of individuals and organizations from a wide cross-section of  the society.

On the 30th day of April 2019, three concerned citizens in the persons of James Spencer, Clefrin Colbourne and Sir George Ryan brought a judicial review claim against the GPH agreement through their attorney Harold Lovell, leader of the United Progressive Party. Of course, because of the attorney who represents the Claimants, the government believes the claim lacks merit and is purely political.

From the moment the filing of the claim became public knowledge, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, his chief-of-staff Lionel ‘‘Max’’ Hurst, and other apologists and propagandists for the ruling party on Pointe

FM Radio station commenced their ridicule of the claim – some even before or without reading a copy of it. As if they were all reading from the same prepared script, their refrain was the same.

What was the refrain you may ask? It was Max Hurst himself during his weekly Cabinet briefing who stated that the claim was frivolous and vexatious, poorly drafted and failed to ask for the remedy of an injunction. This was repeated by the Prime Minister and the propanandists, apologists and some sycophants who called into the Pointe FM Radio station. While these people, including the Prime Minister, can be excused for the idiocy of their statement, Max Hurst should not be readily excused since he is an American-trained attorney and should know better. Not asking for the remedy of an injunction does not mean the claim is weak or frivolous.

In fact, injunctive relief would not be appropriate in the judicial review claim since what is being challenged by the Claimants is the lawfulness of the actions by the government before entering into the agreement with GPH.

A single example will support my contention: Before the government could have entered into an agreement with GPH, it is a requirement of the Tenders Board Act Chapter 424A of the Laws of Antigua and Barbuda that the government should first put out for tender the services that it wishes to have undertaken on its behalf. This was not done. To get around the requirement for tender, the government – as required by the Tenders Board (Amendment) Act 2002 – would have to seek an exemption from the tenders’ procedure. This was  not done either.

What this means, therefore, is that the government acted unlawfully when it entered into the agreement with GPH. Are you surprised by this? I would posit that you should not, since from 2014 after the government assumed office, its actions have invariably been at variance with the Rule of Law.

There are many other instances of the unlawful actions by the government before they entered into the agreement with GPH, which was signed on the 31st day of January, 2019. However, as I indicated earlier, one example should suffice to support my contention.

What the action by the Claimants is seeking to do, therefore, is to ask the Court for several declarations that the actions of the government, in not adhering to the requirements of the law before entering into the agreement with GPH, are null and void and of no effect.

Ultimately, the essential remedy that the Claimants will be seeking is an Order of certiorari, given the several unlawful actions of the government, to quash the agreement reached between the government and GPH for all its extant illegalities. Injunctive relief, as the Prime Minister and his apologists and propagandists seem to think is a necessity, only goes to underscore their ignorance of the law.

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