Lawyers say Kelvin Simon’s nomination case highlights challenge for civil servants to run for office

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United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate for St. Mary’s South, Kelvin “Shugy” Simon.
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By Robert A Emmanuel

[email protected]

Whether the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon will be allowed to serve as a member of Parliament, some lawyers said it showed how qualified civil servants can be discouraged from running for office.

Simon has been under the spotlight after the UPP representative for St Mary’s South failed to resign as a member of the civil service where he was working as a guidance counselor in the Ministry of Education before December 28—Nomination Day.

The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and its candidate, Samantha Marshall, contend that Simon was not duly nominated and thus should not have been elected to Parliament.

Last week, Marshall told reporters that the ABLP leadership was moving forward with the case against Simon.

 Simon reported to Observer media that he received court documents two days following that initial statement.

Attorney-at-law Beverly Benjamin-George, on the Big Issues yesterday, argued that the case highlighted the issue that many civil servants who have the knowledge required to serve as a minister, are prevented from doing so.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, the government is the largest employer, so you are literally cutting out fifty percent of the people who are most qualified to run for these offices, so this is one of the reasons we need to revisit this,” she said.

While Benjamin-George was unable to go as far as claiming the UPP ‘dropped the ball’ on this matter, she asserted that had she been advising the political party, that the resignation of Kelvin Simon would have been done “much earlier.”

The UPP has been relying on Section 39.1 of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution which states: that “no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House who…holds or is acting in any public office.”

Meanwhile, Section 10.1 of the Civil Service Act states that “a civil servant is disqualified for membership of the Senate or the House of Representative or any local government body.”

The petition which was raised by a St Mary’s South constituent called for an interim order to prevent Simon from being officially sworn in as a Member of Parliament on February 17.

If an interim order was to prevent Simon from becoming a Parliamentarian, the ABLP would have a nine to seven seat majority until the court could make a final decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law, Stafford Byers, also spoke on the matter, stating that, “the Constitution empowers the House of Representative to permit who can run for election so this could be a special carve-out based on that law.”

“You want to create an open channel for people to run for election because you want to get as wide a talent pool as possible,” he added.

If the court deems Simon’s nomination against the law, a by-election could be called to decide on who will represent the Constituency in Parliament.

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