By Aybee Elpee
“But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend” – Shakespeare
I was listening to Observer Radio on Saturday afternoon when Asot Michael called Serpent’s show to say his piece on the fallout between himself and Gaston Browne that has been playing out in the public domain over the past few weeks.
As sad and gut-wrenching as it was for us, the members and supporters of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, I just hope to God, the powerful lesson from this chilling example of how “man to man is so unjust” in the selfish quest for personal fame and fortune at the expense of human decency, is not lost on us.
You all remember Asot and Gaston like “two peas in a pod” fighting the fire and steel of the ABLP establishment and the communication heavyweights of our party to turn it upside down and wrestle the leadership from the once unstoppable Bird dynasty?
We were there in the first convention that ended in defeat, in the second convention where Gaston replaced Lester Bird as party leader, and we were there through the tumultuous times before and in between as we all fought to breathe new life, strength and hope into a party that the UPP had left down for the count.
Gaston was always the knowledgeable, intelligent articulate advocate for a better Antigua and Barbuda. Asot was always the popular, well connected, Labour Party man with access to money and an ability to organise, mobilise and raise money for the many party causes that needed assistance.
Both men placed what they had on the table and went to battle for a better Antigua and Barbuda under the leadership of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.
And there were the extraordinarily expensive court challenges, rallies, protest action, constituency support initiatives and election campaigns, in respect of which, where money was concerned, all roads led to Asot Michael.
One of our comrades who passed recently told me before the 2018 election “nobody has put more personal money and raised more money for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party than Asot Michael and no politician has done more with his own money for the people of Antigua and Barbuda than Asot Michael”. We know that. Gaston Browne knows that. In fact, you cannot be a member of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and not know that.
Labour party people also know and appreciate that without the political capital and resourcefulness of Asot Michael at home and his leadership connections abroad, Gaston Browne would not be Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda today.
So, we ask, what is it that Gaston Browne knows now about Asot Michael that he did not know when they successfully teamed up as colleagues in opposition to lead the party back into government?
Remember Allen Stanford? I certainly recall it was Asot Michael who placed the interest of Antigua and Barbuda first and foremost in his negotiations with Stanford for the various concessions he sought to grow his investments in Antigua and Barbuda.
So much so that Stanford demanded and succeeded in getting Gaston Browne and Molwyn Joseph to negotiate with him instead. Who got more for the people of Antigua and Barbuda from Stanford? Asot or Gaston? Who got more for himself from Stanford? Asot or Gaston?
I heard MP Michael telling Observer Radio that he “was set” up by PM Browne in the 2017 incident that led to his detention and questioning in London after which he was dismissed from Browne’s Cabinet.
Michael has not been charged with any wrongdoing to date, but after reengagement as a minister following the 2018 election, he was again forced to leave, following a public flare up of allegations linked to the 2017 incident.
Now, who else in the Browne Cabinet is up against any allegation of wrongdoing that compromises the stated Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party commitment to good, corruption free governance?
Which one of them without sin is prepared to stand and honestly say they have not done nor have they aided and abetted any of the things that Michael has taken the risk to do for our party which have attracted the allegations he faces?
What is this obsession all of a sudden with scapegoating on Asot Michael now that Leader Browne obviously feels he no longer needs the ladder provided by his friend to climb to the heights of power and authority?
And who in the leadership of our party will stand on principle against the selfishness, ingratitude and disloyalty to comrades so regrettably epitomised in the party leader’s sworn commitment to leverage the power of the office of Prime Minister to take down Asot Michael? How does any of this benefit the people of Antigua and Barbuda?
Instead of the aggressive Gaston Browne mission to have Asot Michael dismissed from the Antigua Labour Party and hopefully ejected from the political life of Antigua and Barbuda, we the comrades of Labour and the people of Antigua and Barbuda need an independent commission of inquiry into the abuse of public office for private gain since the Gaston Browne administration took the reins of power in 2014.
We need to know who was broke then, but filthy rich now on the backs of poor people in the struggle for ends to meet.
As imperfect as we all are, if the Asot Michael we have known, loved and admired throughout the years as a loyal, committed, high performing Comrade is unfit to be in our Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, then Gaston Browne is unfit to be Prime Minister and the members of his Cabinet are unfit to serve in the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
For whatever you are doing to Comrade Michael to secure the benefits of your power grab you will do to all of us sinners on whose backs you have been climbing to fortune and fame.
On the verge of this transformative period in comparison to which the upheaval that led to the exit of the Bird dynasty will pale into insignificance, I am going to get ready for the next convention of our Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.
Thoughts and views expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.