Spokesmen clash over revoked honours

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Representatives of three political parties in Antigua & Barbuda engaged in fingerpointing yesterday on the Big Issues programme concerning the revocation of national awards which were previously conferred on Anthony Bailey and other members of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George.
The Government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst started off by acknowledging the fact that the leaders of Antigua & Barbuda were at fault.
“These are good people, they have not done any harm to Antigua and Barbuda, they have not done any wrong in Antigua and Barbuda, all the decisions were ours and we as nationals of Antigua and Barbuda and the leaders, we learn to take whatever blame comes. We cannot continue to think that other people caused us to do wrong,” Hurst stated.
Leon Chaku Symister, legal spokesperson for the United Progressive Party (UPP) stated that the law was clear as to who could receive a national award but the law was ignored by the Gaston Browne administration in November 2014. He said that the government decided to look the other way because of the money promised to them by the Constantinian Order.
He added that the law specified that the recipients of national awards either have to be citizens of Antigua & Barbuda or persons who would have given meritorious service. He said that based on these specifications the members of the Constantinian Order did not qualify for national honours in Antigua & Barbuda — a point he said that was raised by the UPP before the honours were conferred.
Hurst also defended the work done by the Sacred Military Constantinian Order in Antigua.
“The [St Joseph’s] Academy School has a new wing that is as a result of the same Constantinian Order; a community centre is under construction in Hatton it was as a result of that same Constantinian Order and even another church which is under construction received more than US $135,000 to help with repairs.
“So, when you look at what they have done, we recognise that there was good in this for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Anthony Bailey has not done Antigua any harm. We can tell you that he did do a tremendous amount of good,” Hurst explained.
However, this claim was immediately refuted by Symister and Anthony Stuart, a member of the Democratic National Alliance.
Symister said that the Constantinian Order had pledged money to go towards the building of the new wing at the St Joseph Academy but only gave a small fraction of the money promised.
He said that the school used its own money to complete the wing, with expectations of getting the money back — money they are yet to receive, according to Symister.
He added that the Good Shepherd Church center at Hatton sits unfinished and over grown with bushes after the Constantinian Order only worked on it for six to eight weeks and stopped even though Hurst himself had promised that it would be completed and opened.
Symister said the Order was also going to renovate the St Joseph’s Catholic Church but nothing has happened to date.
Stuart concurred that no money was ever received from the Constantinian Order to help with the church. He also placed some of the blame on the UPP since the conversation about granting the awards to the Constantinian Order began with the Baldwin Spencer administration.
Stuart, a former UPP senator added that all the revocation of awards over the years brings to the fore that the entire system by which individuals are awarded national honours needs to be revised. He said that the image of the country depends on this.
In a letter written three weeks ago to Anthony Bailey and other members of the Constantinian Order, Governor General Sir Rodney Williams informed them that their awards had been revoked.

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