St Phillip’s South MP puts challengers on notice

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Member of Parliament for St Phillip’s South Willmoth Daniel has put to bed doubts he will contest the impending general election and has warned challengers it will be “difficult” to “unseat” him.

Disclosure of the plan to “run again” and the bold pronouncement of his stronghold in the rural constituency came Tuesday, as Parliament debated the 2012 Budget for the second straight day.

A number of “episodes” – including Daniel’s absence from the Lower Chamber during a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer last November – had cast doubt about him running on the ruling United Progressive Party ticket.

The general election is constitutionally due in early 2014.

Daniel’s boast of retaining the seat is based on having won the 2004 poll “two to one” after a defeat of similar dimensions years earlier.

“I must have been doing something good.  I have demonstrated over the years that irrespective of who you support, I don’t hold it against you,” the parliamentarian said.

Daniel, also the minister of health, is a senior member of the UPP who resigned from the post of deputy prime minister back in 2009 amid public criticism over the rental of a new building to house his ministry.

Declaration of his candidature when the election bell is rung was a sidebar in a speech dominated by matters concerning the health portfolio.

Daniel called for an urgent review of the management, staff, programmes and plans at the country’s lone hospital since “they are not working.”

He spoke of mounting public complaints of poor service at Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) and referenced seeing, first-hand, patients having to wait for “quite some to time” to be attended by a physician.

“I would like government to seriously look at or set up some sort of committee to see how best we can remedy the problems,” the minister of health urged.

Daniel acknowledged that Mount St John’s, which opened on February 2009, is a new hospital and is still going through teething problems.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)