‘Teco’ says he will fight or go independent

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Member of Parliament for St John’s Rural South, Eustace “Teco” Lake is threatening to go independent or challenge any decision by his colleagues in the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), some of whom want to see him out and replaced by businessman, Darryl Matthew.
His reaction came yesterday, just hours after an ABLP source disclosed to OBSERVER media that senior members of the party agree that the MP isn’t and wouldn’t be fit for the slate come next general elections constitutionally due in 2019.
While Matthew said “I have no comment” when asked about the development, Lake was not so circumspect as he said: “I am a little bit surprised … so you are going to take a known commodity and turn it down for someone that is not a known commodity?”
And he warned: “I am sending the message out loud and clear … I am not backing down, I am running next election and I’m running on the ticket of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party unless they want me to go independent and if I go independent, I guarantee you everyone is going to suffer.”
Lake, the Minister of Works & Housing, has been having kidney problems for several months now. He said his health is not going to impact his plans to run in the next election even it is held a year earlier than constitutionally due.
He said that since OBSERVER media broke the news yesterday, he has been receiving numerous calls and his branch is already calling for a meeting.
The minister said he agreed to have the meeting, but would do so on Monday and not last night as branch members desired.
He said he pushed back the meeting to allow everyone to “cool down a bit” and so that he could “manage the situation” and decide “where we will go from there”.
Lake said he had heard rumours that Matthew had been earmarked to replace him, but said when he spoke to him up to noon yesterday he had no indication whether the plan was confirmed.
“Darryl is one of the people, they spoke to him and I don’t know if he has accepted, I saw him at lunchtime (yesterday) and I was messing with him and he didn’t say anything if he accepted, he just laughed. He didn’t say yes or no,” Lake said.
The MP said that the constituency branch is so riled up following the news of the development, some members have already made it known to him that if he isn’t the candidate again, they will not support at election.
“The feeling I’m getting from the branch right now is that they’re ready to do whatever they need to do. I was just called and that was the message,” he said. “What I don’t want to do is make it contentious at this point … what I need to do is to make sure we go forward in the elections come 2019 or 2018”.
The member of parliament said he knew something was happening underground for some time but never raised the issue until recently.
“I know they were speaking to three people. I don’t want to call anyone’s name … In fact, I know it went beyond three and I knew who they were speaking to but I just never said anything. It came up on Wednesday and with a minister who I know for a fact was pushing me not to be favourable to run next elections,” he disclosed.
“I mentioned it to the Cabinet; the Cabinet confirmed that it pretty much happened and the prime minister said to me ‘if we decide we are not going to have you as part of the ticket next election, then you will still continue to be in office’ … Everything was up and up and I said ‘okay’ because I knew within the next 30 to 60 days I’ll be fine … my campaign has already started,” he said.
The constituency representative said he will not go off quietly as he indicated that the election race will be an uphill task for Matthew, should the latter indeed be chosen by the ABLP given that he, Lake, is the sitting MP and isn’t likely to lose his seat.
Lake also pointed out that under the circumstances, the ABLP would also have to have a primary to decide to move him and he already knows what the outcome is likely to be.
Yesterday, OBSERVER media was told by ABLP sources, that the party has begun making decisions in preparation for general elections constitutionally due in 2019.
While one source said the identification of a replacement is confirmation of a likely early election as hinted previously by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, another says it is simply a strategic move “for a responsible government” given Lake’s condition and the timing for elections.
But Lake stressed that his health is not and would not be an issue for him seeking re-election.
“My health is real good,” he said. “As a matter of fact my doctor called me Tuesday night and gave me some very good news that all my levels are where they’re supposed to be,” he said.
He also disclosed that he no longer has to travel for his kidney transplant and neither does he have to look for a donor.
According to him, he now has a qualified donor and the procedure should be done within a month or two and he expects to be fine by the end of 60 days.
He even spoke about doing so well with his vitamins and following his doctor’s orders that his recovery is going so well he has been taken off of some of the medication he had to use.
Lake’s health is said to be of concern to his colleagues after he fell ill earlier this year and had to be hospitalised for treatment for kidney issues and hypertension. He was placed in a medically induced coma due to the seriousness of the situation at the time.
Since his release from hospital, he said he has been given a strict diet, remains on dialysis and has medical instructions to follow. Currently, he is working a shortened work-week due to his illness.
Meanwhile, sitting MP Sir Lester Bird may find himself in the same position as Minister Lake as the ABLP prepares for the next general elections.
Late yesterday, PM Browne said while no decision has been taken about the replacement of any current MP, by the end of the year, everyone will know their fate.
“The party has not made any determination up to this point on the fitness of Minister Lake to run in the next general elections. It is evident he has some health challenges which we remain hopeful he will overcome. If, however, he is unable to overcome those challenges, then it is obvious that the party will have to find a replacement,” he said.
The ABLP leader said several people have already shown an interest in the seat.
“Up to [yesterday] there’s a particular person who said that in the event the minister is unable to contest the next general elections, we already had two other individuals who are prospects but it is not a case that any decision was taken not to run Teco at this time,” the PM added.
Already, the prime minister said, informal and formal discussions in Cabinet were held to determine the possibilities rather than wait until the last minute to start coming up with ideas.
Browne said though that it is premature for MP Lake to start contemplating challenging his removal if it were to happen, since, according to Browne, it would have to be based on his fitness. “
“If Teco is unfit to run, Teco will not be able to run. We will not run an unfit person … we are not going to be emotional about this decision … so we don’t want to get involved in any discussions about legalities … this is not an offensive posture,” he said.
He said in the event the decision is taken, he would expect Lake to be cooperative and supportive of the party.
“At the same time, we could have elections maybe within less than a year; it is probable. And, I can assure you the labour party will firm up all of its candidates before the end of the year. I can assure you there will be a convention before the end of the year. I can assure you that before the end of this year that the party will be in a state of readiness and if we have candidates who are not fit enough to run, I can assure you that they will not participate in the next general election,” he said.
PM Browne said decisions will be consistent and that what applies to one will apply to all.
He made the statement when asked specifically what will be the approach to Sir Lester Bird whose back problems have rendered it impossible for him to attend many of his government duties at various offices, sometimes, including parliament.
The ABLP is pulling together and likewise the opposition United Progressive Party and the newly formed Democratic National Alliance. The UPP has begun to confirm its candidates, while the DNA said its slate will be announced in August.

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