The emotions that affected the members of the Faithful Nationals coalition ranged from depression to almost near panic mode yesterday after the group received written notice that the police had denied its request to stage a peaceful protest through St John’s on the eve of Independence, tomorrow, October 31st.
Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell told OBSERVER media the reason for the denial in the first instance.
“There were just some technical issues that [the Deputy Commissioner] needed clarification on and we clarified those matters.”
Subsequently, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Albert Wade expressed satisfaction that the concerns had been addressed and gave the nod for the group to proceed with its activity.
“What we have from him is an informal response,” the UPP Leader said, indicating that the group had been given verbal assurances that permission for tomorrow’s event will be granted.
When asked about the specific concerns of the police, Lovell said: “I don’t want to say too much until we have a letter in our hand… because [the deputy commissioner] does have the power to make changes… minor or otherwise, and we don’t know what changes he may want to make.”
The letter granting permission for the march was expected to be delivered to the coalition group last night; however, up to the time of going to press, this had not been done.
The application to stage tomorrow’s event was submitted last Friday, October 25th – one day after more 5,000 Faithful Nationals and other protesters snaked through the streets of St John’s during an Independence Solidarity March that demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the policies and perceived failures of the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, expressed his dissatisfaction with the timing of this week’s planned protest said, “protests during our country’s independence constitute an unfaithful act that is disrespectful.”
Lovell also addressed Prime Minister Browne’s caution thus: “We believe the timing for the march is very apt. Interdependence is more than a flag, it is more than an anthem, it’s more than just the symbol of Independence,” the UPP leader said.
“We have to make certain that Independence is more than a symbolic occasion and we’re giving substance by raising substantive issues relating to the quality of Independence that we have… the quality of governance that we have.”
Lovell pointed out many issues that have fuelled the protests, to include the ill-treatment of Barbudans, the Global Ports arrangement, the YIDA agreement, and the “blatant self-enrichment by members of the administration”, as well as the latest Customs and Excise corruption scandal which he described as “an affront to our sovereignty.”
“Independence is the right time this,” Lovell reiterated, “because it forces us to take a real serious look at what is meant by independence”.