The rift between the ABLP and Asot Michael widens

“The rift between the ‘Dear’ Comrade Leader of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party, Gaston Browne, and MP for St Peter Asot Michael, widens.” (File photos)
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The fissure between Asot Michael and the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party is growing, with the member of parliament (MP) once again threatening to consult his lawyers concerning the actions of the party.

In a letter to the embattled MP dated October 22 and signed by the ABLP General Secretary, Mary Claire Hurst, Michael was informed of a meeting taking place on the said day and admonished that he was “not eligible to attend.”

The letter referenced “several hostile lawsuits” which Michael lodged in the High Court against the party’s leader – Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the general secretary and the chairman of the ABLP Tribunal – Lionel Hurst.

“Your disruptive and hostile behaviour towards the party and its leadership has created a chasm that prevents you from playing any useful role within the executive body of the ABLP,” the general secretary added in the letter to Michael.

The St Peter MP was also warned that should he seek to attend the meeting, he would be removed from the property by law enforcement, since his presence would be considered “trespassing.”

Michael was quick to respond with a letter of his own. In his missive the following day, he stated that the terms the general secretary outlined in her letter amounted to “punitive/disciplinary” action against him, which he said “contravenes the express terms, if not the spirit of the injunction, which currently enjoins you personally, as well as Comrade Leader and Comrade Lionel “Max” Hurst as Chairman of the Tribunal.”

In November of 2020, the High Court granted an interim injunction that prevented the tribunal of the Labour Party from taking disciplinary action against the St Peter MP.

High Court Judge Rohan Phillip said that the party was restricted from continuing with the proceeding, which was started by the ABLP tribunal, following comments the MP made about the party and its leadership in September.

As a result, the tribunal is also not able to put into effect any disciplinary decision that has been made regarding the MP’s actions.

That September, Michael called Observer’s on-air programme – The Snake Pit- where he made numerous accusations against Prime Minister Gaston Browne, and even challenged the party’s leadership by calling for a convention to be held. It served as another blow to the already strained relationship between Browne and Michael which trailed a tumultuous lead-up.

Just last week, during a sitting of Parliament, in yet another public jab, MP Michael challenged the PM Browne to be “more statemanlike” in his utterances concerning the vaccine.

In light of the latest development, Michael said he is “yet again forced to seek legal counsel to protect the rights of myself as a member of this party and the rights of the constituents” that he represents.

He assured the general secretary that while he was unsure of what course the process would take, he will not be intimidated in any way by the “bully tactics conveyed” in her letter to him, and he challenged Hurst to “be honest” and inform the public not only why he was being excluded, but why he was interviewed by law enforcement in England and “at whose instigation.”

“If you allege that my exclusion from office is because I am going to be charged by the British or the Americans explain to me why I have not so been charged in the last four years,” he queried.

Michael was questioned about bribes that a UK national allegedly paid for business contracts in the Caribbean in the UK on October 23 of 2017.

The St Peter MP resigned from his position as Minister of Trade and Investment within the ABLP Cabinet effective May 17 the following year, amid allegations that he demanded money from property tycoon, British investor, Peter Virdee.

Michael has vehemently denied seeking bribes as suggested in the court proceedings in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Michael claims that his relationship with PM Browne soured because he questioned the source of his wealth and claimed that his constituency is being sidelined due to the rift.

“The people of St. Peter, who have elected me to Parliament on the ABLP ticket in four consecutive general elections, ought not to be marginalised in this way. The Constituency of St. Peter is being neglected and ill-treated simply because Comrade Leader does not like my criticism of his behaviour in office,” he added in his letter to the party’s general secretary. “You condone and add to this unlawful behaviour when you carry out these actions. I invite you both instead to engage me on the issues. If it is corruption that you allege that disqualifies me, then explain your own wealth and that of the Leader, and how he has legitimately acquired it since coming into office. I know where my wealth came from and can gladly answer for same.”

Michael also charged that the party has departed from “comradeship” and is now aligning with personalities, which he believed is detrimental to the organisation.

He added that he will continue to bring actions in the court to “hold all accountable” and noted that while he does not seek to bring the party into disrepute publicly, he “must let all know the unlawful behaviour that is becoming so readily acceptable by comrades today.”

The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party has yet to publicly respond to Michael’s letter.

Observer reached out to Lionel Hurst on the matter, however, he said he was not aware of the document at the time.

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