By Robert A. Emmanuel
The Chairperson of the United Progressive Party (UPP) said she has no qualms over the legal challenge brought by the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) against newly elected St Mary’s South MP Kelvin Simon.
Speaking on the Voice of the People yesterday, D Gisele Isaac said that the party had been expecting the ABLP challenge given public statements it had made prior to the election.
Simon has been under the spotlight as he was still a member of the civil service — where he was working as a guidance counsellor in the Ministry of Education — on Nomination Day on December 28. He quit the post a fortnight before the election on January 18.
But the ABLP maintains he should have resigned before he was officially nominated, according to the law.
“We were not taken by surprise at all and … just like they have their legal team, we have our own legal team … and I am not at all nervous … it will take its course, and I know that in the end [Kelvin Simon] will be victorious,” Isaac said.
Meanwhile, Franz DeFreitas, the UPP candidate for the St John’s City South constituency, voiced umbrage with the idea of civil servants being disenfranchised from running for elected office.
“This idea of civil servants not being able to participate in the political process is unconstitutional because in Antigua it is nearly 50 percent of the working population that work for the government,” DeFreitas noted.
“You do not become the actual candidate until you become nominated, so the whole idea that people can resign from a job not knowing if they are going to become the candidate and then give up all they have invested for so long is almost ludicrous on its face,” he added.
DeFreitas also claimed that the UPP was ready to take the legal challenge “all the way”, a stance which was reiterated by the UPP Chair.
“It would be precedent-setting, not only in Antigua and Barbuda but throughout the Commonwealth because many Commonwealth countries may have similar provisions that affect them, at least certainly in the Caribbean,” he noted.
New York-based attorneys-at-law, Beverly Benjamin-George and Stafford Byers, who also serve as members of Antiguans and Barbudans for Constitutional Reform and Education (ABCRE), said the case highlighted the obstacles for qualified civil servants to serve as elected officials.