By Robert A Emmanuel
United Progressive Party representative-elect for the St Mary’s South constituency, Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon, says he is on solid legal ground as controversy over his nomination moves to the courts.
Simon’s comments followed a threat from the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) that turned into concrete action as he confirmed to Observer media that the ABLP served him with court documents on Tuesday.
The ABLP claims Simon was not eligible to run for office as he was a civil servant at the time of being officially nominated. Simon resigned from his post with the Ministry of Education a fortnight before the January 18 election.
“I know this is going to be a waste of time—a waste of time of the court’s time, a waste of my time and certainly a waste of their time—and I know that we are in good standing against their claim,” he told Observer yesterday.
Simon described the legal action as a “desperate attempt” by the ABLP to overturn the election result for the area; Simon defeated the ABLP’s incumbent Samantha Marshall by nearly 200 votes.
He claimed the ABLP risked an even larger defeat at the polls if it continued to pursue this matter.
“The people would have rejected her and going the legal way for a battle I know they are going to lose is just wasting more time and agitating the people because word on the ground is that, even among their supporters, they are just wasting their time…worst case scenario, we go back to the polls and it is going to be a bigger defeat,” he said.
Prior to official confirmation of the legal action, Marshall – who was recently appointed as a government senator, Minister of State within the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation and the Environment, as well as Leader of Government Business – hinted at the move to Observer media.
“The leadership of the [ABLP] has decided to go forward and challenge the nomination of Mr Kelvin Simon.
“I think this is a critical case and something that needs to be determined within our jurisdiction so there is a clear case law on where to go,” Marshall said on Monday.
The ABLP had been threatening legal action since Nomination Day on December 28 when Prime Minister Gaston Browne told reporters that papers were “being prepared so that in the unlikely event he was to win, those papers will be filed the following day”.
Simon held a position as a professional guidance counsellor for young people at the time of his official nomination. Within hours of being nominated, a letter was sent to the Electoral Commission by law firm Marshall and Company stating that being a civil servant disqualifies a person from becoming a member of the House of Representatives under the Civil Service Act.
At the time, Simon and the UPP said the law only applies to being elected and that there is no such restriction on being nominated, accusing the government of a “smear campaign” to deter people from voting for Simon.
The ABLP lost several seats in last week’s election, resulting in a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives.