Months away from the next general election, the leadership of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) remains locked in a struggle with the party’s own rules to prevent the sitting Member of Parliament for St Peters, Asot Michael, from contesting the seat as a candidate of the ABLP.
Political Leader Gaston Browne, Chairman Paul Chet Greene and General Secretary Mary-Clare Hurst have been cautioned by the court to ensure that candidate selection is in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Constitution of the ABLP
Browne, Greene and Hurst are the defendants in an action brought by MP Michael seeking relief for the damage he suffered through ABLP leadership actions that violated his rights as a member of the ABLP.
On May 11th, 2022, High Court Judge Marissa Robertson ruled as follows:
1) The defendants/respondents are hereby restrained by themselves, their servants and/or agents or otherwise from holding out directly or indirectly any person to represent the constituency of St. Peter on behalf of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party who is not selected in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Constitution of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party;
2) An interim declaration is granted that Rawdon Turner was not selected in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party. The interim injunction to stand until the hearing and determination of this action or until there are fresh actions/proceedings initiated and conducted in accordance with the Revised Constitution of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.
3) The Defendants’ application filed on 13th April 2022 is dismissed with costs quantified in the sum of $3000.00 payable by the defendants to the claimant. Such costs to be paid within twenty-one days.
In adjudicating this matter, the Court made it clear that it is not being asked to address its mind to the suitability of individuals to represent a political party.
Instead, “the court is being asked by the applicant/claimant to preserve or to protect what the applicant/claimant perceives to be a likely infringement of his rights as afforded to him under the Revised Constitution.
“This court notes that there is no dispute that the parties to these proceedings are members of the ABLP and subscribe to the Revised Constitution. In this regard the court is only concerned with “contractual” relationship between the parties and the evidence as it stands at present regarding the propriety of process of selection”.
Browne, Greene, Hurst an Michael all agree that Antigua and Barbuda is a democratic State and they are members of a political organization that is in the seat of governance and wants to remain there. Accordingly, they must lead by example of commitment to the principles of democratic governance.
According to the High Court Judge:
“The tenets of the ABLP are publicly stated to the electorate in the Revised Constitution of the ABLP. These tenets not only treat with the philosophy of the ABLP but also with the process of selection of the candidates for elections. There is no reason that the members of the ABLP ought not to be held to the commitment which ABLP has made in its Revised Constitution”.
And that is the crux of the matter.
“The issue is whether the respondents have acted contrary to the Revised Constitution of the ABLP in the selection of Mr. Turner to represent the ABLP. Mr. Turner can present himself as a candidate and/or the ABLP can present Mr. Turner to be its candidate for an election but if a candidate is being presented as a candidate on behalf of the ABLP the Revised Constitution indicates how that selection is to be effected.
“Prior to concluding, this court notes that in its Revised Constitution the ABLP identifies as one of its aims and objectives is to operate in the context of the ‘due process of law’. Due process of law and the rule of law are concepts that co-exist in any democratic society. Having stated the commitment to ‘due process of law’ the balance of justice favours an order from the court which supports the ABLP maintaining its commitment”.