Automatic dissolution

Antigua’s parliament will dissolve tomorrow

Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer
Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer

ST JOHN’S – Antigua’s Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer says he will allow Parliament to be automatically dissolved tomorrow, and described as “unfortunate” the length of time taken by the OECS Supreme Court to deliver a judgment in two matters that could have had a bearing on the upcoming general election.

In a radio and television broadcast last night, Spencer said also that should the court rule in favour of the government in the appeal matters filed by Gaston Browne, the leader of the main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP), “the court’s extra ordinary and inexplicable delay will prevent any implementation of the proposed boundaries alterations approved by Parliament for this upcoming election”.

He said this is because Section 65(4) of the constitution provides: “If any draft order laid before the House under this section is approved by resolution of the House, the prime minister shall submit it to the governor general, who shall make an order in terms of the draft; and that order shall come into force upon the next dissolution of Parliament after it is made”.

“Irrespective of the nature of the two decisions, it is most unfortunate that, notwithstanding the urgency expressed, including a letter to the registrar general from the attorney general some weeks after the two hearings, the court has only been able to satisfy the public’s quest for and right to a judicial determination some two months after the urgent hearings,” Spencer said in his broadcast.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on April 28 in the British Virgin Islands. It will determine whether the electoral list resulting from the September 30 to November 4, 2013 registration exercise is lawful and can be used for the general election.

The high court had earlier ruled the list lawful, but the ALP appealed contending that the 2010 amendment to the electoral law, under which the registration exercise was conducted, ought not to have been applied retroactively.

But Attorney General Justin Simon, QC, one of the respondents to the ALP’s appeal, had argued that Parliament had the power to change the rules at any given time.

In the other matter, the Court of Appeal had been asked to ascertain whether the Boundaries Commission was fair in its preparation of its report, which the ALP said was biased and unfavourable to the party’s political candidates.

Browne, speaking on a local radio on Tuesday night, said he had no regret in filing the matters before the appeals court, saying it was in the best interest of the nation. (CMC)

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