Decisions of tribunals who disciplined MP Michael, removing him from ALP slate, are ‘null and void,’ Justice Drysdale rules

Asot Michael, Parliamentary Representative for St. Peter and embattled Antigua Labour Party (ALP) member, has won the court case in which he challenged decisions made by his party’s executive against him and has been granted prescribed costs.

The High Court has set aside the ALP’s machinations to prevent Michael from contesting the St. Peter seat on its ticket in the upcoming General Election.

In her ruling, delivered on Monday, December 12, Justice Jan Drysdale said the two “purported” disciplinary tribunals engaged to deal with complaints brought against the MP were illegally appointed; hence, their decisions were null and void.

Justice Drysdale also said that the disciplinary tribunal referred to in a Notice dated September 29, 2020, and under the hand of Lionel “Max” Hurst, was unlawfully constituted and in breach of the provisions of the ALP’s Constitution.

The disciplinary tribunal referred to in a Notice dated October 28, 2020, and under the hand of Barry Knight, was also deemed by the judge to be unlawfully constituted and in breach of the party’s constitutional provisions.

“Any decisions made or purported to be made by the Tribunals are null and void,” the court ruled.

The legal challenge by MP Michael to stop the disciplinary proceedings has been before the court for over two years, with injunctive relief being granted on separate occasions.

Michael, the four-term MP for St. Peter, accuses ALP Political Leader Party Gaston Browne of undermining his “harmonious relationship” with the party, and forcing him to take court actions to protect his rights as a member.

According to the MP, “This includes my right to contest the upcoming election as a candidate of the [ALP] and, in particular, the right to not have another person unlawfully run in my place.”

While Browne and the party’s executive contended that this matter was an internal political fight and should not be determined in court, Justice Drysdale disagreed, saying it was a contractual matter by virtue of the party’s constitution being binding on its members.

Accordingly, Michael, regardless of his political status, was entitled to pursue it in the court, she ruled.

In commenting on the credibility of the witnesses, the Judge found Michael to be more believable than Lionel Hurst – an assessment of the ALP Spokesperson that has gone viral on social media since the ruling was made public.

Justice Drysdale described the MP as more credible, frank and forthright and unwavering in his evidence.  In comparison, she wrote that Hurst appeared to be evading the truth as it related to the provision of Minutes for the ALP’s 2015 and 2018 conventions.

She said she found it strange that Hurst, who was the only witness for the respondents, was not aware of what documentation he had provided to the court for consideration.

Michael was represented by Kema Benjamin of Marshall & Co., while Dr. David Dorsett represented the respondents – Browne, Hurst and Mary-Claire Hurst.

Attorneys and pundits say they are waiting to see the Labour Party’s next move, as they claim that ignoring the Judge’s ruling would be flagrant contempt of court.  

One election-watcher says the ruling might have “punctured a wheel on the Big Red Machine,” since elections are predicted to be held in a matter of weeks.  

Businessman Rawdon Turner is the Labour Party’s replacement candidate for Michael.