For the first time in months, independent candidate and former Antigua Labour Party (ALP) candidate Asot Michael has lost a legal challenge. He has failed in his attempt to have the courts declare ALP’s selection of Rawdon Turner as its St. Peter candidate as illegitimate.
Last year, the Labour Party selected Turner to run on its ticket – in place of Michael, who had been at odds with the institution and its political leader, Gaston Browne.
Accordingly, Michael had filed contempt of court proceedings against the Supervisor of Elections, Dame Lorna Simon, and the Returning Officer for St. Peter for allowing Turner’s nomination on Wednesday, December 28, 2022.
According to Michael, this decision by High Court Judge Justice Dia Forrester of Grenada in the matter heard on Monday, January 16, is not a vindication of the unlawful conduct of the Antigua Labour Party, as is being alleged by ALP Chairman Paul “Chet” Greene.
Michael says the ruling did not validate Turner as the legitimate Labour Party candidate since neither the ALP nor Turner was before the court.
The action was taken against the two senior election officials regarding a High Court decision that ought to have prevented Turner’s nomination as the candidate for the ALP in St. Peter, he says.
Michael claims that the court gave the defendants the benefit of the doubt that they acted in contempt by disobeying an order from a matter in which they were not parties. He says that the court was unable to determine whether those responsible were actually in breach of the order.
The May 2022 order granted an interim declaration that Turner was not selected in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Constitution of the Antigua Labour Party.
The judge had ruled, “The interim injunction to stand until the hearing and determination of this matter or until there are fresh actions/proceedings initiated and conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Constitution of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party”.
The independent and four-time elected candidate says that the matter was determined in December 2022, and the order was never varied and therefore stood to be obeyed by rule of law.
In spite of this loss, Michael says he “reserves his right to bring fresh contempt of court proceedings, to include ALP executive members Gaston Browne, Mary-Claire Hurst and Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst and Turner.”
Meanwhile, the Labour Party has welcomed the court’s decision adding that it validates the Party’s determination to continue, free of any hindrance, with Turner as the legitimate and only candidate representing the Party on the St Peter ticket.
In the meantime, Dame Lorna is breathing a sigh of relief at the court’s decision. She told state media last night (January 16) she was relieved since she and the Returning Officer could have been sent to prison or fined.
Dame Lorna says that this is the first time she has been taken before the court in her capacity as the Supervisor of Elections.