Another electoral boundaries dispute unresolved in Antigua-Barbuda

Caribbean News Now!

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — The political leader of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), Gaston Browne, described a ruling on electoral boundaries by the high court on Wednesday as “a pyrrhic victory.”

The ABLP challenged the United Progressive Party (UPP) government on its proposed boundaries changes, going back to March 11 2013; at that time, the government sought to deliver a Boundaries Commission report into the hands of the speaker of the House for onward transmission to the prime minister, the governor general and then to Parliament. The high court granted an injunction on March 11, 2013, and halted the procedure until consultations and other proper steps were taken.

The Boundaries Commission, chaired by Clarence Crump of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), was ordered to return to holding consultations and re-submitting another report, which reached the hands of the speaker on June 28, 2013, the last day on which such a report could be submitted.

On Wednesday, the high court deemed the June 28 report to be acceptable.

The ABLP leader has already instructed lawyers to seek a stay of execution of the judgment at the level of the court of appeals, and to enter an appeal against the judgment from the court. The legal submissions have been prepared and were due to be filed early Thursday morning.

The Boundaries Commission, the majority of whose members were appointed by the UPP government, designed 16 constituencies on Antigua that exclude St Peter’s constituency and the St Mary’s North constituency; both constituencies are held by very successful and senior ABLP candidates and parliamentarians. The ABLP argued that the boundaries were gerrymandered and that the consultations held were inadequate. These issues will again come before the Court of Appeals, should a stay be granted and an opportunity to overturn the judgment of the lower court.

A decision of the Court of Appeals in the first instance on a stay of execution may very likely be rendered this weekend, and a hearing granted within four weeks or more.

A similar electoral boundaries dispute is currently before the courts in St Kitts and Nevis.


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