The Central Executive of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) has condemned the island’s police for what it calls the defamation of party officials and supporters, including Guyanese-born diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders, saying it is another chapter in the political harassment of its leadership.
The ALP’s condemnation comes in the wake of a senior Antigua and Barbuda attorney slamming a police statement naming Sanders as a person of interest in the IHI debt settlement scandal.
The Antigua police last week named former Antigua Prime Minister Lester Bird and Sanders among persons of interest in a probe into a fraud case. The police had made a special appeal for Sanders to make himself available to them on the island. Sanders, through his lawyers, has since issued a statement saying that he is “willing to answer questions from the Antigua police that are properly put to him.” He later told the Antigua Observer that he will take legal action over the police statement.
The ALP, in a release on Monday, said that the police statement, issued some seven years after the allegations were made, “ignored all correct police procedures and court rules and systematically violated every rule of common decency and the rule of law” by naming several persons “who have not been charged with a single offence” in an investigation into the settlement of a debt to Japanese company IHI.
“The statement reflects a natural political agenda which is designed to distract attention from the Baldwin Spencer government’s failure to deliver any benefits to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and their destruction of the economy,” the ALP said.
The ALP believes that it is significant that this statement was issued “some 7 years after the 2004 election and years of harassment, searches and civil suits.” It said: “Worse yet, after two days of posting the police statement on the government’s official website, the said statement mysteriously disappeared without explanation.”
It noted that the removal of the statement “is far worse than the alleged disappearance of files in 2004 because it shows that the UPP government cannot defend the statement, and may well have realized that its publication proved a common bond or some collusion between the police and the political branch of the government of Antigua and Barbuda.”
The ALP said that the investigation into the IHI debt settlement matter, which took place 15 years ago, has been a deliberate strategy of the UPP regime to “undermine and smear” members of the Labour party. It noted that with unemployment “as high as 20 percent, with no investment in the country since they have been in office, with the huge debts they have piled-up, with taxation higher than it has ever been in Antigua and Barbuda’s history, and with absolutely nothing to show for it except corrupt multi-million dollar projects that brought no benefit to Antigua and Barbuda, the UPP knows that they cannot win another general election.” As a result, it said the UPP strategy is to try to destabilize and smear the Labour Party, its leader, former Prime Minister Lester Bird, Robin Yearwood, Asot Michael “and others, such as Sir Ronald Sanders, through slander and libel.”
The party said that Spencer’s hiring of Guyanese attorney Sanjeev Datadin to be the special constable in the investigation is a “complete disregard” of the law governing special constables and the constitutional office of the DPP.
The ALP noted that this special constable will now be subject to orders of other officers in the force. “This act further strengthens the position of the ALP that this has always been a political witch-hunt and is now an attempt at political lynching,” the ALP charged. It said that the rule of law and constitutionally-dictated legal procedures “are now being openly raped and violated by the Baldwin Spencer regime to desperately try to hold on to power.”
According to the party, it is now clear that “this is no police investigation; it is a politically-controlled event on which millions of dollars of tax payers’ money have been spent on an abandoned Commission of Inquiry, an abandoned civil suit in Miami, the mock trial in 2009, the dormant civil suits in Antigua, a multi-million dollar report done five years ago by a forensic auditor, and now a special constable. This is an outrageous and indecent abuse of power.”
These millions of dollars, it added, could have been spent for the benefit of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
“The Labour Party will take an active role in exposing the wrong-doings of the UPP regime, and any trumped-up charges they may force their puppets to fabricate or institute for political purposes,” the ALP said.
The party also called on Spencer to explain his role in the appointment of Datadin. The party said the fact that both the Attorney General and the National Security Minister deny any involvement in the appointment of Datadin, who they admit is the personal lawyer of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, emphasizes the political nature of the matter.
“While these government ministers are making a scapegoat of the Commissioner of Police, Vere Browne, for the wrongful appointment, he would hardly have appointed Prime Minister Spencer’s personal lawyer without some instruction,” the ALP declared.
“Prime Minister Spencer must now tell the nation whether he knew and approved of Datadin’s underhanded appointment and, if not, why not,” it added.