ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Leader of the Opposition Antigua Labour Party Lester Bird has announced that he will be holding a retreat of the organisation’s leaders and thinkers on Sunday, September 30, in an effort to iron out the issues that have caused anxiety among supporters.
“We are in the process of preparing the constituencies for a convention in the latter part of November 2012, and placing the right men and women in the appropriate slots as candidates very shortly afterwards,” he said in a press statement yesterday.
The communiqué did not, however, specify what issues have been causing “anxiety among supporters.” The issue of who will lead the ALP into the next general election has been a topic of public discourse for some time now.
The former prime minister said he has readied himself to lead the opposition party to victory in the next general election constitutionally due in March 2014.
“There isn’t a single issue with which I am not engaged or have not assigned to a colleague,” he said.
“The ALP leadership therefore requires experience of a varied sort, but also a certain equanimity and the ability to draw upon the party’s strengths to bind the wounds which, from time to time, have caused fracturing.”
In the press release, Bird said that while he is very much able to perform the duties as leader he “would step aside the moment my doctors felt that such tasks were likely to exceed my limitations.”
Speaking to OBSERVER Media, Bird added, his health notwithstanding, the final decision on who will lead the party will be decided at the ALP convention in November. He said that there is no surety he will be chosen to lead.
“It will depend upon the delegates at the convention and whether or not they think that I should continue to be the leader.”
Bird has lately been affected by health issues including a herniated disc, making it hard for him to stand for long periods of time. He was notably absent from the opening of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean (OECS) Regional Assembly and also missed the vote of no confidence motion that he was supposed to move in Parliament against Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Following Bird’s public bouts of bad health, reports in some quarters of the media indicated that ALP parliamentarians were planning to ask him to step down as parliamentary leader.
In August, Bird said that he would not step down as leader, and that any contenders would have to challenge him at the party convention.
Gaston Browne, the ALP chairman, and Member of Parliament Robin Yearwood have both publicly issued their desire to lead the ALP. Molwyn Joseph, another senior ALP member, has also been publicly perceived as a potential future leader of the party.