ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Pumping a fist in the air and wearing a victory smile, that’s how newly elected political leader of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Gaston Browne celebrated his win over contender and former leader Lester Bird at the end of the organisation’s convention yesterday.
And Browne used his victory speech to announce April 24, 2014, as the day he ties the knot with fiancée Maria Bird, Lester Bird’s niece.
Scores of supporters screamed and rushed to Browne’s side to congratulate him on his historic win, while others angrily walked off the compound at the Multi-purpose Cultural Centre at Perry Bay cursing and alleging the process had been “rigged.”
But Browne remained inside and continue to celebrate by indulging in a victory dance to Vegas’ song I am blessed.
Immediately afterwards, he told OBSERVER Media exclusively, “It is with great humility that I accept this historic position to lead the ALP. I recognise the ALP has had two great leaders – Lester Bird and his late great father Sir Vere Cornwall Bird – and I’m happy to be the third leader of this rich party.”
It is the first time in its 66 years the Antigua Labour Party has elected a leader, who is not a member of the Bird family.
Browne thanked God, and his supporters as he also congratulated Bird (in absentia) who failed in his bid to add another two years to the 19 he had already served as ALP’s political leader.
“I want to thank Lester Bird for a spirited and tense competition … I stand by my commitment to ensure his legacy is protected. We are going to make him leader emeritous of the ALP,” Browne said.
At the time he was surrounded on stage by colleagues Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, Eustace “Teco” Lake, Maureen Payne-Hyman, Asot Michael, Dean Jonas, Charles “Max” Fernandes and several other prominent members of the ALP.
Going into the party’s election at the biennial convention, many ALP supporters said the race was going to be a very close one between Bird and Browne, and that the other two contenders – party stalwarts Molwyn Joseph and Robin Yearwood – didn’t stand a chance.
Between 2:40 pm and 2:45 pm, both Joseph and Yearwood bowed out of the race, leaving Bird and Browne to square off.
A total of 400 delegates voted yesterday and Browne captured approximately 55 per cent of the votes by the time nine of 10 ballot boxes were counted.
Meanwhile, for the first time in the ALP’s history, a woman has been appointed party chairman with Gail Christian edging out contender Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)