ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell has condemned the recent picket against party MP Chester Hughes that occurred during a UPP public meeting Thursday night.
During the unprecedented picket, placard-bearing protestors voiced opposition against the potential movement of MP Hughes from All Saints East & St Luke to St Mary’s North.
The picketers prefer to have another UPP potential candidate, Dr Philmore Benjamin, in that area.
However, Lovell said the protest ought not to have happened or happen again as the proposed changes are part of the ruling party’s strategy on how to defeat opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) for a third consecutive general election.
“What took place on Thursday night is something to be regretted and it is hoped it wouldn’t occur again … The party has been looking at a strategic approach to the next general elections but nothing has been decided.
“However, there several options on the table and in the case of brother Hughes we expect that it is possible he may run in another constituency and the possibility of course would be that he would run in the constituency in St Mary’s North,” Lovell said.
At the same time though, the UPP Chairman said the decision would rest in the hands of branch members in the two constituencies, despite the fact that the party’s leader Baldwin Spencer has an overriding veto over the process.
On Sunday, MPs Spencer and Lovell met with MP Hughes, Dr Benjamin and Algernon Roberts who are potential candidates in St Mary’s North.
“That meeting went extremely well and I am satisfied that we have an understanding on the way forward so I suspect we will have the formula to have this matter fully resolved soon,” Lovell said.
He added, “We have to make sure we have the best candidates against the Labour Party candidates and so everything is on the table. We may have to shift around candidates a bit in order to get a better result against particular opponents so you cannot rule out anything. We are a team … and fact is you play where you can be most effective for the team.”
Opposition is so strong against Hughes, it is alleged two of the tyres on his vehicle were slashed during the UPP meeting Thursday night and police are now probing the matter.
Meantime, Lovell confirmed the UPP is seeking a replacement for Lenworth Johnson who unsuccessfully contended against ALP’s MP Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin in St John’s City South at the polls in 2004 and 2009.
“Lenworth Johnson would not be going forward in the next elections so there is a vacancy in that area so what we are doing is we are looking to see how best to place prospective candidates who have indicated an interest and we would not rule out candidates who have contested elections before on the UPP ticket,” Lovell disclosed.
The UPP plans to hold its convention later this year as time draws nearer to general elections that are constitutionally due in 2014.