In apparent anticipation of a showdown, two senior police officers were yesterday posted outside the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission’s (ABEC) head office to bar the entry of suspended ABEC Chairman Sir Gerald Watt QC, who has already defied orders from Governor General Dame Louise Lake Tack not to return to the commission until next month.
Reports are that the lawmen went to the Queen Elizabeth Highway compound long before it was opened for business and remained there until noon; but the ABEC chairman was a no show.
Sir Gerald went to the Commission on Friday and publicly declared he would disregard instructions given last week not to report for duty at ABEC before January 10.
The delay in Sir Gerald and Nathaniel “Paddy’ James” return to their posts as chairman and deputy chairman comes despite the release of a Tribunal report determining that the two – who had been on suspension – should not be removed from the Commission.
Sir Gerald, who wants to return to the Commission sooner rather than later, criticised the governor general last week and showed up for work on Friday, saying she had no authority to order him to stay away, since the tribunal found him not guilty of wrongdoing.
While Sir Gerald insists on his immediate return, his successor, interim Chairman Bruce Goodwin thinks that he (sir Gerald) should wait until the issues relating to the interim appointments are ironed out before taking his place again.
“I think he should wait because the issues of the interim positions have not yet been determined. I have not been to the commission today (Tuesday) but I heard the officers were posted there to prevent his illegal entry into the commission,” Goodwin said.
Efforts to reach Sir Gerald up to press time proved futile.
Meantime, the situation is further compounded by the fact that interim commissioner Anthonyson King has not returned to work since the findings of the Tribunal have been made public and recommended the removal of his predecessor, Lionel “Max” Hurst.
King said his appointment was temporary and as far as he is concerned, it ceased the day the Tribunal report was made public therefore he didn’t wait around to be told what to do.
“According to the law, if a tribunal is set up and the results of the Tribunal come out, then if the people are exonerated they’re automatically reinstated,” King said.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)