Embattled commissioner of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) Sir Gerald Watt QC said he intends to fight against his relegation from chairman, not just for himself, but also for the other commissioners and staff there.
“I don’t see how people can expect me to sit back because this is of concern to other persons: it is a concern to the deputy chairman; it is of concern to staff and so we cannot sit back and allow that to continue and say well we don’t know who is right and who is wrong,” Sir Gerald said on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues programme yesterday.
Last week Sir Gerald was ousted from the post of ABEC chairman and made an ordinary commissioner while commissioner Juno Samuel was elevated to the top spot.
The Queen’s Counsel said in order to find the right answer to the move, which was dictated by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, the matter must be put before a judge. And, he’s confident he would be victorious.
“It’s going to have to be adjudicated,” Sir Gerald said. “I am of the view that the chairman’s appointment is null and void. It is null and void and it is going to be proved null and void.”
However, the former attorney general said despite Samuel’s “illegal” appointment as head, the business of the commission must go on. Sir Gerald said he would not be absenting himself from the commission while waiting for the court to decide on the matter because it would cost him his position there.
“I could not stay away until adjudication because the law says if I don’t attend two meetings that the governor general may appoint somebody in my place,” Sir Gerald, whose legal career spans 48 years, said. “So I’d be shooting myself not only in the foot but in the knee cap and I’m not accustomed to doing that. I’m old but I’m smart.”
What he is certain of, is that whenever the first meeting is called, he would make known, for the Commission’s record, his position about the chairmanship.
Sir Gerald is set to resume duties today after having been on suspension for the past five and a half months. He was suspended on July 19 last year after a Tribunal was set up to investigate his, Deputy Commissioner Nathaniel “Paddy” James’ and Lionel “Max” Hurst’s conduct prior to, during and after the March 2009 General Elections.
The Tribunal later said the allegations against Sir Gerald were unfounded and recommended he be reinstated as chairman. This was made public on December 23.
However, Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack instructed him not to return to the Commission until January 10 (today). Sir Gerald has admittedly defied the order.
Meantime, Anthonyson King is expected to be sworn in as a commissioner at 10 am today, at the Office of the Governor General.
He replaces commissioner Hurst, who was removed after the tribunal found him to be politically partisan towards the Antigua Labour Party (ALP).
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)