The chairman of the Antigua/ Barbuda True Labour Party (ABTLP) is awaiting the outcome of the investigations by the US Department of Homeland Security into the alleged Syrian smuggling ring, to determine his party’s position on the matter.
While the Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) staged pickets in recent times demanding that Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin be stripped of all portfolios, Vere Bird III maintained that he would have to hear the results of the US investigation before his party can make any such demand.
“I feel that I am not going to rush to judgment,” he said. “I believe that I will wait and see what investigations have to say.”
Bird added, “If I am satisfied, we leave it there. If I am not, we may start to picket ourselves without joining with any other party; we will take it upon ourselves.”
The UPP’s central argument has been that Benjamin’s portfolio as attorney general and minister of legal affairs, labour, immigration and police would compromise any investigation into the Syrian case.
Even after it was announced last week by government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst that Benjamin had given up his immigration portfolio, and that it was transferred to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, the opposition was adamant that everything under his purview be removed.
A release last week from the Office of the Prime Minister stated: “The Prime Minister has reluctantly agreed to transfer the portfolio despite receiving reports from the investigative team, led by the police commissioner, that there was no wrongdoing by any government official—not the minister, not any immigration official.”
In response to the opposition’s stance on this development, Bird said: “I can see the line of argument they are going down with and there may be some merits to it. But in addition to that, what I understood, was that the Americans came and they were conducting their own investigations, which I am more interested in than actually the one that is done internally.”
Showing little faith in the locally-conducted investigations, the ABTLP chairman said that they often “lead to more questions” than answers, hence his reliance on the US report.
Bird voiced his disapproval when questioned about the government’s overall handling of the matter.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)