ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Exiting Opposition Leader in Parliament Lester Bird has declared it an honour to serve his country – as he prepares to demit office and hand the reins to his younger replacement Gaston Browne.
“It has been an honour to serve as Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition, and I am certain that my successor (Gaston Browne) will continue to give of his very best to this high office,” Bird said in a statement.
The 74 year old kept up a valiant fight for the post of Antigua Labour Party’s (ALP) political leader, despite controversy over his ailing health and widespread debate over his ability to lead the party to victory in the next general elections.
Bird yesterday revealed that, following his loss to Browne at the party’s November 25 convention, he recently wrote to Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack indicating he wishes to step down. He is awaiting a response from her.
“I just thought to do that instead of holding on to the office, looking as if I am so in love with power and that I want to hold on to the situation, when our constitution says I should relinquish it,” Bird told OBSERVER Media.
The former prime minister said he made the decision to vacate the spot immediately without consulting the newly-elected Browne.
ALP sources said it comes as no surprise that Bird is demiting office as, under the revised ALP’s constitution, “the political leader of the party shall serve as the parliamentary leader of the party and the person entitled to head any government formed by the party and to lead the party.”
Although that’s the case, Browne previously indicated he was in no haste to remove Bird from the post and, further, that he would make Bird Leader Emeritus.
The latter is largely an honourary position, which Browne said he would bestow on Bird as a sign of respect for the former two-term prime minister.
Until the governor general accepts Bird’s resignation and confirms the party’s wishes to have Browne replace him, Bird will remain opposition leader in Parliament.
Meantime, Bird said ALP members have set aside their differences and thrown full support behind Browne, as they shift focus to unseating the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP).
Bird said he and his fellow six parliamentarians, Browne, Molwyn Joseph, Robin Yearwood, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, Asot Michael and Eustace “Teco” Lake, have demonstrated unity and support for Browne in a letter dated December 3.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)