Massiah defends Gov’t plan to amend legislation

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Public Relations Officer for the United Progressive Party Senator Joanne Massiah staunchly defended the ruling party’s decision to proceed with its legislative agenda despite an ongoing effort to challenge the validity of the electoral process in three constituencies.
Massiah, who was speaking on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues programme, yesterday, said the stay of execution issued on Justice Louise Blenman’s ruling gives the party every right to continue to pass legislation in parliament.
“The effect of a stay of execution essentially means that the status quo remains and if I could break that down a little further, it is as though a case had never been brought,” Massiah said.
The UPP Senator added that the Constitution protects the ruling government in the current situation.
“Section 57 sub-section two of the Constitution … essentially says any decisions taken where there is any question as to whether a person should be sitting in the House of Representatives or not, or the Parliament is valid, it cannot be challenged,” she noted.
Massiah also denied that the government is attempting to rush through legislation in order to give themselves an advantage in the eventuality of having to return to the polls early in light of the electoral challenge.
However Public Relations Co-ordinator for the Antigua Labour Party Saiid Greene, who was a panellist on the same programme, accused the UPP of setting a poor example by failing to follow conventions in the matter.
“We’re simply saying that when you look at all the norms and conventions that operate … we have to begin to observe these norms because unless we do we are sending a terrible signal for the next generation,” Greene said. “It’s not just the brinksmanship of wanting to win at any cost but to make sure that we are sending lessons that our young people will benefit from; how do we deal with matters like this in future.”
Greene added that while he accepts the ruling administration’s legal right to carry on governing as normal, the UPP should rightfully hold off on such legislation until a final decision has been made on the Election Petitions Case.
The UPP has been trying to pass amendments to the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act that will reform certain elements of the electoral process.
The parliamentary seats of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Minister of Tourism John Maginley and Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro were voided on March 12 following a ruling by Justice Louise Blenman in the Election Petitions Case because of irregularities in the electoral process.
However the ruling was appealed by the three UPP members and a stay of execution was issued, which has allowed the government to continue operating unchanged until the matter is heard in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeals on June 29.

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