The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, the Hon. Lester Bird, met for two hours with a five-person delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) on Thursday afternoon, August 16, 2012. The OAS team members are in Antigua to help with making the constitutionally-due March 2014 general elections free and fair. The OAS team was consulting with the Leader of the Opposition in order to get a balanced view of certain planned steps to be taken, in advance of the important democratic event due by March 2014.
The OAS has conducted a cadastral survey, taking photographs from the air of neighborhoods, villages and the city. In fact, the high resolution electronic photographs of the entire two islands are now one of the tools to be employed in the street-naming and house-numbering exercises, which are to be undertaken soon. The OAS will be seeking financial assistance in order to complete naming the streets and numbering all buildings in Antigua and Barbuda before the end of this year, 2012. The results are expected to be utilized in planning for the 2014 general elections.
The Leader of the Opposition made the position of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) very clear. “Before boundaries can be fairly adjusted in the 17 constituencies, the report of the 2011 Census must be utilized,” Mr. Bird said. “The Register of Electors cannot be the measuring tool,” he declared, “as made clear by several decisions of the East Caribbean Supreme Court.”
Mr. Bird also noted that the ALP is “aware of the untruthful claims made by losing candidates of the UPP (United Progressive Party), following the 2009 general elections; even though they had governed for five years, at that point, they failed miserably to address conditions for which they hammered the ALP prior to 2004. Then they blamed the ALP victory in the seven constituencies on conditions which the UPP government failed to address.” Mr. Bird was making reference to registered voters who were never challenged before the elections, but whose valid registration was questioned after the UPP losses.
The street-naming and house-numbering exercises are welcomed by the ALP, Mr. Bird said, indicating that the project would improve and make easier finding people, homes, businesses and government workplaces in Antigua and Barbuda, and would also rob the UPP of excuses when it loses the upcoming general elections in 18 months. “The cadastral exercise is a handy tool for determining where boundaries can be established, and the number of people living within a re-drawn constituency. This could help to make the re-drawing of boundaries a non-contentious issue, if the UPP so wishes,” Mr. Bird said.
The Boundaries Commission is planning to submit a Report to the Speaker of the House which does not state the basis on which boundaries have been re-adjusted. The ALP plans to stop that from occurring by seeking an injunction from the High Court. The work of the OAS would be used as evidence of UPP wrongdoing should the Boundaries Commission persist in its unfair approach to re-adjusting boundaries.