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Chairman defies GG’s order

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Chairman defies GG’s order

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A showdown is looming in Antigua between Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack and the re-instated chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), Sir Gerald Watt QC. 
Sir Gerald has defied an order from the head of state advising him to return to work on January 11, 2011 and turned up for duties last Friday. 
Sir Gerald noted that the Governor General has no say in when he re-assumes his position, and that effective the date when the report of a Tribunal was submitted, recommending his reinstatement, his suspension would have ended.
Dame Louise set up a three-member Tribunal headed by Jurist Paul Harrison on June 23, at the request of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. It began September 20 and ended October 8. “All this time she (Dame Louise) kept me suspended illegally, unlawfully, and oppressively when she knew that the justices of the tribunal had recommended that I return to the post,” he noted.
The Tribunal, which was set up to investigate the conduct of Sir Gerald, his deputy, Nathaniel “Paddy” James and former ambassador Lionel “Max” Hurst, cleared two of three men of misconduct and recommended that Hurst be removed from office.
It also recommended that no action should be taken against Sir Gerald and James. The three regional jurists had recommended that Hurst should be censured for his partisan behavior in favour of the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) which appointed him to the ABEC.  
The panel said that Hurst’s picket outside a Magistrates Court and the Prime Minister’s Office, plus his hosting of an anti-government talk show which discussed the Electoral Commission’s finances were grounds for his removal. 
Sir Gerald and James were accused of dereliction of duty before and leading up to the controversial March 2009 general elections which were marred by a late start in polling in several constituencies. 
When Sir Gerald went to work on Friday, Interim Commission Chairman Bruce Goodwin was not at the commission. 
 “The governor general cannot tell me when to resume my position. As far as I’m concerned I am now the substantive chairman and I will immediately be acting in that capacity,” Sir Gerald said, noting that once the Tribunal had made its recommendations the suspension the status quo would resume as it were before interim commissioners were appointed. (CMC)