I and my Government were prepared to vigorously defend our position and were utterly confident of our success in defeating the Motion. Accordingly, we feel a strong sense of frustration at not having the opportunity to lay our case before the discerning people of this country – even though we would have preferred not to engage in an exercise that had the potential to be bitterly divisive to the people we serve.
The Chairman of the ALP, the Hon. Gaston Browne, proffered apologies on behalf of his Leader, and cited illness as the reason behind his absence from the proceedings. However, only the mover of the motion, himself, can speak to his decision not to deputize another Member to move the Motion.
What I can say, categorically, though, is that, contrary to the malicious rumours making the rounds, neither I, as Prime Minister, nor any Member of the Government bench, “cut any deal” or collaborated with the Opposition Leader on his decision to, in effect, withdraw the Motion of No Confidence. There would have been absolutely no need for us to do so, given our level of confidence – which is grounded in facts and in performance.
The Standing Orders make clear provisions for any Member to move a Motion and for a Member to move a Motion in place of another Member, as a Parliamentarian of Mr. Bird’s experience would know. Therefore, Mr. Bird’s reluctance, or unwillingness, to have any of his colleagues stand-in for him might better be construed as a vote of no confidence in them.
Again, while we were – and are – prepared to stand and debate Mr. Bird’s Motion, we are pleased that our time can be better spent in working to realize the ambitions of the people of this country, which is the mandate we were given -- not once, but twice -- as a demonstration of the confidence reposed in us by the citizens and residents of fair Antigua & Barbuda.
May God continue to bless us all.