ANTIGUA & BARBUDA | No By-Election for Shugy Simon's Seat in 120 days says Gaston Browne

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA | No By-Election for Shugy Simon's  Seat in 120 days says  Gaston Browne

ST. JOHNS, Antigua June 13, 2023 - The political landscape of St Mary's South is in a state of flux following the unexpected resignation of Kelvin "Shugy" Simon who won his seat in the January 18 elections, but is now the subject of an election petition challenging his legitimacy to serve as a parliamentarian.

The petition questioned Simon's eligibility to run for office as he was a civil servant at the time of being officially nominated. However, Simon resigned from his post as a guidance counsellor within the Ministry of Education a fortnight before the January 18 election which he contested and won.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he will not call a By-Election for St. Mary's South in 120 days to facilitate Kelvin Simon who he said failed to follow the proper process under the constitution for a member to vacate his seat.Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he will not call a By-Election for St. Mary's South in 120 days to facilitate Kelvin Simon who he said failed to follow the proper process under the constitution for a member to vacate his seat.But the 43 year old first time politician, in an unexpected turn of events, resigned his seat as MP for that constituency last Tuesday, pointing out that a re-run of the elections will put him in a better position to serve the people of his constituency.

The United Progressive Party (UPP) MP wrote that  "It's Unfair to the people of St Mary's South to have this uncertainty hanging over their heads. This situation needs to be resolved without further delay. "I want this matter to be settled by the people, not by the court” he said, hence his resignation.

Kelvin “Shugy” Simon, wrote to House of Assembly Sir Gerald Watt last week, informing him of his decision to resign from Parliament, paving the way for a by-election in 120 days.

However, Sir Gerald  in his reply to ‘Shugy’ Simon, said that his letter of resignation does not conform to the Constitution and therefore cannot be accepted.

“He would have to say that he is resigning and indicate in a manner that I find to be credible. It would have to say that he had severed allegiance to the party that elected him,”

Speaker of the House of Assembly Sir Gerald Watt KC says Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon has not properly resigned and his letter can't be accepted.Speaker of the House of Assembly Sir Gerald Watt KC says Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon has not properly resigned and his letter can't be accepted.“Because the letter of resignation has not conformed with the constitution, he has not resigned and therefore if he has not resigned, then it is my view that he continues to be a member of St Mary’s South,” the Speaker told State Media.

One of the government’s legal advisors, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, said assuming that Simon’s resignation was legitimate, if his resignation is challenged in court by Samantha Marshal, there will be no by-election in 120 days

“The issue now is whether or not the constitution gives the right to resign for the reasons that he [Simon] has given…” He explained that according to the standing orders governing the resignation from the House of Commons, members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seats.

“There are several ways in which a member seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a parliament… but members of Parliament cannot directly resign their seats unless one of the triggers for vacating the office of a member of Parliament is expressed” Astspahn explained.

The usual course of action would be to hold a by-election within 120 days. However, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has other plans, which could potentially reshape the political norms.

Contrary to expectations, Prime Minister Browne has expressed no intention of holding a by-election. Instead, he is advocating for a judicial intervention to vacate the seat. His proposed plan is to have the judge declare Samantha Marshal, the ABLP's candidate, as the winner. 

Marshal, who lost the seat to Sughy Simon by 200 votes, could technically be said to have secured the second highest number of votes,  and could find herself in the seat without a by-election by way of a technical sleight of hand if Browne has his  way.

But Browne said Simon failed to follow the proper process under the constitution for a member to vacate his seat.

Furthermore, the prime minister said no by-election will be called pending the current legal matter before the courts challenging the constitutionality of Simon’s nomination

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, said assuming that Simon’s resignation was legitimate, if his resignation is challenged in court by Samantha Marshal, there will be no by-election in 120 days.Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, said assuming that Simon’s resignation was legitimate, if his resignation is challenged in court by Samantha Marshal, there will be no by-election in 120 days.“Even if his resignation is legitimate, it [by-election] is not happening before the court matter is resolved. It is the prime minister who gets to set the election date…Why would he think I would rush to call a by-election to support his position to circumvent the court process?”

“Shugy has not properly resigned so there is also a significant legal flaw in his resignation…He botched his nomination, violated the laws and he was disqualified. Now having been accepted until the case is heard, he has botched the resignation as well,” Browne exclaimed.

Browne said it appears that Simon is attempting to circumvent the litigation process which calls for two causes; that the MP be caused to vacate the seat and handed over to the next contender or a by-election.

“I believe the litigation is asking the judge to vacate the seat and declare the ABLP’s candidate Samantha Marshal as the winner, who would have had the second highest number of votes,” Browne said.

He said legal minds have advised the government that the court could declare the seat vacated and declare to the ABLP, “and this is what he is trying to prevent.”

He said his resignation was strictly based on presumptions that the people of his constituency were being negatively affected by the lengthy legal battle anticipated

“It is unfair to the people of St Mary’s South to have this uncertainty hanging over their heads. This situation needs to be resolved without further delay. I want this matter to be settled by the people, not by the court. The constituents of St Mary’s South elected me convincingly before, and I am confident that they will do so again in a by-election,” Simon stated.


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