SOURCE Observer’s Robert A. Emmanuel
The legal petition challenging the election of Kelvin ‘Shugy’ Simon is expected to be back before the High Court today.
The case, brought by a St Mary’s South constituent, questions the legitimacy of Simon’s election win on January 18 as he was still employed in the public service at the time of his nomination.
Simon – who quit his Ministry of Education guidance counsellor position two weeks before the poll – maintains he abided by the rules.
The country’s Constitution states “no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House if they hold or are acting in any public office”.
The question for the judge is whether Simon’s nomination was acceptable under the law, and whether the case is still relevant in light of Simon’s resignation as an MP last month.
A by-election for the seat is set to take place within the next three months.
Speaking to Observer media, Simon said he is confident of a positive outcome as the “people are with me”.
“The people of St Mary’s South would have spoken already and will speak again; they are resolute that they want me to be their MP,” he said.
Simon was selected by the opposition UPP party to replace their former candidate for the seat, Cortwright Marshall, who had health issues.
Simon’s position as a civil servant while running for political office was constantly raised during the election campaign by members of the ruling ABLP party.
In the meantime, the political battle over the St Mary’s South constituency continues after the Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt – after weeks of claiming that Simon’s resignation was illegitimate as he had not followed the prescribed rules – finally accepted the resignation last week.
Sir Gerald, in his original rejection letter, argued that under section 41(1)(e) of the Constitution a parliamentarian must resign from their position in their respective political party before resigning as a member of parliament.
The Speaker also argued that section 125—which speaks about resignation of an elected or appointed official—could not be read in isolation.
However, section 41(2) of the constitution states, “Where an elected member of the House vacates his seat in the House…for any other reason except a dissolution of Parliament, there shall be a by-election to fill the seat in the House”.
Sir Gerald, speaking on Pointe FM over the weekend, did not give an explanation as to why he originally used section 41(1)(e) as a reason for rejecting Simon’s resignation, but he did call for reformation of section 125.
“Your concerns over section 125 are very real and I have mentioned it in the letter to a point; that is why I have offered to write a legal opinion on it… try to ask for some help from constitutional attorneys… so we can decide what the way is with section 125, not only in Antigua and Barbuda but in the rest of the Caribbean,” he said.
Sir Gerald, in his June 30 letter to Simon accepting his resignation, claimed such methods employed to circumnavigate legal proceedings threaten to create a constitutional crisis which “could hardly have been the intention of the framers of the Constitution”.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne also responded to Simon’s resignation, stating that he welcomed it.
“I am of the firm view that Shugy will be defeated by Senator Marshall; Comrade Marshall would have served the people of St Mary’s South with distinction. If we look at her performance during the last nine years, we can say that there is no other constituency representative that would have done more,” he said.
The Constitution states that a by-election must be held within 120 days of an MP’s resignation to fill the vacant seat.
Simon will once again face off against the ABLP’s Marshall who lost her seat in the last general election by 199 votes to newcomer Simon.