By Zaya Williams
The Antiguans and Barbudans for Constitution Reform and Education (ABCRE) remains steadfast in its pursuit to alter the Oath of Allegiance and is determined not to back down.
Last year, a historic Private Member’s bill to amend the Constitution and modify the Oath of Allegiance was introduced by MP Trevor Walker, the representative for Barbuda, on behalf of ABCRE.
Although Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin had initially indicated support for the bill, he had also expressed a need for thorough research to ensure its timely presentation. Unfortunately, due to the January 18 elections, the bill’s progression stalled after its first reading.
On July 28, 2023, Walker reintroduced the bill, only to face opposition from government MPs, leading to its rejection.
Beverley Benjamin-George, an Attorney-at-Law and ABCRE member, shared her perspective on the situation, stating, “After they had an opportunity to review it, they figured that they do not want regular citizens to be empowered to believe that they can just get up and change things.”
Benjamin-George emphasized the significance of officials taking an oath of allegiance to the constituents who elected them into office. “These are not just words. These are important, so what we are recommending is if you are going to take an office that we employed you to take, that we will be paying you to do, that we are supposed to give you instructions in, you must have an allegiance to us, you have an obligation to us,” she explained.
With the country gearing up to celebrate its 42nd independence, ABCRE believes this is an opportune moment for an oath change. Benjamin-George called on residents to engage with their representatives and advocate for the cause. “Through unity, we can get the oath changed. We ask everyone who feels the way we feel that this oath has to change, to call your representative whether you voted for the representative or not…find out why you did not vote for the oath,” she urged.
ABCRE launched the #fixtheoath campaign, targeting the support of the youth.
Since achieving independence in 1981, the constitution has remained unchanged. Therefore, if the bill garners the necessary majority, it will be the first legislation ever to amend the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda.