ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has described as “an act of treason” the decision by opposition legislators to boycott the independence ceremonial parade here, on Monday.
Antigua and Barbuda normally observes the anniversary of its independence from Britain on November 1, but the occasion this year fell on the weekend.
Opposition Leader, Baldwin Spencer, and key members of his United Progressive Party (UPP) did not attend Monday’s ceremonial parade and awards ceremony, where former Prime Minister, Lester Bird, was knighted and named a national hero – the highest honour the country can bestow.
Efforts by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) to obtain a comment from Spencer and UPP chairman, Harold Lovell, were unsuccessful.
Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, chastised Spencer for the no-show, adding that there is no other celebration more important than independence.
“To boycott our independence celebrations is to disrespect the 400 years of toil, the 400 years of sacrifices that were made by our forefathers to ensure that Antigua & Barbuda ends up as a sovereign nation. It is unjust to abandon, to disrespect that contribution, that commitment of our forbearers,” Browne said.
“I’ll go as far as saying that I think it’s really an act of treason against the commitment of our forbearers, and it’s very unfortunate that the leader of the opposition and his followers, that they do not understand that our independence transcends partisan, political differences,” he added.
Browne recalled that he once faced disciplinary action from the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party – the party he now leads – after he defied a call to boycott independence celebrations when the ABLP was in opposition.
“I did not adhere to that call to the extent that there was even a petition to have me expelled from the party but that is how strongly I felt about independence and the fact that we need to embrace it. It is, in essence, a symbol of the unity of our nation and ought to be respected of all costs.
“I don’t condone any act of sabotage, boycott or disrespect, in so far as our independence is concerned, and I think it’s yet a monumental error that was made by the leader of the opposition and it begs the question of his level of maturity.
“With this type of narrow thinking, this type of narrow outlook, it was a fundamental error in the part of the leader of the opposition and, I’m quite sure, he’ll regret what he did today,” Browne told CMC.