ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Sept 19, CMC – Leader of the main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP), Lester Bird, says he will continue to lead the party despite “anxieties” among supporters regarding his health and age.
“I am still very much able to perform the tasks of the Leader and would step aside the moment my doctors felt that such tasks were likely to exceed my limitations,” said Bird, 74, the island’s second prime minister.
In a statement, Bird said there would be a retreat of party leaders on September 30, “in an effort to iron out many of the difficult issues that have caused some anxiety among supporters.
“We are in the process of preparing the constituencies for a Convention in the latter part of November 2012, and placing the right men and women in the appropriate slots as candidates very shortly afterwards.”
Bird, who was last re-elected as leader of the ALP in 2008, said that his vigour for the job could be seen in the various legal and other actions he has undertaken in challenging the authorities on a number of issues including “the unconstitutional changes it (government) has made to the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, including the denuding of the powers of the Supervisor of Elections.
“I have already instructed lawyers within the ALP to prepare the pleadings to challenge the re-registration and the other unlawful steps taken to gerrymander the electoral boundaries. In all of these matters, I have exercised the leadership with which I was last entrusted in 2008.”
Bird reminded supporters that the “ALP is like no other institution” in the country, adding “it was created to address very specific needs, and it has fulfilled its mandate over the decades of its formal existence”.
He reminded supporters that when he first became the ALP leader, he brought with him more than two decades as a parliamentarian and an equal number of years as Deputy Premier and Deputy Prime Minister.
“The ALP leadership therefore requires experience of a varied sort, but also a certain equanimity and the ability to draw upon the party’s strengths to bind the wounds which, from time to time, have caused fracturing.
“I have made it very clear that since experiencing challenges with a herniated disc, the robustness of my very youthful days as an athlete are receding. Yet, all will agree that my mind is sharp, my ability to think and to absorb new knowledge have not been compromised by the physical challenges caused by my ailment.
“I am still very much able to perform the tasks of the Leader and would step aside the moment my doctors felt that such tasks were likely to exceed my limitations,” Bird said, adding that he pursuing those duties that make the ALP strong and will enable the party “to rescue Antigua & Barbuda from the current regime which has imperiled the progress made over five decades”.
He said with the next general election constitutionally due in March 2014, “I have readied myself to lead this heritage party to victory.
“There isn’t a single issue with which I am not engaged or have not assigned to a colleague,” Bird said, insisting “the ALP requires tested and proven leadership to defeat those who would destroy our heritage, squander our scarce financial resources, borrow so many millions from our local banks and therefore put them into trouble, fail to educate the young and to provide jobs for school-leavers.