Opposition leader instructs Lawyers to sue DCA

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Opposition Leader Jamal Pringle

Source Real News- The Development Control Authority (DCA) continues to show that it is politically influenced, and the United Progressive Party (UPP) is planning tosue its officials for the destruction of a caretaker’s billboard.

On the morning of Holy Thursday, March 28, DCA officials demolished and removed a billboard that had stood on the Whenner Road premises of theParty’s St. Mary’s North constituency branch.

The billboard was the property of UPP Senator Johnathan Joseph.

Accordingly, attorney Leon “Chaku” Symister, the Party’s spokesperson on legal matters, says the action taken by the DCA will be challenged in the High Court of Justice.

Calling the action illegal and politically motivated, Symister confirmed to REAL News that UPP Political Leader Jamale Pringle has directed that this matter be taken before the court right away.The January 18, 2023 General Election came and went and the October2023 by-election in St. Mary’s South, as well.

But, apparently, it has only just come to the attention of DCA headFrederick Southwell, the town and country planner, that political billboardsare still in place.

In a letter dated March 25, 2024, and addressed to Senator ShawnNicholas, the general secretary of the UPP, Southwell writes that

permission was granted to the Party on December 15, 2022, for thetemporary erection of political billboards for the 2023 General Election.According to him, the UPP entered into an agreement in which it was“explicitly” stated that all political material should be removed within 14days following the election.

Southwell says it has come to the DCA’s attention that political materials forthe Party remain displayed well beyond the stipulated time frame granted –which is an oversight on the Authority’s part –and this contravenes thecondition of the agreement.

He adds that this failure also impacts regulatory compliance, as stipulatedin Section 51 of the Physical Planning Act, 2003.

The town and country planner therefore instructed the Party to takeimmediate action to remove all political paraphernalia “without furtherdelay.”

Failure to do so “will leave the DCA with no other option but to proceed with the demolition” of the associated political materials, the letter says; so theUPP should act promptly to avoid any unnecessary actions.

That letter was received yesterday, March 27, one day before  thedemolition of the St. Mary’s North caretaker’s billboard.

Tellingly, Southwell appears to be focused only on billboards belonging toUPP politicians, since those of the Antigua Labour Party’s candidatesremain in place, undisturbed.

On Whenner Road, mere yards from Senator Joseph’s branch office, abillboard displaying Sir Molwyn Joseph and Prime Minister Gaston Browneremained upright after the demolition of the UPP property.

In the prime minister’s constituency of St. John’s City West – 14 monthsafter the General Election – a canvas of his image still stands on a plot ofland reportedly owned by his relatives, while “political” billboards are said toremain on display in St. Paul, as well.This arbitrary removal of Senator Joseph’s billboard appears to have beensparked by a canvas that was displayed there two Fridays ago.

That canvas showed a photo of Brian Stuart-Young, Global Bank ofCommerce’s chief executive officer; quoted a statement from PrimeMinister Browne; and referred to the millions of United States dollars theoffshore bank owes businessman Jack Stroll.

With zero notice for removal or appeal, the DCA destroyed and removedthe poster, leaving the original display – an image of Senator Joseph –intact and the billboard upright.

Then, last Friday, another canvas bearing Stuart-Young’s image and a callfor the bank to pay Stroll was summarily removed from a billboard ownedby UPP parliamentarian Kelvin “Shugy” Simon, in Bolans.

Simon has since said he intends to sue the DCA for trespassing on privateproperty.

Residents have been critical of the DCA’s actions and accused the agency– which falls within the portfolios of the prime minister’s wife, Maria Browne– of being politically directed.

They contend that these actions are in breach of the constitutional right tofreedom of expression and that the DCA has no legal authority to regulatethe content, or message, of billboards.

Others have alleged that the destruction of the messages are PrimeMinister Browne’s heavy-handed attempts to shield Stuart-Young frompublic criticism.

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