The newly announced candidate for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), Dwayne George is banking on the support of the youth in St. Mary’s South to secure his position as the newest MP for the constituency.
“I know the die-hard UPP supporters are not going to come around but the young supporters they will come around, and they know what they want, and they’re going to realise what is needed in St. Mary’s South very soon,” he said.
George, a resident of Bolans, believes that as a member of the winning ABLP, the necessary resources will be made available to him to make the necessary improvements. “Being on the winning party the resources will be there to make all of these a reality,” he asserted.
The 38-year-old professional body builder is confident that he has the wits for the job ahead. He told Twin Island Media that he studied Economics in Cuba for six years after attending the St. Joseph’s Academy and later the A Levels Department, graduating with a degree in Liberal Arts.
The scholarship to study in Cuba, he received under the Baldwin Spencer administration. He enrolled as a member of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) upon his return from university.
“Everything I know about politics I’ve learnt under the administration of the UPP but I’m no longer with the UPP and there will be no going back for me,” he declared.
To pursue his political aspirations, George took some bold steps last week, first ending his 13-year stint as a member of the opposition on Thursday, and then resigning as a lecturer at the Antigua State College (ASC) on Friday – a position he held for 10 years.
By resigning he said “I’m going to show the people that the risk is not a problem to me”.
But with the contention that came when he crossed the floor, George is likely to need much more than education and physique to win over the St. Mary’s constituency.
As a former ally of the opposition, he admitted that he worked very close with Kelvin “Shugy” Simon – the man he will now contest for the seat. George not only endorsed Simon to run as a candidate in the January 2023 elections but was part of his campaign team, eventually turning down the opportunity to be his campaign manager at one point.
George admitted that he was indeed “towing party lines” by working closely with Simon’s team up until last Thursday when he submitted his resignation letter to the UPP executive. It was also the same day that Samantha Marshall, the former ABLP caretaker and candidate for St. Mary’s South resigned her position.
George’s newest opponent, emerged as a formidable contender in the January 2023 elections, defeating Marshall, a two-term ABLP winner, by a margin of 199 votes. But George cast doubt on Simon’s dedication to the position, stating, “I don’t think that he’s interested in the position that he has. I don’t see the level of commitment.”
As the constitutional deadline for the polls approaches in October, he remains optimistic about his chances of winning the St. Mary’s South constituency.
“I really doubt that is going to happen,” he said in response to a possible loss, explaining that “The short time I’ve been given, it’s something that can happen”.
In the meantime, George has not minced words about what he thinks about the opposition saying: “UPP inside, behind closed doors, is a monster”.
He criticized the party for its treatment of young members, claiming that opportunities were limited unless one had connections with the party’s upper echelons.
“If things change in the UPP there could be a future for countless others but as of now, us young people, if you’re not friends with those guys up top – the upper echelon – there’s no opportunity for you,” he said.
“I was loyal to a party that wasn’t loyal to me,” George stated, emphasizing his sense of betrayal by the UPP. Having supported the party since 2012 and even serving as Cortwright Marshall’s campaign manager, George felt sidelined when the party overlooked its own rules and appointed Simon as their St. Mary’s South candidate without holding a primary.
George revealed that he had submitted a letter to the UPP announcing his intention to run in St. Mary’s for the upcoming elections, expecting a fair primary as per the party’s regulations. However, the UPP’s decision to bypass the primary left him feeling disregarded and discarded by members he had supported for years.
Instead, he said “They created their own emergency to create that situation that we are in now”.
“The UPP knows little about loyalty,” he asserted, pointing to the growing number of supporters who have abandoned the party to back the ruling government. He stated, “We all share a common experience with the UPP, and we all left the UPP for a reason.”
“Everybody is upset with me doing things my way… I’m not a traitor. The UPP has discarded me, disregarded me, has thrown me aside,” he stated.
Now a full-fledged member of the ABLP, George refuted any accusations of his allegiance being bought, asserting that his decision to switch parties was solely driven by his desire to change and grow as a politician.
“I’m not for sale and I wasn’t bought out. This decision was done solely because I wanted to move,” he said.
Cognizant of the backlash for his defection of the UPP, George said he is prepared to take the risk, declaring “St Mary’s South needs me”.
The true test of George’s assertions lies in the upcoming by-elections, where voters will determine whether they share his vision and trust him to fulfill his promises. The UPP has not responded to George’s decision to cross the floor.