The Antigua and Barbuda Commission of Inquiry Act gives the country’s Governor General the autonomy to call an inquiry into any matter without directives from Cabinet.
Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Justin Simon alluded to this during an interview on Observer Radio this week
His response is in line with increasing calls for an Independence Inquiry into Antigua Airways and the arrival of hundreds of Cameroonian nationals into the country.
“We have to recognize that the Governor General can act independently, at his discretion in respect of a number of matters,”
“When we go to the Commission of Inquiry Act Chapter 91 of the Laws of Antigua and Barbuda. That act states that it shall be lawful for the Governor General whenever he shall deem it advisable to issue a Commission appointing one or two Commissioners and authorizing such commissioners to inquire into the conduct or management of any department of the public service or in respect of any matter which, in the opinion of the Governor General would be in the public welfare,” Simon said.
The senior attorney said that the provision is very clear adding that there is nowhere in the legislation that speaks to the GG needing the approval of any member of the Cabinet of the Antigua and Barbuda.
“The legislation goes further to give the Governor General the power to determine how many Commissioners should participate, who should be the chair, appointing the secretary of the Commission and also to direct the Commissioner of Police with the respect of ensuring security and good order during a commission of inquiry hearing”.
The GG, according to the Act, also has the responsibility to determine whether the inquiry should be public or private.
And, more importantly, covering the salaries of the Commissioners and the inquiry itself.
“The act speaks to that by ensuring that in section 17 the remuneration to be paid to any of the commissioners, their secretary, and any other persons employed, may direct payment of such expenses to be paid by the Accountant General out of the ordinary cash balance at the Treasury”, Simon outlined.
This again, he said, would not require prior approval from the Cabinet.
The Opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) last week, made good on its promise to deliver a petition to the Governor General, asking for the probe
Last week Wednesday, a delegation of about 10 people, including Opposition MPs, and members of the clergy, hand-delivered the petition signed by thousands of residents to Sir Rodney Williams.
The party said it needed answers and wanted the inquiry to clear the country’s name from the matter that has attracted regional and international attention.