The Attorney General’s Office has reportedly sought the advice of two King Counsels in the United Kingdom on whether the Governor General Sir Rodney Williams can establish a public inquiry into Antigua Airways on his own.
The United Progressive Party (UPP0 hand-delivered a petition signed by thousands of signatures, calling for a public inquiry into the chartered flight that brought hundreds of West Africans onto the island.
Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Max Hurst said at the weekly Cabinets Press Conference this morning that the experts concluded that the Governor General has no power to commission a public inquiry.
He said the Cabinet is the only one who can establish a Commission of Enquiry and, by way of Resolution, the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda provides the authority to the Governor General and will also vote to authorize a special warrant to fund the Enquiry.
He says the claim by political operatives that the Governor General has the authority to commission a Public Enquiry is false.
Furthermore, Hurst said no one in the Cabinet agrees with the call by the UPP to have a public inquiry.
“It is too expensive, it is completely unnecessary, and all the facts about the Antigua Airways and Cameroonians who reached here are already known. There is hardly any need for an inquiry to uncover facts we already know. This is all politics and we know that it is like the UPP politicians to play this game and they just are not going to win,” Hurst said
Earlier this week, Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Justin Simon said 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.
“We have to recognize that the Governor General can act independently, at his discretion in respect of several 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 during an interview with Observer
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.
But Hurst said he is baffled as to why Simon would make such statements, knowing that the GG has no such authority.