Prime Minister Gaston Browne is furthering his case against a Commission of Inquiry into Antigua Airways
This time, Browne said a Commission of Inquiry is always about examining the conduct of public officials and Antigua Airways is a private entity.
The Governor General Sir Rodney Williams has been facing mounting pressure from the United Progressive Party (UPP) and others affiliated with the Opposition, to commission an inquiry into the operations of the airlines that saw hundreds of West Africans arrive here via chartered flights
Sir Rodney faced several days of picket last week while remaining adamant that he cannot call any such inquiry which can only be mandated by the Cabinet.
But now Browne said in their request, the UPP has not identified anyone or any entity whose conduct should be investigated.
He said instead, the Opposition has not provided a scintilla of evidence to suggest any wrongdoing by anyone, without even the presentation of circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing by any public official; there is no justification for an inquiry.
Constitutional experts, at least three of them, have said that the Governor-General cannot undertake to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on his own and he needs to be advised by the Cabinet or a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.
However legal minds like Justin Simon KC and E. Ann Henry KC maintains that the law gives the Governor General the powers to do so.
But Browne said while Simon is an accomplished attorney, he may be playing into the hands of the Opposition UPP
“I have full respect for him [Justin Simon KC] but on this issue, he knows that he’s dead wrong”, Browne said
“ So here they are picking up a colonial construct that was designed for a governor who had full executive authority over the country and to try and superimpose that on an independent country and in which the executive authority is vested in a cabinet…they know differently,” Browne insists
The prime minister believes that there’s a propensity among the nation, that to undermine and embarrass the government, to prove a political point, they insist on a matter even after proving it legally wrong
“They’re trying to confuse the electorate. It’s a deliberate strategy to confuse, obviously to sow disinformation within the society in support of their party. Now, you want to ask Henry and Justin Simon two accomplished attorneys, what is going to be the net gain of deceiving and sowing misinformation in the public domain,” Browne said
Furthermore, the prime minister said he is surprised that the UPP would keep up the pressure for the GG to call a Commission of Inquiry even after constitutional specialized said otherwise.
“Common sense alone tells us that Antigua and Barbuda is an independent nation and that it is the executive that has the power, not the governor-general. The Governor-general cannot go write a check or instruct anybody to write the check from the treasury of Antigua and Barbuda. The Finance Administration Act gives that authority to the finance minister who happens to be me. So if you don’t have the authority to call it or to pay for it, then where do you get your independent remit from to go and call any commission of inquiry?
Browne said while this is not a direct attack on the Governor General, the entire situation is nonsensical
The government said there will be no Commission of Inquiry into Antigua Airways. He said the information presented to the public about the matter is sufficient enough.