Antigua Observer:-“Misinformation” is being blamed for Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s decision to strip Cabinet Minister Asot Michael of his portfolios – tourism, energy and investment – on Monday.
At least that’s according to Michael who issued a press statement from London last evening following his release from the custody of the Metropolitan Police.
Michael wrote, “I consider that the prime minister’s decision in this case, to relieve me of my ministerial responsibilities, is likely to be due to a misapprehension of what has taken place, and second-hand information, indeed misinformation.”
“I do not consider that any justifiable question has arisen that I have failed to comply with the highest possible standards required of public office.”
The St Peter MP further described the development as “unfortunate” and added, “I am sorry that the prime minister did not contact me before the press release was issued.”
He said that despite the action taken against him, he proposes to speak to PM Browne “as soon as possible” and “to explain the situation.”
This came just about 24 hours after the prime minister first issued a statement, announcing his decision to strip the MP “pending the outcome of the arrest” in London.
The prime minister said while he did not have the facts as to why Michael was detained, he found his “arrest itself is sufficient for me to revoke immediately, his appointment…until this matter is resolved.”
But detailing what happened in the full-page statement from London, Michael wrote “On Monday morning (23rd October) I arrived on a flight from Antigua at Gatwick Airport, en route to Cannes in France, where I was to attend a real estate and investment conference on behalf of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.”
He continued, “After completing the usual formalities, I was approached by police officers, who asked me to accompany them. I agreed. The officers wished to interview me, and for that purpose I was arrested. I have been advised that this is often done when persons are travelling and not expected to remain in the United Kingdom.”
According to Michael, he attended the interview and “denied any allegations” or involvement “in any wrongdoing” and this resulted in his release from custody.
“I then carried on my journey into London. I was not charged with any offence, I am not on bail, and the police did not seek to impose any restriction on my travel,” he also said.
Michael said while he accepts the prime minister’s power to appoint and disappoint, in this case, it is not justified.
OBSERVER media reached out to the prime minister who said he stands by his decision and earlier statement to the media.
PM Browne, who is due back on island today, said, “I was very clear that he was relieved based on the fact he was arrested, and secondly, he was relieved of ministerial responsibilities pending the outcome of his arrest. If for example he is charged then clearly, he would not be reinstated…and I stand by that position.”
The country’s leader said it is still too early to determine whether Michael would be reinstated and added that “when he returns, I will get the chance to speak with him.”
Browne again defended his decision, saying it was a proactive one in the interest of good governance.
“This is a form of good governance. It is not any punitive action or form of condemnation. It is a decent thing to do and I hope he will take this seriously and reinvent himself,” the prime minister.
In the meantime, Michael is reassuring “the people of Antigua and Barbuda and in particular [his] constituents of St. Peter, who are very dear to [him], that they have no reason to doubt [his] sincerity and [his] continued devotion and commitment to their interests.”
This was after he falsely accused OBSERVER’s reporter of stating that he may be wanted in London for further questioning. That’s a statement which was actually made by the government’s Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst.