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CARIBBEAN | Political analyst speaks on removal of Asot Michael from Antigua gov't

Wickham also heads the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) Wickham also heads the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES)
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct 27, CMC – Barbados-based Caribbean political analyst Peter Wickham Friday said he supported the decision of Prime Minister Gaston Browne to remove his Investment and Tourism Minister Asot Michael from his Cabinet following his arrest in the United Kingdom earlier this week.

Wickham, who also heads the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Browne’s response was entirely reasonable, as he has to set a standard for his administration.

Peter Wickham

“This matter is one of these awkward situations in politics that certainly one doesn’t expect and I think the reaction of the Prime Minister under the circumstance is entirely proper.

“He’s now revealed that he received information sufficient to convince him that he should temporarily remove the allocation of Tourism and investment from Mr. Asot Michael (and) I think it is a reasonable reaction under the circumstances,” said Wickham, a former University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer in political science.

He said while Prime Minister Browne didn’t have all of the information he “certainly had enough information to come to a reasonable conclusion and I think we have to understand there are two things going on here. One is as a minister of government and the other thing is his role as a member of parliament.

“For the time being he continues to be a Member of Parliament but the position as a minister is entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister.”

Browne had originally acknowledged that he did not have all the circumstance surrounding the arrest of Michael on his arrival at Gatwick Airport on Monday, but has subsequently said that the investigation involving his former tourism and investment minister was as “a serious matter” insisting that Michael “was actually arrested on a serious issue.

Browne, speaking on Observer radio in his homeland, said that after he was briefed orally on the situation regarding the arrest, he immediately requested that law enforcement authorities in Britain submit the information in writing to Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to London, Karen Mae-Hill.

“I was told by the high commissioner that he was actually arrested on a serious issue…we were told it was not a frivolous arrest, that it was a serious matter, that the international police, INTERPOL and the metropolitan police [were] actually following.

“And, I also understand that it included the local police as well. And, as a result of certain information they would have gathered, that is what led to this action,” Browne told radio listeners.

Earlier this week, Michael in a statement, said he was “sorry” that Prime Minister Browne had not contacted him prior to making public his removal from the Cabinet.

“I propose to speak to him as soon as possible, and to explain the situation,” Michael said, adding that he had also been informed that a local radio broadcast had indicated “that the police in England informed me that I would be required for further questioning.

“This is untrue. The police did not say this to me,” he added.

Michael has since said that he has been advised by his lawyers not to make any further comment on the situation regarding his detention in the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Browne said he is still awaiting a document from the British authorities explaining why the National Crime Agency (NCA) took Michael into custody.

Wickham said that Prime Minister Browne has indicated that for the time being, the matter of Michael’s arrest, “which has not been disputed, it’s enough to warrant his removal as a minister.

“Now this can change. If there are pieces of information coming to the fore that indicates that the approach of the British government was presumptuous in charging him, then he may very well be exonerated. We haven’t heard the last of this. It is entirely possible that Mr. Michael will return to his cabinet position but for the time being he is not.”

The political analyst said that he does not anticipate any long-term implications for the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) as a result of the incident involving Michael, but cautioned that the party should remain alert to any change in public support.

“As far as implications go for the wider government, the ABLP, there are a couple of factors we have to take into consideration. One is the allegations that are being made; but then there is the other side of it. Does this make the UPP any stronger?

“I think that that is something I’m not very clear on because my sense is that even as there some challenges related to the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and Mr. Michael, the other side which is the strength of the UPP and the extent to which people will consider them more worthy for office would also now be brought into question.

“But I don’t think this changes any of that. I think in the long-term, regarding the health of the ABLP administration isn’t threatened significantly by this but I do feel they have to be on the watch to ensure that it does not happen,” he told CMC.

  • Countries: Antigua_Barbuda