(ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Oct 24, CMC) – Dismissed Tourism and Investment Minister, Asot Michael, on Tuesday said it was “unfortunate” that Prime Minister Gaston Browne did not contact him before relieving him of his portfolio after he was detained in London on Monday.
“I fully accept and respect the Prime Minister’s right to appoint and remove Ministers in his Government. However, in the circumstances, 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,” Michael said in a statement late Tuesday.
Browne, who acknowledged that he had “no firm details of the reasons for Mr. Michael’s arrest”, nonetheless said that he had advised Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, to revoke immediately Michael’s appointment “pending the outcome of his arrest Monday morning by the Metropolitan Police in London.”
Browne, who is presently in Jordan, said he received news from Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner in London, Karen-Mae Hill, that Michael was arrested on his arrival in England early Monday.
“…the arrest itself is sufficient for me to revoke immediately his appointment as a Cabinet member and to relieve him of all Ministerial portfolios until this matter is resolved,” Browne said, adding “I have repeatedly stated that I expect every member of my government to comply with the highest possible standards required of public office, and while Mr. Michael might establish his innocence in time, the fact that he has been arrested obliges me to relieve him of all government duties,” he added.
But in his statement, Michael said he had been informed of the Prime Minister’s press release announcing his removal from the Cabinet, adding “I regard it as unfortunate that the Prime Minister did not contact me beforehand, in which case I could have explained the position to him.”
Michael said that on his arrival at Gatwick Airport, on route to Cannes in France, where he was to attend a real estate and investment conference on behalf of the Antigua and Barbuda government, he was approached by police officers, who asked him 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.
“I attended an interview, in which I made it clear that I denied any allegations made against me, and that I have not been involved in any wrongdoing, which is the case. 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,” Michael said.
Michael said he was “sorry that the Prime Minister did not contact me before the press release was issued.
“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. I also want to take the opportunity to reassure the people of Antigua and Barbuda and, in particular, my constituents of St. Peter, who are very dear to me, that they have no reason to doubt my sincerity and my continued devotion and commitment to their interests.”