GG does not admit he has no power to commission an inquiry, Symister notes, but his inaction sends a message to the people

In his response to the request of the Opposition Leader for a public inquiry into the Antigua Airways/migrant smuggling saga, the Governor-General does not deny having the power to commission such an investigation, notes Leon Chaku Symister.

Last Friday, May 26, Sir Rodney Williams responded to the letter delivered to him, on May 17, by MP Jamale Pringle, United Progressive Party (UPP) parliamentarians, and members of the clergy.

Rather than making an outright rejection of the request, Sir Rodney attaches opinions from two King’s Counsels, from Jamaica and the United Kingdom, as well as an opinion on the powers of the governor-general dating back to Sir James Carlisle, who, in his time, commissioned an inquiry into the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).

Sir Rodney also reiterates that an investigation is being undertaken by the Office of the Attorney-General and hopes that Pringle and his team will be satisfied with the findings.

Symister, a lawyer, himself, says he finds it quite interesting that Sir Rodney’s has not said he lacks the power to empanel a commission.  And, based on the advice of two senior attorneys – King’s Counsel Justin Simon and Harold Lovell – he agrees that the governor-general can, indeed, do so.  

He notes that – in the opinions submitted by the other King’s Counsels from whom Sir Rodney sought advice – this power has not been denied, either.

Furthermore, Symister says, these learned attorneys quoted the same sections of the law cited by both Simon and Lovell to justify their conclusion.

In 2019, Lovell – then political leader of the UPP – called upon Sir Rodney to launch an inquiry into allegations of corruption at Customs and the attempted murder of Cornell Benjamin.  On that occasion, Symister recalls, the governor-general made the excuse that the Police were looking into the matter.

Symister says such continued inaction by the head of State is telling the country that the Gaston Browne Administration can do as it likes; that it can abuse the powers vested in it by the people and there is no one to whom they can turn.  In short, he says, the governor-general appears to be abdicating his responsibility.