OUR CARIBBEAN: This Antiguan ‘interest’ in Sir Ronald
The Antigua and Barbuda government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has achieved a first in governance politics in the English-speaking Caribbean that it may well come to rue, according to legal luminaries in and out of that twin-island state.
It is the precedent it has created by authorizing the Antigua and Barbuda Police Force to issue a public statement – which was published on the government’s official website – requesting Sir Ronald Sanders to voluntarily show up in the country to be questioned as “a person of interest” in an alleged multi-million dollar fraud involving payments made in a state project 15 years ago under a then Antigua Labour Party administration.
Both the renowned senior counsel of Dominica, Anthony Astaphan, and the former Attorney General and Senior Counsel of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Gerald Watts, have publicly condemned this approach.
For Astaphan, it was simply “outrageous” to expect someone with a high public profile like Sir Ronald, “neither a fugitive from justice nor facing any criminal charges”, to simply show up, at his own expense to be questioned by the police in Antigua and Barbuda on a matter that is very much “in the political domain of the authorities in that country…”.
Sir Ronald, who lives in Barbados, said he would welcome hearing directly from the authorities in Antigua and Barbuda (of which he was a long serving diplomat).
However, after being advised of likely legal action for defamation, the government pulled the controversial “police statement” from its official website.
Both Attorney General Justin Simon, and Minister of National Security Errol Cort, went public earlier this month with separate comments to the media questioning the legality of the procedures for a Guyanese lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, to be appointed as a “special constable” to assist the police in their investigations into the alleged fraud.
They claimed not to have been previously consulted and explained that the flawed procedure in the appointment of Datadin, (a personal lawyer to Spencer), should have been a matter for determination by the Police Service Commission (PSC) consistent with constitutional requirements.
At the time of writing new arrangements were underway on Wednesday to involve the PSC in the appointment of Datadin.
At the same time, however, the opposition ALP of former Prime Minister Lester Bird, condemned the political pressures “now being forced on the PSC.
Bird himself is among other “persons of interest” identified for investigation into the case of the Japanese company, Ishikawajima–Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) said to have been involved a debt settlement of some US$14 million, that is at the core of the claimed “fraud”.