Source: Facebook

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda has defended his decision to remove Asot Michael from his ministerial position following the MP’s arrest in at a British airport.

Speaking to the Antigua Observer, Gaston Browne said his quick thinking was “a form of good governance”.

The prime minister also took to Facebook to dismiss any concerns.

Asot Michael, who until Monday was minister for tourism, economic development, investment and energy, was arrested after arriving at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on Monday morning.

He was flew in from Antigua, stopping in the UK before heading on the France to attend a conference.

Soon after the news of his detention emerged, Browne released a statement confirming that he had been forced to “relieve him [Michael] of all government duties.”

The timing of his dismissal, when the prime minister admits details on the arrest were sparse, has been criticised by some.

But Browne does not regret his move.

“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,” he said.

Discussions to be had

Michael, who is currently staying in a central London hotel, finally broke his silence last night, denying any wrongdoing.

He said that he was only arrested because police wanted to talk to him and had to place him under arrest as a matter of protocol for those set to leave the country.

A source has said that this is unlikely as “otherwise every tourist who police spoke to would be handcuffed.”

In a statement, the St Peter MP said: “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.

“I am 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.”

Browne, who was travelling at the time of the arrest, is due back in Antigua today.

The prime minister said he will give Michael a chance to talk to him but that it was the right thing for his administration to be proactive.

“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,” Browne said.