ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it is moving to void several honours handed out by Dame Louise Lake-Tack, a few hours before she demitted office, last week Thursday.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne said, he would write the newly appointed Governor General, Dr. Rodney Williams, “seeking to void those nominations and appointments that bring the awards into disrepute.”
A government statement said that the former head of state committed an unlawful act, when she conferred national honours on 19 people without any authorization under law.
Nine of those honours were knighthoods awarded to four women and five men.
Among those receiving knighthoods was attorney Geoffrey Tack, the son of Dame Louise, who was knighted for his role as a confidante and legal adviser to the governor general.
The new Dames (DCN) include former president of the Senate Dame Hazlyn Francis and former Speaker of the House Dame D Gisele Isaac, who were both recognised for their exemplary contribution in the field of education and in the development of Antigua and Barbuda.
The former head of state also honoured some staff members of Government House.
But the government statement has accused Dame Louise of diminishing the value of the national honours when she conferred the awards to several people, including her gardener, here secretary and two police outriders.
“The National Honours Act, 1998, does not allow any Governor General to select anyone for a national honour. It certainly does not allow the Governor General on the eve of her involuntary departure from office, to select a member of her family and others who do not fit the criteria for national honours to be arbitrarily hand-picked by a vindictive official, determined to undermine the value of a national honour,” the government statement said.
The two month old government of Prime Minister Browne, which had been accused of lying by Dame Louise, regarding her removal from office, said “Since the Governor General acted unlawfully, then the honours conferred are void ab initio, or from the very moment they were conferred, several legal experts have concluded.
“The Honourable Prime Minister, recognizing that the lawless actions by the outgoing official, may be intended to embarrass the administration that successfully removed her from office, has decided that he will seek to have the Honours Committee ratify the decisions where the national is deserving; and, to void those decisions that are clearly based on factors that bear no relation to outstanding service or excellence in some field.”
The government statement said that the National Honours Act, 1998, names “the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda as the Grand Master who is to consult with the National Honours Committee.”
It said “without the binding authority to confer the honours, the 19 appointments fail and would have to be withdrawn.
“The same Governor General who denied national honours to deserving patriots, when nominated by the Labour Party Leader of the Opposition in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, was far from constrained in her liberal give-away of national honours on Wednesday evening, August 13 2014, hours before her tenure ended. The former official tried to invoke the 1998 law to justify her wrongful actions. However, no such authority exists in law.”
The government statement said that Parliament in 2006, adopted an amendment to the 1998 Act whose principal purpose was to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Governor General could be assured that a small number of nominees would be accorded national honours once annually.