ST. JOHN’S: Former attorney general Justin Simon says the decision by former governor general Dame Louise Lake Tack to bestow knighthoods and other national awards on several people was “bad in law”.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced that his administration would be writing to the new 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, including attorney Geoffrey Tack, the son of Dame Louise, who was knighted for his role as a confidante and legal adviser to the governor general.
“In respect of the appointments being made, it is not unprecedented, because on the demission of office by (former governor general) Sir James Carlisle certain appointments were made by him.
“But let me also hasten to say that one previous instance does not a precedent create. It is, in my view, that appointments which were made in the manner in which they were made by the former governor general were bad in law, just as they were in respect of Sir James Carlisle,” said Simon.
He said the National Honours Act of 1998, which was amended in 2000, gives the prime minister, opposition leader and governor general discretion to nominate persons for awards. However, he said the legislation outlines who can be awarded and the procedure that must be followed.
Simon said the legislation also specifies that the governor general may, after consultation with the prime minister, appoint suitable and qualified persons from the ranks and office holders and others specified below to any of the Orders established under the National Honours Act.
“The list includes judges serving in Antigua & Barbuda, senior members of the clergy, ambassadors or high commissioners, the commanding officer of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force, the commissioner of police, governor general’s spouse, former prime ministers, heads of state and such other persons as the Governor General may, after consultation with the prime minister, nominate at whatsoever degree they consider appropriate,” he said.
Simon acknowledged that while there are also instances where the governor general can make appointments under Regulation 4 without consultation with the prime minister, there’s a guideline she must follow and a limit to the number she can issue.