By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- The outgoing governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda, Dame Louise Lake-Tack, committed an unlawful act on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, when, hours before demitting office, she conferred national honours on 19 persons without any authorization under the law, the government said in a statement on Friday.
Dame Louise Lake-Tack
“The former governor-general evidently decided to diminish the value of the national honours when she conferred a knighthood on her son, and several unknown persons; and, also chose to confer national honours on her gardener, her secretary and two police outriders,” the statement read.
According to the newly- elected government, 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 release 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.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, recognizing that the actions by the outgoing official may be intended to embarrass the administration that successfully removed her from office, said he has decided 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 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. Without the binding authority to confer the honours, the 19 appointments fail and would have to be withdrawn.
The former official tried to invoke the 1998 law to justify her wrongful actions. However, no such authority exists in law.
On September 6, 2000, the Parliament 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.
The new Section 12(2) of the 2000 Act reads:
Notwithstanding nominations by the Committee for awards under this Act, the governor-general, the prime minister and leader of the opposition may, in each calendar year, nominate qualified persons for appointment to such of the Orders as may be specified by regulations under this Act.
The prime minister said he will write to the new governor general seeking to void those nominations and appointments that bring the awards into disrepute.