A war of words has broken out between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and former minister Asot Michael, with Browne saying that he was distancing himself “from the behaviour” of the legislator.
Both men took to the airwaves almost simultaneously on Saturday to put forward their position with Browne, who had dismissed Asot Michael in 2016 after he was detained in London on allegations of having requested bribes from a British investor, saying “as the leader of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) I completely distance myself from his behaviour and I want to remind him publicly that that type of rotten behaviour is unacceptable and he is not beyond the constitution of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party”.
Browne has promised that Michael, who was re-elected to Parliament on an ABLP ticket in the 2018 general election, “will be subjected to disciplinary action at some point.
“I personally will take him before the tribunal of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party at an appropriate time”.
But Michael, who last week sent a “private written apology” to Chief Magistrate, Joanne Walsh, who he had earlier threatened to have removed from the bench, told radio listeners that he was born in the “bowels” of the ruling party, long before Prime Minister Browne became associated with the party.
He said that Prime Minister Browne, whom he had played a pivotal role in getting the leadership of the party, and ultimately the position of the prime minister “is ungrateful
“Don’t try to push me out of the institution I was born into,” Michael said on Observer Radio, widely viewed here as being closely aligned with the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP).
“Gaston Browne cannot push me out of the Labour Party, I challenge him to call a convention, if he is man enough call a convention…he does not want to do that,” Michael said, indicating that he is prepared to contest the next general election as an “independent” candidate.
Michael also took issue with the decision by the Speaker, Sir Gerald Watts, to remove him from the Parliament last Friday.
“What Sir Gerald what did me is totally ultra vires to the Standing orders. I sent him a letter today,” he said.
Michael also promised to make “all the documents” available to the radio station, following various accusations against Browne and other members of his administration after the announcer said he and the station feared facing a defamatory suit.
But Browne, speaking on his privately-owned radio station, said “Michael is out of control” and that “his conduct is despicable.
“I have a country to run and I will do so without fear or favour, and no member is above the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party,” Browne said, adding “no friendship will be held above and beyond the interest of the people of Antigua & Barbuda.”
Browne said that Michael could not be allowed to “abuse myself and others with impunity and run on a Labour Party ticket.
“I have actually said to him, in private, in the presence of his colleagues, I have written him and I have said to Asot Michael who is trying to force his way back into the government, it cannot happen
“I would rather be a private citizen than to bring Michael back into any government that I lead. It can’t happen and I am publicly committing myself that Asot Michael cannot serve again, neither now, nor in the future in any government that I lead,” Browne told his radio listeners.