Constitutional expert says GG must act with Cabinet’s approval re any Commission of Inquiry

Professor Hamid Ghany (photo taken from the UWI St Augustine website)
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By Robert A Emmanuel

[email protected]

As the United Progressive Party (UPP) is expected to enter the third of its four-day protest, another Constitutional expert has been added to the list of persons stating that Governor General Sir Rodney Williams has no authority to call a Commission of Inquiry – at least not by himself.

Observer media yesterday emailed Professor Hamid Ghany, former Director of the Trinidad-based Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and Professor of Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary Studies for his opinion on the powers of the Governor General.

“The Constitution is very clear at section 80 (1) about the powers of the Governor General and section 2 of the Constitution is very clear about the supremacy of the Constitution over all other laws,” the professor wrote.

“The Governor-General cannot undertake to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on his own, he needs to be advised by the Cabinet or a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet.”

Professor Ghany has authored many books on Constitutional affairs in the region, including the 2019 ‘Constitutional Development in the Commonwealth Caribbean’. He also co-authored the 2014 book ‘Remapping the Americas’, and has also contributed several book chapters and articles in the Journal of Legislative Studies.

He has also presented several papers at international conferences about Constitutional affairs and Parliamentary studies.

This written statement by the professor was in line with the legal opinions of two UK-based attorneys who informed Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams of the same.

Sir Rodney, in his public statement, said, between May 24 and May 25, both the government and the Opposition had received a letter with both legal opinions attached.

Gregory Jones KC wrote that “it would not be lawful for the [Governor-General] to call a Commission of Inquiry under section 2 of the … Act save upon the advice of the Cabinet.”

Allan Wood KC also agreed stating that “proper interpretation of section 80 (1) means that as a general rule, in exercising his powers, the Governor-General should act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet unless that requirement is excluded expressly or by necessary implication by a provision in the Constitution or in a law which confers a particular power on him to act.”

Members of the United Progressive Party (UPP) have, for weeks, demanded that a Commission of Inquiry be empanelled to investigate the circumstances surrounding Antigua Airways.

According to the Opposition party, questions are still unanswered about the now-defunct airline and all matters having to do with those involved in bringing hundreds of Africans to Antigua and Barbuda, where they were given visas upon arrival, among other irregularities.

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