MP Asot Michael’s WhatsApp ‘borders on blackmail’ – lawyer

St Peter MP, Asot Michael (file photo)
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Political pundits and a lawyer are chiding MP Asot Michael after his admission that he contacted Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh indicating that he would seek to have her removed from the bench.

Michael said that he had told the magistrate – via a WhatsApp message – that he would write a complaint to the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court seeking her removal due to “corruption and skullduggery”.

The MP said the message was not a threat but a promise to act in the interest of the integrity of the country’s system of justice.

But lawyer Warren Cassell, who was speaking on the matter during Sunday’s Big Issues show, questioned Michael’s intent, claiming the MP’s message “borders on blackmail”.

The incident comes amid a civil case in which Michael allegedly owes thousands of dollars to an individual for a service provided for an event he hosted some years ago.

Walsh issued a warrant for his arrest when he did not show up to court, apparently due to ill health.

But Michael claims Walsh is biased against him because he is a public figure, and also because she is a defendant in another case Michael is apparently involved in in the High Court, among other reasons.

Last Monday, Michael’s lawyer Hugh Marshall Junior accused the Chief Magistrate of confusing her powers when she issued the warrant for Michael’s arrest the week prior.

Walsh, however, said she was recusing herself because the MP had threatened her.

Another Big Issues contributor, political advisor Dr Isaac Newton, also believes that if the MP has evidence to substantiate his claim, he should make it known.

“If Mr Asot Michael really believes that what he is saying can be proven and he has quality evidence to do that, then he really ought to step up to the plate and deliver that to the public because so far he has really placed, by his accusation, a serious dent and tarnish on the judge’s career and so he has an obligation to remove it,” Newton asserted.
Meanwhile, political analyst Dr Oswald Thomas said the incident may force the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party to reconsider the MP’s role in the party.

“There is a problem here for the Labour Party and that is MP Asot is becoming a nuisance and the leader must now decide whether or not he has to call MP Michael in for a tongue-lashing or whether or not he has sufficient information to refer MP Michael to the disciplinary committee of the Labour Party for any kind of action, because in the Labour Party constitution the incumbents are protected from being challenged so it’s not an outright removal,” Thomas stated.

Political commentator, Dr David Hinds characterised the MP’s actions as an abuse of power. He said that Michael should have allowed his lawyer to deal with the matter and questioned why he would be messaging the magistrate directly.

He added that the matter showed “naked power” being used to “undermine the institutions of Antigua and Barbuda”.

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