By Latrishka Thomas
“The minister maintains his innocence,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said on Observer Am yesterday, in relation to the accusation of rape levied against one of his colleagues.
The news that a government official had been accused of rape surfaced a few days ago, and Observer was able to confirm that a young woman had filed such a report against a member of the sitting administration.
The report was made to the Sexual Offences Unit about a week ago and an official letter was also hand delivered to the Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney.
However, attempts to contact Commissioner Rodney on the matter have proven futile and the police’s Public Relations Officer, Inspector Frankie Thomas, would not comment on whether or not anyone has been questioned.
Yesterday, Browne told Observer that the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party’s code of conduct and ethics calls for mandatory resignation of the minister pending the outcome of the investigation.
Furthermore, he said, “if charges are brought against him, he has absolutely no other option than to resign voluntarily or perhaps involuntarily”.
The PM also revealed that he had private discussions with said minister to notify him of the forementioned and “the minister understands very clearly”.
“The Labour Party has a code of conduct and ethics and, in those circumstances, the option of the minister is very clear that, where a minister is charged for wrongdoing, he ought to properly resign his position and to fight his case. If per chance the minister is exonerated, then he can be reappointed,” he continued to explain.
Browne noted that some may compare the matter to that of current Member of Parliament for St Peter, Asot Michael, who was asked to resign from Cabinet two years ago. Although no formal charge was served on Michael, there was sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, he said.
“There are some that may argue that the former minister who was relieved of his position, or at least asked to resign, that he had no formal charge served against him. What I say today is that based on the information that we received from the British crime agency, that there was sufficient evidence to cause that type of action to take place.
“I have information that the average person in the public does not have and I am satisfied that based on the scripts of the tapes of certain discussions that the minister would have had with a particular investor, that there would have been more than sufficient justification to ask that minister to resign and that there is sufficient cause to ensure that that minister never serves in any government that I may lead,” he explained.
The Sexual Offences Act 1995 makes it unlawful for anyone to publish or broadcast the identity of an accused person, or complainants, in a sexual offence case.