PM says he won’t take responsibility for corruption message

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (file photo)
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Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he will not take responsibility for the circulation of a WhatsApp message which alleges that two public officials had been involved in corruption.

That message, which has since been published and circulated on social media, implicates Anthony Armstrong, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and St Peter Member of Parliament (MP), Asot Michael.

The message, which was addressed to Michael, accused him of paying the prosecutor to protect him in the IHI fraud investigation.

The message was circulated two weekends ago after the MP challenged the prime minister for the leadership of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and called him “ungrateful” for trying to replace him as a candidate in the upcoming general elections.

Last week, MP Michael confirmed to Observer that the message was in fact sent to him from the prime minister.

The missive alleged that the veteran politician had been involved in other corrupt activities, some of which involved the use of state funds. It also threatened to remove the DPP for allegedly accepting bribes to protect Michael in the past.

DPP Armstrong, in a statement last week Friday, denied receiving payment from anyone, including any former minister of government, and said he would be exploring his legal options for the defamation of his character.

Browne spoke to the DPP’s denial in his statement, saying, “this denial is good for our country, and means that the law enforcement and prosecution authorities in Antigua and Barbuda are acting, and will continue to act in good faith, in accordance with their collective and individual free will”. 

The prime minister said, however, that ”responsibility for the publication of that message, including potential liability for any defamation it may contain, resides exclusively with the person who published it”. 

While Browne did not deny writing the message, he claims not to have made it public.

The statement from the Office of the Prime Minister advised that the “matter including the publication of the message was motivated and is now being exploited for political and evil purposes”.

The prime minister blames ”several actors including the person who published the message, and the ABLP’s political opponents”. 

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