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Gomez hits out at backbenchers over referendum

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

DAMIAN Gomez, State Minister of Legal Affairs, yesterday criticised backbenchers within his own party for spreading misinformation in a politically motivated attack on the constitutional amendment bills.

Mr Gomez accused fellow parliamentarians of irresponsibly fuelling “baseless” concerns over the proposed changes to the Constitution instead of using their posts to educate the public.

He added that PLP MPs Greg Moss, Dr Andre Rollins, and Renward Wells were politically distancing themselves from their party and enlightened citizens after the three men each said they could not support several bills last week. He also urged the three dissenters to seek legal counsel from the Department of Legal Affairs for clarification on the proposed bills, instead of repeating “falsehoods” about the legislation.

“People will have fears, (but) the job of the political directorate is to answer questions which people have,” Mr Gomez said.

“Not by way of misleading them, but by giving them accurate information. If I have a constituent who has a misapprehension on a matter based on a falsehood, it’s my job to tell them, ‘Listen, you are operating on a basis of something that is not true.’ That’s the way of responsible representation.”

“They have gone further to say these are their (constituents’) concerns and they adopt them as their own,” Mr Gomez added. “That is not the job of a representative, it’s just a question of what is your real responsibility.

“It’s not my job to lecture them on their responsibility but ultimately they will find that they will be politically distancing themselves from those who take a far more responsible and enlightened view on these issues.”

During last week’s debate, Dr Rollins and Mr Moss clashed with several party members in a heated debate on the constitutional amendment bills that was so intense that House Speaker Kendall Major had to intervene several times to maintain order in the lower chamber.

Despite repeated assurances from the government that the fourth bill will not lead to gay marriage, Dr Rollins, who represents Fort Charlotte, Mr Moss, who represents Marco City and Mr Wells, who represents Bamboo Town, told members they could not support the bill for this reason.

The fourth bill seeks to end discrimination based on sex. This involves the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the Constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.

Mr Moss also said in the House that he did not support bill two, which would give the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman the same right to apply for citizenship as the foreign wife of a Bahamian man. Dr Rollins has also raised concerns with this bill, arguing that Bahamian citizenship should be protected from exploitation.

“The concerns which have been raised in my view are completely baseless,” Mr Gomez said. “The constitutions of several countries in the eastern Caribbean specifically use the word ‘sex’. They also have in their domestic law, legislation which criminalises homosexual behaviour, that legislation would be unconstitutional if the word sex meant also sexual orientation.

“This whole argument that has been advanced is really a smokescreen and it causes me to be concerned that this line of attack on the bills is for political reasons and political reasons alone.”

Last week, Dr Rollins told The Tribune that he was not given an opportunity to view the bills before they were tabled in the House of Assembly.

However, Mr Gomez said he did not accept this assertion that backbenchers were not sufficiently briefed on the legislation.

“The bills were discussed at parliamentary meetings prior to the debate so I’m a bit surprised by that,” Mr Gomez said. “To start with, the bills, as worded when they were introduced in the House for the first and second reading, were identical to the bills presented to the public in 2001.”

He added: “They were foreshadowed in the Constitutional Commission’s report, which was a document laid on the floor of the House and every member of Parliament had a copy of it.”

The second bill was also contested on the grounds that citizenship should not be automatic.

Mr Gomez said the argument made against the bill was rooted in misconception over existing laws, adding that Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell rose several times to repeat the current policy “ad nauseam”.

He said: “At present, even though the Constitution says that a foreign spouse of a Bahamian man has the right to apply, the application process is such governed by the Nationality Act, it requires the government to consider the application. If there are any factors that bring into question the compatibility of the applicant as it relates to national security then we are obliged to deny the application. It is the right to apply, not the right to automatic citizenship.”

Mr Gomez welcomed colleagues confused over the amendments to contact the Department of Legal Affairs to arrange legal counsel. He added that he did not interfere with the professional function of his department, but also encouraged parliamentarians to seek out private services if they doubted the government’s objectivity in the matter.

He said: “I can expect that from a layman who does not have access to (legislation), but for them (parliamentarians) they should at the very least have read the legislation. Mr Moss can advise himself because he is a lawyer, but the other two should get their own advice. None of them have called my office, and if they were dissatisfied with my advice then go to the director of legal affairs.”

“All of the backbenchers, those three members, have access to the computer,” he added. “They have access to the statute law of the Bahamas. If they don’t, they can go to the House of Assembly and the volumes are readily available there, they can read the legislation for themselves. But if they choose not to, they really ought not to be repeating falsehoods of what the law is.”

Debate over proposed amendments is expected to resume this morning. Mr Gomez said he expected the debate to be completed, with parliamentarians going to a vote, today.

Comments

TalRussell 9 years, 9 months ago

The question is, What kind of private organ is best suited for ya personality? Minister Gomez needed worry too much over some his fellow PLP parliamentarians of irresponsibly fueling “baseless” concerns over the proposed changes to the constitution, instead we all need thanks Comrade "Government's Talkie Show Host" Darold for this morning attempting to define the very essence of what we are talking about, concerning "sex' in the proposed constitutional referendum. Comrade Darold says, shouldn't a Bahamalander who was born with both a penis and clitoris have a right under we constitution to decided if, they wants balls hanging or a vagina positioned between their legs? Thank you Jesus, cause now we does all better understand we should have a right to chop off or remove the private organ we deem to be the least desirable of the two, if we was born with two that is. Now, the meaning of the word "sex" in da constitution is so much more understandable. But now Darold gone and re confused me, cause he ain't know if, you chop off your dick and keep ya vagina if, it means you can still have a baby? Comrades you can't make this stuff up.

Amen!

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TheMadHatter 9 years, 9 months ago

QUOTE : "Last week, Dr Rollins told The Tribune that he was not given an opportunity to view the bills before they were tabled in the House of Assembly. However, Mr Gomez said he did not accept this assertion that backbenchers were not sufficiently briefed on the legislation."

My response: Dr. Rollins did not say he was "not sufficiently briefed". He said he was not given an opportunity to view the bills before they were tabled.

He and the other two members obviously are not in the inner circle, and are merely there to warm a chair and breathe oxygen - oh and of course, to vote YES to whatever the Cabinet members bring forth. That seems to be the view of Mr. Gomez.

This must be a new day in the Bahamas where three of our so-called "representatives" are actually speaking out in the Parliament and voicing the concerns of their constituents. Amazing. Clearly, however, this display of democracy in action offends Mr. Gomez to a high degree.

TheMadHatter

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Sickened 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm certainly no lawyer but I have heard of many stories around the globe where higher courts gave people certain rights because of the wording of the constitution. Supreme courts have overruled the rule of law based on precedents because of their current interpretation of the constitution. Therefore the wording of the constitution is VERY IMPORTANT and is certainly open to debate and concern. Why this fool Gomez thinks otherwise makes me wonder how sensible and forward thinking he is.

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ThisIsOurs 9 years, 9 months ago

It's clear to me that the language is given as it is to be very broad. What has further cemented my opinion is the proposal today on the rewording of the questions defining sex as "male and female". I find the proposed rewording a slap in the face, that in essence clarifies nothing as a lesbian is female and a homosexual is male. If they really wanted to clarify the questions they would use words to either define marriage as being between a man and woman or specifically exclude same sex marriage. If on the other hand their purpose is to put secular philosophy into the constitution, they should stand up as men and declare that as their intention. Not once again use subversive legal jargon to trick the people they are charged to govern

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Well_mudda_take_sic 9 years, 9 months ago

Gomez is being coy and disingenuous to say the least, even after taking account of the very latest modifications to the proposed wording of the items to be voted on in the referendum. If Bahamians foolishly vote "yes"as Fred Mitchell and others like him in our parliament would wish, then the door will be opened wide for a gay man and gay woman to assert that it is their constitutional right to marry their same-sex gay companion with the requirement that the same-sex marriage be recognised in law (and presumably in the church) as being no different than a christian marriage between a man and a women. Do not permit yourself to be conned by any politician to vote "yes" for same-sex gay marriage whether the persuasion of the politician be PLP, FNM or DNA. The fact that these evil politicians are not willing to amend our Constitution so that it explicitly states in plain simple English that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman should tell all of us that they are hell bent on accepting same-sex marriages as a constitutional right of the gay community. PLEASE, JUST READ HOW THE BIBLE CONDEMNS SAME-SEX RELATIONS IN THE GOOD BOOK OF LEVITICUS AT CHAPTER 20, VERSE 13.

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Reader 9 years, 9 months ago

Amen to what you have to say.

Man has corrupted Gods order from the beginning… Genesis 2:24 Just start with Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:1-8

The corruption of Gods order for a husband and wife runs through the whole cannon of scripture. Just take The time to search.

Can the mind of the spirit of God be any clearer on the issue than what is written in Romans 1:19-32? Especially verses 26 and 27!!!

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hj 9 years, 9 months ago

Wait a minute. According to your colleague Freddie there is unity among the party regarding the referendum. All we see is simply "posturing which comes from the French word to speak". So why the accusations?

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ThisIsOurs 9 years, 9 months ago

FM would be right if they were speaking Creole. Since they speaking English nobody knows what he talking about.

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Tommy77 9 years, 9 months ago

More bad news, http://s04.flagcounter.com/mini/kfoW/..." style="display:none" />

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