By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
EMBATTLED Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP for MICAL V Alfred Gray has been relieved of his Cabinet post as minister responsible for local government amid a police investigation into allegations that he used his power to interfere with the judicial process.
However he still retains his post as minister of agriculture and marine resources.
Prime Minister Perry Christie made the announcement in the House of Assembly this morning.
“In reference to the allegations recently made against Minister Alfred Gray, the member for MICAL, I am advised that the honourable attorney general has referred the matter to the Royal Bahamas Police Force for a thorough investigation,” Mr Christie said. “As a result of this development, Minister Gray has invited me to relieve him of his ministerial responsibility for local government pending the outcome of the police investigation.
“In all the circumstances, I consider that this is the correct thing to do.”
The prime minister said he has advised Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling to transfer the local government portfolio from Mr Gray to Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan.
“This change will take place with immediate effect. The member for MICAL is to be commended Mr Speaker for his responsible approach to this matter,” the prime minister added. “This is to be favourably contrasted, Mr Speaker and clearly this Parliament will be plunged into this kind of debate, with cases under the former administration involving allegations of serious and major impropriety on the part of various ministers in separate and unconnected matters. In none of these cases did any of these FNM ministers stand down from all or any part of their ministerial position pending the outcome of any investigation that may have taken place.”
Mr Christie also read into the record a letter given to him today by Mr Gray. In that letter, Mr Gray said the allegations against him are false but urged the prime minister to launch an impartial, independent investigation into the accusations.
Mr Gray also wrote that he expects to be vindicated at the end of the investigation.
A statement released today by the Office of the Attorney General confirmed that Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson has referred the matter to police for investigation.
“The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in its Preamble and elsewhere enshrines an abiding respect for the rule of law. Fundamental to the rule of law is the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary. Allegations of executive interference have been levied against a minister of government in relation to a matter involving a resident of Mayaguana.
“The attorney general today referred this matter to the Royal Bahamas Police Force for a thorough investigation,” the statement said.
Mr Gray has been under fire since the Free National Movement accused him of abusing his power after he contacted the Mayaguana island administrator last week to offer what Mr Gray has called “legal advice” regarding a young man convicted in his constituency. Although Mr Gray has confirmed that he did contact the island administrator, he has strongly denied that he in any way attempted to sway the course of justice.
It was claimed by the FNM that following a phone conversation between Mr Gray and administrator Zephaniah Newbold, the latter granted the release of the man he had convicted just days earlier. Mr Newbold is a local magistrate.
See Thursday’s Tribune for more on this story.
BELOW: The letter sent by V Alfred Gray to Prime Minister Perry Christie (click to enlarge)