By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
FRED Smith, QC, legal director of Save The Bays, said yesterday he was “disappointed” that House Speaker Dr Kendall Major “dismissed as contemptuous” an order handed down by Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles restraining members of Parliament from releasing any information contained in STB private emails.
Mr Smith told The Tribune the proper place for the determination of the extent of parliamentary privilege is in the Supreme Court, not in in the House of Assembly.
On Monday, Dr Major said the judiciary has no jurisdiction over Parliament and the interlocutory injunction against Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, violates the principal of separation of powers.
Last Thursday, STB was granted an interlocutory injunction restraining the government ministers from further disclosing the group’s confidential information in Parliament.
The injunction was granted by Justice Charles yesterday and lasts until May 12.
The judge’s order said the government ministers are “prohibited” from any further appropriation, perusal, use, publication or disclosure in Parliament or elsewhere of any correspondence, including emails, belonging to the applicants.
However, Dr Major said the Attorney’s General’s Office is seeking to have the injunction set aside.
“I am disappointed that responsible leaders of our country, parliamentarians, are ratcheting up an issue that is of constitutional importance to the future of the Bahamas and democracy,” Mr Smith said.
“The matter is before the court. I deplore the approach taken by the members in the House of Assembly. I do not wish to comment on the matter as it is a case before the court and the government has given notice to set aside the order but the proper place for the determination of the extent of parliamentary privilege is in the Supreme Court.
“We (STB) do not seek to stop the inner workings of the House of Assembly, this is an act against our constitutional rights and throughout the world, including United Kingdom, there is a recognition that constitutional rights are to be determined by the Supreme Court. I urge (those in Parliament) to let the matter be properly determined by the court and not create a political deflection.”
Last month, Mr Fitzgerald accused Save The Bays of being a political organisation seeking to “overthrow” the Progressive Liberal Party government under the guise of an environmental group. During his contribution in the House of Assembly, Mr Fitzgerald read private emails from STB members and others, which he said bolstered his claims.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Mr Fitzgerald recently warned members of the environmental group to “batten down” because a “category five” hurricane was on its way, as he threatened to table “every single” email and bank statement in his possession if needed to protect his integrity and parliamentary privilege.
Last month in Parliament, Mr Mitchell claimed that some $8.25m has been filtered through various organisations connected with STB - locally and internationally - from 2013 to 2015.
Also speaking in the House of Assembly in March, Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller has alleged he saw a document that showed that five members of STB take home a combined salary of $740,000.
The disclosures came as part of a fierce political debate over claims included in an alleged murder-for-hire plot outlined in court documents filed against Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard by billionaire Louis Bacon and several other STB directors in early March.