By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
SUPREME Court Justice Indra Charles along with Save The Bays Director Fred Smith, QC, and lawyer Ferron Bethel were named in a resolution yesterday in Parliament for the Committee on Privilege to determine whether they should be held in contempt of the House of Assembly.
The resolution, which was moved by Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald, also ensures that the committee is provided with funding to obtain independent legal advice if needed.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, who seconded the resolution, further called on the Bahamas Bar Association to examine the conduct of officers of the court who are involved in this matter as the courts had been dragged into a “mire”.
Mr Fitzgerald said he was seeking this resolution as a recent injunction granted by Justice Charles to Save The Bays barring parliamentarians from accessing or making public the personal information of the non-profit organisation was an “attack on democracy.” The injunction was granted on April 21 and expires May 12.
“Mr Speaker, so as not to exacerbate the conflict between the judiciary and the legislative body which is allegedly created by the applicant (Save The Bays), I wish now to move the following resolution for this House’s consideration,” the education minister said while standing on a point of privilege yesterday.
He said the resolution should refer the matter to the Committee on Privilege “for the examination and determination of whether the judge, attorney Fred Smith, QC, and Ferron Bethel should be held in contempt of this honourable House and that the Committee on Privilege be properly funded to obtain independent legal advice if necessary concerning this attack on our democracy and report back to the House at the earliest opportunity.”
The resolution was later amended to include “and others” following the name of Mr Bethel and agreed upon before the House suspended for its mid-day break.
Before the resolution was moved, Mr Fitzgerald was adamant that he had no part in any “corruption” as was repeatedly suggested by the Official Opposition. He also maintained that Mr Bethel, who has acted as a lawyer for Mr Smith and others connected to STB, had sent him and other MPs threatening emails.
He said: “I have had enough. I am sick and tired of baseless unsubstantiated accusations of corruption being levied against this side and myself, which are unsubstantiated. Enough is enough Mr Speaker. These claims are ridiculous, silly and unsubstantiated, I will do whatever is necessary to defend my name. The member for Killarney said the country would thank him for what he was revealing that day and I’m not sure who is thanking him, but I can say from this side our eyes have been opened to what is going on to undermine the government.”
He continued: “Much has been said that I have read the emails of a supposed non-profit environmental organisation Save The Bays. It appears that few are concerned that myself and my colleagues were called corrupt and when we exposed the whole diabolical scheme and, yes, including reading emails of those involved in the scheme, they started running to the hills and running to the court and even running to resign.
“So it’s all right to use a broad brush to paint the government with corruption, but when the facts start coming out all of a sudden you don’t want freedom of information. The irony of this is, as a non-profit Save The Bays falls under the Non-Profit Organisation Regulations 2014 and they are required by law to operate in a transparent manner. In other words if you are doing good you should not have any secrets that’s what the regulations contemplate. Now if you intend to do evil maybe you should not hide behind a non-profit.”
Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins, however, stood on a point of order saying that Mr Fitzgerald was imputing improper motives on the part of those who were not in the House to defend themselves.
He urged House Speaker Dr Kendal Major to compel Mr Fitzgerald to withdraw the statement.
Later he questioned whether this was the Bahamas or Zimbabwe, a country which he claimed often chased justices out of office.