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Speaker Shock At Injunction

Former House Speaker Dr Kendal Major.

Former House Speaker Dr Kendal Major.

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

HOUSE Speaker Dr Kendal Major said he was both “astonished” and “offended” by the recent granting of an injunction, which bars members of Parliament from disclosing Save The Bays’ confidential information during proceedings, calling it a “pre-emptive onslaught” against the independence of the lower chamber.

Dr Major said as this move attempts to usurp the authority of the Speaker and is contemptuous to the House of Assembly, he stood ready to have persons brought to the bar of the House if necessary in defence of Parliament and its freedoms.

In his first public dismissal of the April 21 interlocutory injunction granted by Justice Indra Charles, Dr Major was stern in denouncing the order.

He said while the Office of the Attorney General seeks to have the injunction set aside, Parliament will continue to function as it wishes. He added that he was unaware of anywhere in the Commonwealth where the court is allowed to curtail the actions of Parliament.

The injunction, which lasts until May 12, sought to restrain Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson from any further appropriation, perusal, use, publication or disclosure in Parliament or elsewhere of any correspondence, including emails, belonging to STB.

“Honourable members, I regard this interlocutory injunctive order as a pre-emptive onslaught against the independence of the Parliament and its attempted execution usurps the authority of the chair and amasses contempt upon our institution,” Dr Major said as he addressed the House.

“In my view the order violates the principle of separation of powers critical to a parliamentary democracy and should attract outrage from every member of this place and senator in the other place. In short, it is a blatant breach of parliamentary privilege and utterly disdainful on many levels.

“As chair, I defy this or any attempt by any court to direct or affect in anyway the conduct of our business in this place. I have the honour to preside over this House at this juncture in our history and will therefore jealously guard its rights and privileges.”

He added: “When the courts decide to meddle and extend its reach into the halls of Parliament democracy is not well served.

“Parliament can be messy yet it is self-regulating and the people ultimately cause it to correct herself. Members are often wrong and make mistakes. However for the system to work there must be mutual cooperation and respect between branches of government. Our rules operate through the discretion of the chair and through this vehicle we regulate the members. Parliament has its own checks and balances, ie rules, chair, committees, private members, diversity, elections every five years, etc.

“This matter is not about politics or who is right or wrong for what they said or did. This action by the court is a violation of a clear-cut principle in constitutional law and separation of powers.

“The privilege of freedom of speech is both the least questioned and the most fundamental right of the member of Parliament on the floor of the House and in committee,” Dr Major stressed.

Separation of powers

Central and South Eleuthera MP Damian Gomez said this was the first time that he knew of where a Supreme court judge attempted to regulate the utterances of the House of Assembly.

The PLP MP, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Privilege, said the concept of separation of powers had to be taken seriously. He also raised concerns that in reading Justice Charles’ order it was noted that there had been no representation from the Office of the Attorney General. He suggested that this was due to an intentional act on the part of STB.

“As chairman of the Committee on Privilege I shall be fairly restrained on what I have to say because I (understand) that a motion will be made on the matter,” he said.

“I received a copy of the order by email on Sunday afternoon. It troubled me reading the order that it was said no appearance was made by the Attorney General’s Office even though notices were being given.

“On inquiry I discovered that the attorney general was served just before the hearing began and a copy of the notice was merely left at the reception desk so it was never intended by the applicants that proper notice would be given. I’m concerned about that, Mr Speaker.

“We have to take the separation of powers very seriously.

Mr Gomez added: “This is the first occasion that I am aware of that a Supreme Court judge has actually sought to say to members of Parliament what they cannot say in the House of Assembly. I am indeed very surprised by that. One must wonder what was submitted to the court.”

He insisted several times that he was unsure why he was served with an order when he had made no public communication whatsoever about any emails.

“I am not apart of this, Mr Speaker, I know that there was some talk of another order that had been granted in the Supreme Court by Save The Bays in which they sought to muzzle the world by naming essentially a John Doe defendant because it named no one and could have affected members in this place who might have been served or given notice of this.

“I draw that to your attention, Mr Speaker, because whatever question is referred to the Committee on Privilege it is important for a reminder to cover all of these silly occurrences and I say that because of the time of the season.

“We all know that the election is coming up within the next 11 months and people tend to do things that they would not otherwise do. But this is too serious of an issue for persons to believe that the playing of politics with our Constitution can be tolerated,” Mr Gomez said.

Meanwhile, Marco City MP Greg Moss said in this matter all parliamentarians should stand united on issues that undermine democracy.

Mr Moss, who is also the leader of a fringe group of the United Democratic Party (UDP), said there should be no room for any sort of misunderstanding of the role of Parliament and the essential function that it plays.

He said no one should question what is done in the House.

“I have said this repeatedly,” Mr Moss said. “We have three arms of the government and that’s not just a luxury or some sort of tapestry we have devised. That is how the democracy works.

“Otherwise the whole thing falls apart and we end up with what we are facing today, Mr Speaker, and you have rightly called it out, but I want to call it by its legal name, it is a constitutional crisis when one arm of the government tries to usurp the other arm of government.

“I am very troubled by what has happened.”

However, Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins asked that Dr Major hold all MPs to the same standard.

The FNM MP said: “Mr Speaker, understanding your role as the premier protector of the Parliament, it is only my humble request that members opposite not be held to standards that cannot be acceptable within the confines of what is permissible under the law.

“I do not believe that any member opposite lives above the law when every one else outside is supposed to live under the law. That is all that I ask you, Mr Speaker.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 6 months ago

What poppycock! The fact that parliament is the legislative arm of our government does not place parliamentarians above the rule of law or above the interests of the Bahamian people who have elected them. As for Major's huffin' and puffin' about respecting separation of powers, you never hear him saying anything about all of the protection from prosecution afforded parliamentarians by the Attorney General (Maynard-Gibson, more widely known as the evil Wicked Witch of the West). Major's concern about protecting parliamentarians who he claims may not know right from wrong does not extend to affording them protection in instances of criminal activities. If that were the case, a member of parliament would be able to make a confession of murder on the floor of the house of assembly, supported by tabled physical evidence of the murder, and then walk out of parliament scot free from prosecution. Grow up Major.....stop blowing hot air as if you've somehow been anointed saviour of parliament no matter what the circumstances. We have a judicial system in our country, and it too would be an important independent arm of our government were it not for the evil Wicked Witch of the West being beholden to every wish of Christie - she's his favourite ace in the hole puppet when it comes to protecting illegal activities of parliamentarians!

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Observer 4 years, 6 months ago

Pray, tell us, who exactly is Justice Indra Charles? And why was she chosen to tie the "noose" to choke the duly elected and constituted Parliament of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas? We want to know the truth.

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licks2 4 years, 6 months ago

Be careful how you allow your loyalty to party cause you to "shot yasef" in the foot. Should we now put yinna private information into the "political trash cans" of other party MPs for them to read off in the house?

The speaker is not being honest. . .HE IS HELPING TO DESTROY OUR NATION PRIVACY REPUTATION WITH THE FOOLISH ACTIONS OF THESE PLPS!!

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Sickened 4 years, 6 months ago

This criminal club needs to be broken up. There is no way the constitution was meant to allow parliamentarians to break the law. If our parliamentarians are too corrupt to police themselves then let our courts do it.

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asiseeit 4 years, 6 months ago

The fact is they have no morals, ethics, or humility, they are pig's at the trough. Do not get in the way lest you be eaten as well. If the courts fail, there is no rule of law.

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licks2 4 years, 6 months ago

This case will fast track to the Privy Council and the PC will hand down its ruling based on "Parliamentary Privilege" presented to Parliament by the Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal by command of Her Majesty on April 2012.

Our Speaker is joking. . .he will cause them two MPs to get lock up for breach of Constitutional privacy and contempt of Court!!

Parliamentary immunity was not established for rogue MPs to take private citizens' information into and expose it as they see fit! If the speaker insist that so is the case. . .THEN NONE OF THEM ARE SAFE FROM OTHER MPS TAKING THEIR PRIVATE "BUSINESS" INTO THE HOUSE AND EXPOSING THE SAME! And what if they start with the speaker's private information?

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 6 months ago

There is ONE fundamental problem that exists .......... the Speaker is a PLP lackey who is afraid to be strict with both sides and deal with rogue MPs before it has to get to this point. I have lost any hope of Major (or worst Smith) upholding a fair and unbiased atmosphere in Parliament ........... he needs to take some lessons from the British Speaker who routinely removes MPs who contravene the rules from Parliament ....... but it is what it is

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 6 months ago

Rollins gave the right analogy .......... Zimbabwe ...... and Mugabe

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truetruebahamian 4 years, 6 months ago

Smash the plp by any means necessary.

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HarryWyckoff 4 years, 6 months ago

So if the lily-livered PLP sycophant of a Speaker won't stand up for what is right, then the next time anyone reads out stolen property in parliament, they should be arrested on leaving for possession of stolen goods once they step outside.

But.... that would involve the police force upholding the actual f!$^ing laws of the land, so won't happen.

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gbgal 4 years, 6 months ago

I am utterly astonished that members of parliament would denounce the law and call it privilege! They say that they can do as they wish despite walking over the citizen's rights to privacy and flaunting the courts...just because they speak in the House. Newsflash!! Citizens have rights too and they are important and they are not here to be abused to satisfy your egos. The information was obviously obtained fraudulently so should not have been used. Disgraceful!

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Economist 4 years, 6 months ago

When our Constitution it was inconceivable that MP's would behave they way they do today.

Very sad.

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jus2cents 4 years, 6 months ago

What are the origins of parliamentary privilege?

They date back to the English Civil War when Parliament was fighting for the right to self-governance and independence from the monarchy.

But it wasn't until 1689 when the Bill of Rights established the rights of parliament after the so-called Glorious Revolution that it became enshrined in law. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights states that "the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament". In those days the law was subject to the will of the King. And it was interference from the sovereign that Parliament sought to rid itself. Parliament held MPs to account by its own strict laws which ran in tandem with the criminal and civil courts. The rule of parliament was absolute.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/...">http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/...

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DDK 4 years, 6 months ago

Very interesting and informative. Has the law never been modified and is this actually Bahamas law?

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licks2 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes. . .see the 2012 document I posted above!

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jus2cents 4 years, 6 months ago

*It is a long established principle that no one is above the law – including MPs

*By hiding behind parliamentary privilege the parliamentarians are bringing their office into disrepute

*Parliamentary privilege was never intended to help politicians escape the criminal law

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realfreethinker 4 years, 6 months ago

You are correct. What troubles me is these are the same laws that they passed,and now flaunting.

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MonkeeDoo 4 years, 6 months ago

We have become a ROGUE NATION ! GOD HELP US !

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cmiller 4 years, 6 months ago

You shocked???

Well, join the party, bro. We are shocked every single day with the crap you all pull in this country!!!!

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licks2 4 years, 5 months ago

Doc Major did not do any case history study about the question of privilege. . .he would have found one in the mother land itself. . .two in the region. . .all told by the high court that the Constitution rules supreme. . .EVEN IN THE HOUSE! THE JUDGE KNEW THAT THOSE ROGUE MINISTERS HAVE "JOOK" THEY SELF WITH A RUSTY KNIFE WHEN THEY VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PRIVACY!

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