By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson said his organisation stands ready to defend the “independence”, “impartiality” and “fearlessness” of this country’s judiciary, amid calls for the bar to investigate officers of the court for alleged wrongdoing.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Johnson urged caution, saying the courts have the Bar Association’s full support, as it is “gravely” important to the Bahamas’ democracy.
He lamented the fact that members of Parliament “do and say as they would like using the cover of privilege” and called the ongoing matter surrounding an injunction restricting MPs from reading Save The Bays personal information “completely blown out of proportion”.
The issue has been hotly debated in the House of Assembly and led to the agreement of a resolution to have Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles along with Save The Bays Director Fred Smith, QC, and lawyer Ferron Bethel brought before the Committee on Privilege.
This he said was “a serious step”. The resolution was moved on Monday by Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald to determine whether Justice Charles, Mr Smith and Mr Bethel should be held in contempt of the House.
It was seconded by Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, who also called on the Bahamas Bar to examine the conduct of officers of the court who are involved in this matter as the courts had been dragged into the “mire”.
“I want just to say as an officer of the court, the court has the Bar’s support,” Mr Johnson said during an interview with The Tribune. “Obviously we are talking about the question of parliamentary privilege which may not be absolute and they are talking about protecting the independence of the judiciary which is very important to any constitutional democracy.
“I know that calmer heads will prevail and this matter will be settled but I don’t want it to be taken lightly where the Bar stands in terms of its role in assisting and protecting the judiciary.
“I call on all members, especially members of Parliament, (and) members appearing before the courts to remember their oath taken on being called to the Bar and to conduct themselves in a manner that will contribute to the proper running of the courts.”
He added: “We are an international jurisdiction. We have to consider that people go into Parliament and they use the cover of privilege and they say and they do what they like.
“I would just issue a word of caution that we must remember that we all ought to conduct ourselves. Obviously parliamentarians deserve a certain respect and the court deserves a certain respect. That is the third arm of government and so I always say if you are dissatisfied with a ruling of the courts the government has the largest law firm, appeal it.”
Mr Johnson said for the Bar Association to investigate any wrongdoing on the part of officers of the court, as was suggested by Mr Davis, it would normally have to be initiated by a complainant.
However, he added that the Bar does have the authority to initiate its own probe.
“I think the matter is being blown out of proportion and we must remember that we are in the silly season. I am counting on the prime minister and the attorney general to resolve this matter and I know that the right decision will be made in terms of an appeal or confronting whatever decision that the court has taken,” Mr Johnson said.