Dame Joan’s motives for referendum comments questioned


Loretta Butler-Turner


Tribune Staff Reporter


LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday questioned former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer’s motives after Dame Joan labeled the June 7 constitutional referendum “a waste of time.”

In an interview with The Tribune, Mrs Butler-Turner said what “bothered” her the most about Dame Joan’s comments, was the former chief justice’s declaration that if she did vote, she would vote no, despite not reading any of the proposed questions.

“Dame Joan is misleading the electorate,” Mrs Butler Turner said.

“There are laws already on the books against discrimination based on religion, creed, sex and the list goes on. Clearly, any form of discrimination can be dealt with from a judicial standpoint once proven in the courts but this referendum is about equality not discrimination.

“This is about equality for men and women where they are not able to pass citizenship. This is about equality for our boys and girls. What really bothered me and most Bahamians is the fact that persons like Dame Joan Sawyer have reached the pinnacle of their legal career, she retired as the chief justice and the fact that she was able to make such strong pronouncements in the absence of facts, really gives me reason to question the motive.

“I would think in the regard that I hold her, I would want to know before she speaks to an issue as critical as this, she would be speaking from a position on knowledge, it seems that she has put these statements out there and by her own admission has not read or studied them.”

Dame Joan served as chief justice from 1996 to 2001. That same year she was appointed president of the Court of Appeal, a post she held until she retired in 2010.

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson also responded to Dame Joan’s comments. In a statement released Monday night, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the main purpose of the referendum is to ensure that “equality under our laws be enshrined in our nation’s most important legal document”.

She added: “Our Constitution currently prevents Parliament from passing laws which discriminate on the basis of race or religion; this referendum is an opportunity to also specifically prevent new laws which might discriminate against a Bahamian citizen because they are male or female. The courts have repeatedly found that Article 15 does not guarantee equal rights. Article 26 is the only provision which deals with discrimination. It must therefore be amended if Bahamian men and women are to be able to count on equal treatment under our laws.

“Additionally, it cannot be doubted that the citizenship provisions of our Constitution currently disadvantage women, and in one instance, men, in their ability to transmit their citizenship to their children and spouses. Amendments one, two and three address this unfairness, which has an impact on so many of our families.

“Bahamians understand that men and women will always be different, but that as citizens, they should be treated equally. And many Bahamians agree: this is an historic opportunity to make sure our children and grandchildren share the same rights and the same opportunities,” Mrs Maynard-Gibson said.

The referendum is scheduled for June 7.


Well_mudda_take_sic 6 years, 11 months ago

LBT needs to focus on the very genuine and serious concerns about the four proposed amendments to our constitution as expressed by some of the best minds in our country, e.g. the very valid concerns raised by Harvey Tynes QC about the 2nd proposed amendment. Each of the four proposed amendments is seriously flawed from a public policy standpoint and most Bahamians fortunately know this by intuition alone. LBT is deplaying much too shallow a depth of understanding in her desire to gain publicity by showing support for the amendments. All four proposed amendments are much less about equal rights for men and women and much more about automatically granting thousands and thousands of foreign men and their foreign children Bahamian status by virtue of marriage alone to a Bahamian.


Economist 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree with LBT. We are supposed to be a Christian Nation and a "yes" to 1, in particular, goes to that.


Regardless 6 years, 11 months ago

..a mortician questioning the logic of a seasoned jurist.


Wowish 6 years, 11 months ago

One must question the seasoned jurist's logic in this regard. If the Dame had said that she had read the questions and bills and disagreed that would have been one thing that no one could fault her for. On the other hand declaring that the bills are a waste of time without even taking a few minutes to read them is the height of foolishness. If a student in reply to a question on a test wrote in response to a certain question that "I didn't read the question but it is a waste of time" and received points for that question and The Bahamian public found out about it, they would question the sense of the student and the teacher and would without a doubt say this is why we have a "D" average nationally. Yet, in present circumstances much of The Bahamian public seems to be in approval of similar behavior, because it suits their purposes. If that is the level of thinking in this country, well The Bahamas won't have much of a future.


Economist 6 years, 11 months ago

Think of this. If Dame Sawyer is correct, then every person born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian Woman, married to a foreigner, is entitled to their Bahamian Citizenship right away, just as like a Bahamian man married to a foreign woman.

Those born in The Bahamas to a foreign woman and a Bahamian man (unmarried) would be entitled to their Bahamian Citizenship right away just like those born to a Bahamian woman and a foreign man.

The Foreign Husbands of Bahamian women would be entitled to Bahamian citizenship just like the foreign women married to Bahamian men.


Economist 6 years, 11 months ago

And that would be retroactive too. So all this would go back to 1973.

But Dame Sawyer is not correct.

For those who think she is correct, you don't have to worry, you don't need to vote.

Those of you who vote "no" may wish to consider, "what if she is correct?


sealice 6 years, 11 months ago

What Ms. Jones is saying is that... it's the PLP holding another referendum.... the PLP has proved before that referendum's are a total waste of time and public treasury funds, in this case with the no and yes causes it's probably tripled. The PLP will do what they want when they want no matter who doesn't want it = it's a waste of time and money hence "NO to it all".


Economist 6 years, 11 months ago

Look at Article 54 of the Constitution. This is not like the Numbers.

Government has to hold a Referendum.


sealice 6 years, 11 months ago

you still can't force the PLP to do anything law or not


John 6 years, 11 months ago

So y'all think it's too late for government to rethink the referendum? Obviously they have ran broadside into a stone wall. The mere face that the brightest and most learned minds in the country do not support the bills lessens the chance of them passing. The slogan "if you don't know, vote no .,"seems to be holding firm. And a defeat of the referendum is clearly a vote of no confidence in the government. Even the local gay community claims they are not supporting the bills


Economist 6 years, 11 months ago

Read Article 54. Especially Article 54(b)' Article 54(d)(I) and Article 54(d)(ii).

The Government cannot amend any of the Articles, affected by the Referendum, on its own.


jackbnimble 6 years, 11 months ago

If the Dame was reading the papers, the questions are in every article in the paper. They repeat them constantly so I doubt this is true. She may not have thoroughly studied them is what I'm thinking. Nevertheless, I respect her opinion. She is entitled to have one.

killthebills! #justvoteno!


Rhetoric 6 years, 11 months ago

Dame Sawyer never said that she did not read the questions! She stated that she did not read the bills!

Precious few Bahamians have read the bills

Ask yourselves have you honestly read the bills or are you just going off flyers, speeches, press releases, and news articles.

Perhaps we all need to take a hint from Dame Sawyer

And ask for the bills in their entirety to be published online for public consumption.


sheeprunner12 6 years, 11 months ago

Dame Joan is no lightweight .......... I am sure that she knows exactly what the PLP is trying to bring into law and she is not prepared to embarrass them beyond what she said ........ but she owes it to us (ordinary citizens) to ensure that what is being considered will not corrupt our nation any further ........ the educated liberal elite do not have a right to send us all down the path to Hell


All4One 6 years, 11 months ago

It's a shame that this whole process has been tainted by ignorance, hysteria, and political shenanigans. This change is long overdue, and fairly straightforward, if Bahamians would make the effort to read something besides Facebook, Bahamas Press, and various other sordid and/or questionable 'sources'. READ the bills, which clearly outline the proposed changes - which are NOT being made in isolation, but relate to various other parts of our Constitution. These amendments are addressing a glaring oversight which our forefathers likely deliberately made as it relates to equality.

I think everyone realises that the PM and his cronies are not to be trusted on the best of occasions, especially not in light of the so-called gambling 'opinion poll'. But if you are at all familiar with this process, you will understand that unlike the previous deliberate charade, this referendum is BINDING, so whatever the outcome, we are compelled to adhere to it.

We truly live in a bizarro world in this little Bahamas. Everyone is so eager to sit back and savour the schadenfreude of watching each other crash and burn; never mind how it negatively impacts the entire country, or our global standing.


SP 6 years, 11 months ago

....................................... What "bothers" me most is BLT period! .......................................


ThisIsOurs 6 years, 11 months ago

I find it interesting that the case Fred Smith used to show that gay marriage has been available in this country since the writing of the constitution, was argued by him before DAME SAWYER!!! If anyone knows about the law surrounding bill 4, I'm sure it's Dame Sawyer


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