TODAY — from early morning—our e-mail has been clogged by Bahamians sending us an article with a headline that reads: “Is CARICOM being used by Bahamas Government and Peter Nygard in Official Investigation by Bahamian Officials into Judge Indra Charles of the Bahamas Supreme Court?” It was published in St Lucia Today and, thanks to the web, is quickly making its way around the world.
This is a question that we would all like answered. How did The Bahamas government allow itself to be become embroiled in an issue as an ally of Peter Nygard? Whose side is it on — the Bahamian people whose seabed is in dispute or Peter Nygard who claims the seabed as his?
And with a case pending in the Supreme Court between property owner Peter Nygard and Save The Bays (STB) to decide this very issue, what prompted Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald to get government involved by reading out the private e-mails of STB in Parliament? And why did House Speaker Kendal Major let him get away with this breach, knowing that the matter was before the courts? Did the Speaker not know the basic rule that any matter before the courts is sub judice and, therefore, cannot be discussed by anyone – not even the defiant Jerome Fitzgerald, himself a lawyer who should know better.
Now that the Speaker realises the ramifications of his decision, he has said that on second thoughts he would not have allowed the reading and tabling of those e-mails. Too late! The baby has already been thrown out with the bathwater. This country is being held up to international ridicule and somebody in government has a lot of explaining to do.
Former Chief Justice Michael Barnett, in addressing the Eugene Dupuch Law School’s graduating class, said that the young lawyers must have been as shocked as he was, when after the recent judgment in which the court found that the actions of a minister of the Crown were wrong and a breach of a person’s constitutional rights, the minister (Fitzgerald) would be defiant and say that notwithstanding the judgment “he would do it again”.
The matter was taken before Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles, who found that Mr Fitzgerald had breached the privacy of STB members. She ordered Mr Fitzgerald to pay $150,000 in damages. She also ordered that whatever else he had belonging to STB should be destroyed. A defiant Fitzgerald declared that he had no regrets. “I would do the same thing again!” he announced.
In the House, Mr Fitzgerald moved that the matter be referred to the House Committee on Privileges and that not only STB members with their lawyers, but Justice Charles also appear before it.
By then the Speaker, a dentist by profession, must have got a lawyer to brief him. He reminded the House that such a thing would be a “gross violation” of the separation of powers.
Sir Michael agreed, pointing out that to demand that a judge of the Supreme Court should be answerable to Parliament in a matter brought before the courts would be “an affront to the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary”.
Despite this, it was decided that the House Committee would meet despite the objections.
We shall leave the matter there and move on to the overnight development in St Lucia.
As soon as the website is opened to the question of whether Caricom is being used by the Bahamas government in an investigation of Justice Charles, a full-size photograph appears of Keod Smith under which is reported: “Friends and Associates and concerned Members of the Bar of St Lucia are asking questions about an investigation and this note was intercepted which reflects the concerns:
“A Bahamas Barrister Keod Smith, a Parliamentarian (which incidentally he is not), along with a senior officer of the Bahamas Police Force were observed by the St Lucia authorities conducting a series of interviews and interrogations at Government Offices in the capital and around the island on the character of a former Judge of St Lucia – Indra Charles who is now a Judge in The Bahamas.
“Some very disturbing questions have been put to citizens of St Lucia and Mr Smith is recorded in conversations where he described himself to be a lawyer for Peter Nygard, who recently had displayed an interest in a Stem Cell hospice on the islands of St Lucia and St Kitts.
“A formal statement is being made to the St Lucia Government to enquire into the role it may be playing in this investigation. The St Lucia authorities have identified the two Bahamians who visited St Lucia and paid various officials to supply them with information of a private nature on Mrs Charles.
“Mrs Charles, according to news in The Bahamas, is the subject of a Committee in the Parliament which is examining a recent ruling given by her on the privileges of Members and the use of private emails in parliamentary debate.
“The people of St Lucia do not wish to become a pawn in this exercise of The Bahamas.
“This is an issue in which Prime Minister Allen Chastanet must speak to and avoid the appearance of our Island’s participation in this clearly unsavoury and unconstitutional encroachment on the Judiciary of St Lucia and that of The Bahamas.”
Bahamians also demand answers. We also want to know how and why the Bahamas government seems to be so closely aligned with Nygard in his case with STB, which represents the property rights of the Bahamian people to its seabed.
Mr Keod Smith has made it clear that he is in St Lucia representing Mr Nygard - collecting information to have the judge removed from hearing the Nygard case in court? Or is he also there to get whatever unsavoury material he might be able to dig up for the House committee? If neither, then why was he accompanied by a senior officer of the Royal Bahamas Police Force at the expense of the Bahamian taxpayer?
And why are members of our government showing so much interest in this case? Do they also have something to hide?
Mr Smith could have saved his client some money if he had sat down at his computer and researched the judge’s background. The outpourings of love, gratitude and appreciation for her ability when she announced that she was leaving her post in the British Virgin Islands for the Bahamas is most impressive. Here are only a few of a long list of postings from the public on hearing the news:
• One of the better judges that has graced the BVI … good quality legal mind.
• This has ruined my day. Please why do you have to go??? Stay stay stay
• The outpouring for this judge has been so tremendous that I really would like to meet her. I have heard a great deal of good things but cannot believe that no one has made a negative comment. That takes a lot of class. I wonder if she will ever run for political office. Bahamas – here comes our beauty????
• Wow, Black boy. The woman is truly exceptional. Say thanks to her because she did a damn good job. She is fair and fearless and really she is the best to grace this nation. Not everyone will like judges because someone has to lose in their court but when so many people praise a judge, something must be truly great about her. Good luck judge. May God continue to bless you.”