By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE day after urging the Christie administration to table the delayed Constituencies Commission report and moments after having concerns on the matter dismissed by House Speaker Kendal Major in Parliament, Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday accused the government of “breaking the law”.
Addressing reporters outside the House of Assembly, Dr Minnis criticised the government for its continued delay in the tabling of the long-promised report while insisting that the government was in error of Article 70, subsection one of the Constitution.
The Killarney MP contended that the report, which needs to be tabled in Parliament before the prime minister can announce a date for a general election, should have been tabled by the commission last November - five years to the date the last boundaries report was presented to the House by the Ingraham administration.
The Constitution mandates that the commission provide the House with its reports at intervals of “not more than five years.” Article 70, subsection one continues: “The commission shall . . . review the number and boundaries of the constituencies into which The Bahamas is divided and shall submit to the governor general a single report either stating that in the opinion of the commission, no change is required; or recommending certain changes, and the governor general shall cause such report to be laid before the House of Assembly forthwith.”
“(This) means that the Christie administration is breaking the law,” said Dr Minnis. “This only shows why we have so much problems within our society. If a young man does something wrong and he breaks the law in our society, what happens? He is arrested.
“Yet the government, on numerous occasions is in breach of the Constitution, has no respect for the law. Can we arrest them? No, but what we can do, when election is called these law breakers must be removed.”
Dr Minnis further claimed that the ordeal was at the root of why persons were not registering to vote, asserting that the confusion over whether the report could affect their current constituency assignments had pushed many Bahamians to adopt a wait and see approach.
However, when approached by reporters on the claims made by Dr Minnis, Dr Major dismissed the concerns, calling Dr Minnis’ interpretation of the Constitution “incorrect.”
Dr Major said he had warned both Dr Minnis and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, who raised the matter in the House, that the law should be interpreted as five years from the establishment of a new Parliament and not five years from the last tabling of a boundaries report.
“I mentioned in the House, and I took issue with that because it was raised by the member for Bamboo Town and I think his interpretation is incorrect,” Dr Major told reporters Wednesday.
“I believe the five-year period speaks to the calling of the new Parliament and it indicates that in five years it should be reviewed. The deadline to report is a self-imposed deadline, but it was not based on the Constitution. So I think that premise was a bit misinterpreted,” Dr Major said.