By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Yamacraw candidate Elsworth Johnson yesterday suggested that the Progressive Liberal Party’s “statistic driven” approach to law enforcement has ultimately hampered the judiciary and national security forces, all while lamenting ongoing issues plaguing both areas in their efforts to arrest crime.
In an interview with The Tribune on Sunday, the former Bar Association president contended that the government’s belief in “painting the perfect and safest picture” has ultimately opened the door to “maximum levels” of crime.
The attorney said despite overtures and recommendations by “those capable of addressing the problems at hand,” the Christie
administration has “routinely attempted to disregard the system in hopes that the resulting numbers would tell the public that work has been done.”
Clarifying comments he made during a recent FNM community rally in which he branded the government a force unlike anything seen before in the Bahamas, Mr Johnson said yesterday that no resolution has come to record crime figures because the government has turned its back to “solving” and embraced a “show that we are working” approach to crime.
“They are mainly interested in statistics because (the government is) of the view that numbers are what matters,” said Mr Johnson.
“They created this concept of grading a government’s success on crime statistics. As a result, the government is now doing what it can to protect its numbers, while painting the perfect and safest picture.
“Meanwhile, everything else has gone to hell. We now have maximum levels of crime and every time you mention it, their answer is to run to some statistics and say, ‘well this means that crime is down.’
“We know better. We know the reality. The judges know the reality. The police know the reality. There is no hiding the obvious, no matter how hard they try to present misleading numbers, the truth is known.”
Mr Johnson, a one-time member of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), asserted that the PLP has infringed upon the autonomy of the commissioner of police and the judiciary on several occasions since coming to office in 2012.
He claimed the recent call on the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to aid police circumvented the commissioner’s jurisdiction, adding that the call to do so should have been “totally up to” Commissioner Ellison Greenslade.
Mr Johnson added: “These are the times we are in. (Mr Greenslade) is being treated as a tool of the government, when in fact the law provides for him to do his job in the ways he deems progressive.
“The government made the call for the defence force, that broke the law. The (commissioner) should have been the person making that call.”
In February, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage announced joint operations between the RBPF and the RBDF following an alarming spate of murders to start 2017.
The move made some members of the police force uneasy, according to Police Staff Association Chairman Inspector Dwight Smith.
“We are in a serious state as a state. Only the commissioner police is constitutionally responsible for fighting crime,” Mr Johnson told The Tribune.
He continued: “Did the commissioner make this call? Is something up with his mental capacity, limiting his ability to do his job?
“This government is acting unconstitutionally with respect to both law enforcement and the judiciary.”
Mr Johnson claimed the judiciary has been lambasted to a degree that has never been seen before in the Bahamas.
He highlighted the treatment of Supreme Court Justice Indira Charles and Justice Rhonda Bain.
In January, attorneys for the prime minister filed a motion in the Supreme Court asking that Justice Bain recuse herself from the judicial review into allegations that Lyford Cay resident Peter Nygard illegally increased the size of his property - or any other cases in which the prime minister is a party - on the basis that she is set to attain the legal age for retirement in April.
Mr Christie has to make a decision on whether to extend Justice Bain’s time on the bench.
Last year, Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald moved a resolution in Parliament for the House Committee on Privilege to determine whether Justice Charles, Save The Bays Director Fred Smith, QC, and lawyer Ferron Bethell should be held in contempt of the House of Assembly.
Last May, Justice Charles ruled that Mr Fitzgerald infringed on constitutional rights when he tabled the private e-mails of Save The Bays in Parliament, and therefore could not be protected by parliamentary privilege. Justice Charles ordered Mr Fitzgerald to pay $150,000 in damages for the breach, and granted a permanent injunction barring parliamentarians from accessing or making public the personal information of the non-profit organisation, Save The Bays.
Mr Fitzgerald has since appealed that ruling and the parliamentary probe has been delayed pending that appeal.
Mr Johnson added: “If a judge operates against the will of this government they are put in a box and pressured to do otherwise. If this is the case, when can they ever defend the law and prosecute those that run afoul of it?”
He also said: “The judiciary is not a back door to the Attorney General’s Office. If a ruling is made, it should be respected.
“ . . . Heck, this government amended the Bail Act to restrict the ability for magistrate to offer bail during initial hearings, so you have persons pleading guilty in an effort to avoid two weeks in prison. All for the government to say, ‘look, we are doing something.’”
In February, during his ratification Mr Johnson suggested that the country’s judicial system is heavily saturated by “political interference,” adding that this political involvement has resulted in disrespect of not only this system but of judges, who are regarded as the highest and most distinguished officers of the court.
Mr Johnson also said that the Royal Bahamas Police Force that he once knew no longer exists, and that its current manifestation was also under the influence of politics.
In response at that time, Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis claimed Mr Johnson’s assertions were nothing more than an attempt by him to endear himself to his new party.
Mr Davis said previously: “Mr Johnson, stop trying to impress your fellow FNM politicians for a moment, and spare a thought for how your comments may be perceived by the many stakeholders in our justice system.
“There are many Bahamians working hard to improve the judiciary, and to improve its functioning and reputation, and their achievements should be acknowledged and celebrated – instead, you paint a picture of a nation whose judges are tainted by politics.
“That you would drag judges into the political arena and try to damage our nation’s reputation in an attempt to score cheap points is a very debased way to begin your political career.”