Prime Minister Hubert Minnis
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
DESPITE facing fierce criticism over his failure to appoint a substantive chief justice, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he would not be forced to fill the office.
While Dr Minnis did not say specifically whom he was referring to, Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker has castigated the prime minister over the issue in recent weeks.
While this appointment continues to be delayed, it has been speculated Attorney General Carl Bethel was being considered for the chief justice post.
However one official in the Minnis administration dismissed the notion he could be appointed.
Yesterday, Dr Minnis would not offer much insight into whether a pick could be made soon.
“Listen I have said what I want to say,” he said when The Tribune asked if there was a specific timeline. “I am finished with this subject. I have said all I want to say about the chief justice. Nobody is going to force me to do anything okay? Full stop.”
Last week, Mr Parker told The Nassau Guardian Dr Minnis has a “tremendous misapprehension” of the constitutional provisions relating to the appointment of a chief justice, adding the prime minister did not appear to grasp firmly the Constitution as a whole.
This came after Dr Minnis suggested the Constitution provided a certain timeframe for him to fill the post and claimed he was within that timeframe; however, The Tribune was unable to find such a clause.
He said he was not worried about losing political capital over this matter, adding his actions or lack thereof were supported by the Constitution.
Dr Minnis became defensive on the issue after repeated questioning by the media at a press briefing marking his return from England, asking reporters whether they would prefer he prioritised the matter over other national issues like a recent blackout threat by Bahamas Power and Light unions.
He suggested the Bahamas’ Constitution provided for a specific time frame on appointments for the post.
Dr Minnis said on April 22: “At this point in time I’m trying my best to improve the Bahamian economy, improve the quality of life for everybody, you just told me about BPL possibly turning off lights – that is more important to me, so those are matters I will tackle first.”
When asked if his statement implied he did not consider making a substantive appointment a priority, Dr Minnis replied: “Let me ask you a question, which is priority to you, your light going off or you getting a CJ, which one is more important to you?
“I know what is more important to me,” he added, “the light is more important to me. What is more important to you?”
He shrugged off one reporter’s attempts to raise concerns made by the legal fraternity, saying: “No, take that out of the question, you would prefer your light being off or me taking all resources and dealing with it, which is more important to you?’
When asked who was advising him on the CJ matter, Dr Minnis said last week: “I have the whole Attorney General’s Office, I have my Cabinet.”