Leader of the Opposition Philip ‘Brave’ Davis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Philip Davis yesterday criticised Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis over his stance on the appointment of a substantive chief justice, stating his “puerile” comments belie his ignorance on the matter.
Mr Davis expressed a “frightening” concern for Dr Minnis’ level of depth and competence at the Progressive Liberal Party’s monthly press briefing.
On Monday, Dr Minnis told reporters he would not be forced to fill the office, further stating he was “finished with this subject.”
“The comment is puerile to say the least,” Mr Davis said. “It’s not a question of forcing him to do anything. It is his duty to make an appointment. The absence of the appointment is causing concern in the community, in particular the legal fraternity.
“We agree he has the right to act when he deems appropriate, but in that decision making process he has to take into account the conventions of the Constitution that relate to that duty, and the role that flows from the duty being exercised and the importance of it.
“When he doesn’t understand and appreciate it,” Mr Davis continued, “you get these kind of comments, I mean it’s puerile.”
Mr Davis told reporters he was waiting on Dr Minnis to fulfil his constitutional duty and consult him on the post, adding he hoped the candidate was not Attorney General Carl Bethel. Stephen Isaacs was appointed acting chief justice in December.
He urged Dr Minnis to seek informed counsel, and called for “right-thinking Bahamians” to hold the nation’s leader to account before the unresolved matter leads the country to disaster.
Mr Davis said: “Clearly his dismissive, offhanded and ill-conceived and ill-advised commentary on the filling of this important constitutional post truly ought to cause all right-thinking Bahamians to pause and wonder whether the prime minister appreciates what governance is all about.
“Someone called it the ‘art of buffoonery’ but I say it is a bit more than that. The time has come for right-thinking Bahamians to start removing itself from what I call risk adverse and calling this prime minister to account, calling on this prime minister to at least seek the advice that he doesn’t seem to wish to heed, and ensure that he gets advice from people who appreciate and understand the art of governance and what democratic principles impact our lives.”
Mr Davis underscored the importance of the CJ appointment in balancing the pillars of governance, and questioned whether Dr Minnis truly appreciated the democratic principles that undergirded Bahamian society.
Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker has castigated the prime minister over the issue in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, as the substantive appointment continues to be delayed, it has been speculated Mr Bethel was being considered for the post.
An official in the Minnis administration has dismissed the notion he could be appointed; however, the government has not formally addressed the rumour.
Yesterday, Mr Davis said he would not support the appointment of any persons directly from the “boiler room of politics,” explaining the country’s nuanced political structure tied the existence and effectiveness of the judiciary to the confidence that the Bahamian public have in it.
He noted his opposition to the appointment of former Attorney General Sir Michael Barnett to the chief justice post in 2009, and the appointment of former Attorney General Claire Hepburn as a judge in 2008. These appointments occurred during the last Ingraham administration.
“We as a Bahamian people are very polarised today in respect to our politics and so it’s not just me,” Mr Davis said.
“For example, I knew Michael Barnett very well. I know of his ability and competence. I knew that he would make a good judge and a good chief justice, but as a matter of principle I could not support his appointment because, as I would have said to him then, it does not auger well for public confidence that is required for that post.”