PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis speaks on Monday night. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party leader Philip "Brave" Davis says he will establish a commission of inquiry as soon as he gets into office to examine matters relating to the investigations into PLP politicians acquitted this year of bribery.
"The state is a powerful entity," he said yesterday, "and a commission would be about purifying the administration of criminal justice in the country.
"As soon as I'm in power, I would establish a commission of inquiry to stamp out unjust practices and hold accountable anyone who was found responsible," he said. "The recommendations from the body will be used to determine the way forward to avoid these things happening in the future to anyone, not just Shane Gibson, but your sister, brother and the man on the street."
The Free National Movement promised to root out corruption during the 2017 general election campaign, with its party supporters popularising the rally chant, "they goin' to jail."
The subsequent arrest and trials of Frank Smith and Mr Gibson have therefore been analysed through an unusually political lens, drawing into the fray law enforcement officials not usually caught up in political debate.
Sergeant Sonny Miller, head of the Police Staff Association, said yesterday he has been uncomfortable with the way law enforcement officers have been caught in the middle of the political warfare.
"It's not something we would like to see happening," he said. "We try to stay out of the political arena in terms of party politics because we know the ones who may criticise us today will be the ones who we have to report to tomorrow. I tell my members let's do our job, let's not listen to the party politics because it's our job to work for the people of the Bahamas.
"We don't want members of the public to lose trust and confidence in us because we're out there to serve them. We want them to continue trusting and having faith in us that we will do the right thing."
Among those now targeted by the PLP is Assistant Superintendent of Police Debra Thompson who testified during Mr Gibson's trial that not only was she wrong to meet with witnesses to synchronise their statements, but that such coordination happens frequently. She testified that Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson and Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin were aware that it happened.
Yesterday, Maurice Glinton, QC, said this was a "serious breach that should not have happened."
"I hope it doesn't repeat itself but what if the kind of people you have in those positions are prone to making those mistakes?" he said. "There needs to be more of an effort made to insulate the administration of justice from political influence."
Sgt Miller declined to comment on ASP Thompson's actions, saying the association is there to advocate for police officers, nor to make pronouncements on investigative practices.
In a recent interview, Alfred Sears, QC, said the government should pass the Integrity Commission Bill as a way to help distance the potential prosecution of public officials from political contexts.
The bill would establish an Integrity Commission that would be akin to a law enforcement agency, one empowered to investigate allegations of corruption.
"It is unfortunate that this vital measure of public integrity has not been put in place as was promised," Mr Sears said. "We have to focus on system. We focus on people, and parties and personalities and preferences and that's where we have gone wrong. It's imperative that the government conclude its consultation and enact a robust Integrity Commission Act where these investigations and prosecutions of alleged public misconduct would be conducted in a manner to ensure fairness and public confidence. Such an entity properly resourced with the expertise and funding would have a deterrent effect as well and may be able to pursue justice in a manner that secures the trust of the Bahamian public and the international community."