EDITOR, The Tribune
The appointment of Ruth Bowe-Darville as a Justice of the Supreme Court has ruffled the feathers of the PLP which issued a statement protesting the appointment of the known FNM supporter and activist as an attempt by the FNM to politicise the courts.
That Ruth Bowe-Darville is eminently qualified for the post escapes them. It also escapes them that the anachronistic retirement age for justices of the Supreme Court – 65 – remains in place only because of the ill-advised, politically motivated PLP campaign against amending the constitution to extend the retirement age of Justices to bring The Bahamas more in line with practices in most western democracies. In Canada the retirement age is 75; in the UK 70 and in the United States it is a lifetime appointment.
The PLP have the custom and habit of selective memory. When PLP supporters are appointed to the bench it is because of their experience and expertise. When FNM’s are appointed according to the PLP, it is because of political patronage. It is time for the PLP to face reality.
Surely, they must be aware of the number of justices with PLP antecedents who were appointed to the bench either during an FNM administration or with the concurrence and support of the FNM.
The appointment of Justice Neville Adderley, a one-time PLP candidate for election, PLP Stalwart Councillor and the individual who moved the motion to expel Hubert Ingraham from the PLP went on to be appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court under an FNM Government and then to have his appointment extended by the constitutionally permitted two years with the concurrence of the FNM Government headed by the same Hubert Ingraham. And he was appointed to the Court of Appeal by the same FNM Administration.
They must also acknowledge that Jeffrey Thompson, a one-time PLP Minister, was appointed a Supreme Court Justice under an FNM Government. Sir Burton Hall was appointed Chief Justice by an FNM Government - his mother was a PLP Senator.
As to other appointees to the Supreme Court with political antecedents Sir Cyril Fountain, Vera Watkins, Claire Hepburn, Sir Michael Barnett, Bernard Turner and more recently Diane Stewart all had close affiliation with the FNM.
On the other side, Cheryl Grant, the wife of a former PLP cabinet minister, Roger Gomez the brother of a PLP cabinet minister, and Jon Isaacs and Renee Mackey, both with close association with the PLP, were each appointed as Justices of the Supreme Court.
Each of these justices with either PLP or FNM antecedents, along with Justice Anita Allen, the wife of a former FNM Minister who subsequently switched his political alliance to the PLP, served on the Supreme Court bench with honour and distinction. They each epitomise in practice the sound counsel of a former Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson who opined as follows:
“Some of our most respected judges were prominent in political life before appointment. But it means that once they accept judicial office, judges must disengage from political activity and must avoid conduct that could lead a fair minded person to distrust their ability to decide politically sensitive cases in a nonpartisan fashion”
I fully believe that Ruth Bowe-Darville will similarly give exemplary service devoid of political influence as a Justice of the Supreme Court. Given her relative youth in terms of judicial administration, following her tenure in the Supreme Court she will be eligible for appointment to the Court of Appeal where the mandatory age of retirement is 70. This could translate to The Bahamas benefiting from some five years of exemplary service from a highly qualified and competent legal mind.
May 31, 2019