OPPOSITION leader Philip Davis and Senate president Kay Forbes-Smith.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
OPPOSITION leader Philip Davis yesterday called on Senate president Kay Forbes-Smith to choose between her political appointment and private practice as he characterised her engagement by Carnival Cruise Line as “influence peddling”.
Mr Davis acknowledged there were no laws blocking parliamentarians from working, but noted when it came to entities doing business with the government, “it’s a matter of principle”.
Mrs Forbes-Smith declined comment on the matter yesterday.
“I think in the context of influence peddling,” Mr Davis said, “it has always been frowned upon in our political regimes and so those of us who hold elected or appointed office ought not to be putting themselves in the position where obvious conflicts between the role that you hold publicly and the discharge of any private interests.
“Where that happens one has to choose between private life and public life. You can’t hold onto the two. I call upon her to decide whether she wants to continue holding public office or pursue her private interests.”
Mrs Forbes-Smith confirmed her engagement with Carnival as a local consultant and advisor during an interview with The Tribune earlier this month.
Mrs Forbes-Smith explained she was retained last year as a part of a team of people, and defended her right to continue her private practice. During the interview, she also noted that she did not participate in debate as Senate president.
Yesterday, Mr Davis said it was not a responsible position because as Senate president she is called upon to exercise her entitlement to vote in the event there is a tie.
“I’ve always been working in PR and comms [communications] strategy,” Mrs Forbes-Smith said on May 5.
“I would not take a contract with any government entity, I think that would be a conflict. But anything I do in my private life in the private sector is different.”
The revelation prompted the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG) to renew its call for the government to pass the Integrity Commission Bill.
ORG Executive Director Matt Aubry noted there were no laws preventing parliamentarians from engaging in private work, but underscored the law would facilitate the independent and objective review of ethical concerns.
In a press statement, Progressive Liberal Party National Vice Chairman Obie Roberts said it was not an issue of the law.
“The issue is whether or not it passes the test of propriety, the proverbial smell test,” Mr Roberts said.
“In other words, would an objective observer say that there is no conflict? Would a PLP supporter feel assured that in a competition for work on the Carnival site believe that he has a fair chance given the connection between [Carnival], the FNM government and the Senate president who is an FNM politician?
“The matter must be reexamined in that light and the appropriate action taken by the president to correct it. She must resign as a senator or give up the consultancy,” Mr Roberts added.