By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Ryan Pinder said he has requested the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to terminate the contracts of two non-Bahamian lawyers who were appointed to senior posts in the Department of Public Prosecutions under the former administration.
Controversy surrounding the hiring of the two foreign attorneys was recently reignited after a Supreme Court judge ruled in October that a rape accused’s voluntary bill of indictment was invalid as it was signed by African prosecutor, David Bakininga, who was denied practice at the Bahamas Bar.
The ruling could potentially impact “160 odd cases”, the Court of Appeal was told last week.
Mr Bakibinga, a Ugandan, was hired as assistant director of public prosecutions along with Nigerian Nikiruka Jones-Nebo, deputy director of public prosecutions, in 2019.
However, neither of the African prosecutors have been approved by the Bahamas Bar Association to practice at the Bahamas Bar.
Yesterday, Mr Pinder suggested the former government erred when appointing the two to senior posts, noting that Bahamians could have easily filled the roles.
“First and foremost, I have no brief against them personally, there is nothing to indicate that they are bad persons or are not qualified attorneys in their home jurisdiction,” Mr Pinder told senators yesterday.
“The mischief lies in the decision that there were no Bahamians qualified to be senior prosecutors in the Department of Public Prosecutions, despite the director being Bahamian and scores of senior and qualified Bahamian lawyers who have gone through the Department of Public Prosecutions and who are currently either at the department or at the Office of the Attorney General. In fact, many of the justices currently sitting have experience being prosecutors in the Department of Public Prosecutions.
“I want to be clear on our philosophy as the PLP, it has been our philosophy since the party was formed, we in the PLP believe that Bahamians are qualified, Bahamians are smart and Bahamians can hold positions throughout the government and the country.”
Despite Bahamians being qualified for the senior positions, Mr Pinder said the Minnis administration still went on to extend the contracts for the two Africans, a decision he said was “flawed” and reflective of their attitudes towards ordinary Bahamians.
He said: “The former Attorney General, knowing the controversy, knowing the lawyers in question were unable to be called to the Bahamian Bar, knowing the position of the Bar Council and, I may say, the profession, knowing that their actions were subject to judicial review, extended their contracts just a few months ago for another two years. This decision-making process is clearly flawed and an indictment of the attitude of the former administration towards Bahamians.”
As a result, the AG said he has requested the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to terminate the men’s contracts.
And in view of the incident, Mr Pinder also revealed his plans to restructure the public prosecutions department to ensure that those hired are not only qualified, but given the recognition they deserve.
He said: “Madam President, I, as the sitting Attorney General have requested of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to terminate these contracts, again not because I have a brief against the individuals and their competency in their home jurisdiction, but because of the circumstances, the Bahamian people are not getting value for dollar.
“I have also embarked on a reorganisation exercise of the Department of Public Prosecutions where qualified Bahamian prosecutors will be elevated throughout the department to be able to more effectively prosecute trials, this includes Bahamian prosecutors being recommended for the deputy director of prosecutions and assistant director of prosecutions, the two positions held by the lawyers in question,” the minister added.
Yesterday, Mr Pinder also went on to speak about his priorities while in office, noting plans to construct a new “state of the art” court complex and enact legislation “that will enable the lawful exploitation of the cannabis industry” among other things.
He said: “The Governor General rightfully proclaimed that our government is committed to executing good governance, established on the principles of transparency, integrity and accountability. As such, the Office of the Attorney General is committed to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. We are in the process of relocating the FOI into a suitable location where the mandate of the legislation can be properly fulfilled.
“Madam President, this seems like a minor step, but if you would see the location in which they are trying to operate, there’s no way anything could be accomplished in those types of facilities. As part of the implementation process, ten entities, government agencies have been identified as part of the pilot programme of the rollout of the Freedom of Information.
“Madam President, we are committed to implementing this as an example of transparency and good governance consistent with the charge given in the Speech from the Throne,” Mr Pinder added.