Despite recent political controversies, the World Justice Project’s (WJP) latest Rule of Law Index shows the Bahamian government “is a government of reformation,” Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.
The index, which was released on Thursday, revealed that The Bahamas ranked 39 out of 126 countries and its criminal justice system ranked highest in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
This ranking is based on several indicators: Criminal investigation system is effective; criminal adjudication system is timely and effective; correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behavior; criminal justice system is impartial; criminal justice system is free of corruption; criminal justice system is free of improper government influence and due process of law and rights of the accused.
Bethel told The Nassau Guardian, “It’s a good, progressive sign, and we hope that all Bahamians will embrace it with glory and the fact again, just as occurred with Moody’s, we’re seeing that people who independently are looking at The Bahamas are concluding that this government is a government of reformation, is a government, in a sense, of improvement.”
He added: “Despite political controversies, I think it is clear that the government is making efforts to encourage a higher standard of governance in our country and higher standards of conduct. You know, by putting aside all of the political rhetoric, I think that all Bahamians, of whatever political stripe, at the end of the day, would be pleased to see a Bahamas that sets greater standards of conduct for all persons involved either in the state or in interaction with the state or agencies of the state.”
The index measures countries’ rule of law performance across eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
Among its 29 regional counterparts, The Bahamas ranked sixth in order and security.
It ranked eighth in absence of corruption, ninth in fundamental rights, 10th in constraints on government powers, 12th in civil justice, 16th in regulatory enforcement and 18th in open government.
Addressing the low rank in open governance, Bethel said the government is taking steps, “to address issues such as the ease of doing business”.
“We’re making efforts to enshrine in law good governance principles that we hope will endure across political divides and across different governments,” he said.
“We’re making the necessary amendments and adjustments to our laws to have a better, more transparent and more honest system of government and more responsive to the people.”
Tackling corruption was a major theme of the Free National Movement ahead of the 2017 general election.
In October 2017, the government introduced the Integrity Commission Bill, which would establish an integrity commission to investigate parliamentarians suspected of corruption.
In December 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said the Public Procurement Bill would be introduced in early 2018, but that never happened.
When asked when the Public Procurement Bill will be tabled, Bethel said, “It won’t be very long. No, it hasn’t been tabled yet because it’s still out for consultation and there’s some minor tweaking still to do just to get it in proper shape.
“We have to strike the right balance between efficiency and transparency.”
He added: “Right now, we’re in the very fine tweaking of this bill, but we intend to move on it very shortly. It’s a matter we consider urgent.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice