AG backs off campaign pledge

The Minnis administration does not have plans to implement a recall system for non-performing members of Parliament as was outlined in the Free National Movement’s (FNM) 2017 manifesto, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.

“That’s not anything we committed to, as far as I’m concerned or aware,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“And it’s not a workable system in the parliamentary context. It is not something that is on the legislative agenda. I don’t think we committed to doing that. Did the FNM commit to that? I’m not aware of that.”

Shortly after it won a landslide election in May 2017, the Minnis administration said in the Speech from the Throne it intended to hold a referendum to get the consent of the electorate to establish an independent Electoral Commission and Boundaries Commission, introduce term limits for prime ministers and introduce a system of recall for non-performing members of Parliament.

FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also made the promise in the lead-up to the election.

As the next government, my FNM administration will: deepen and strengthen our democracy by improving our system of governance by employing a full time press secretary with responsibility for Cabinet and other updates to the media; a prime minister who acts as CEO; instituting a two-term limit for prime minister; a recall system for nonperforming MPs; primaries for constituency candidate elections; anti-corruption bill to govern an independent anti-corruption unit; an independent director of public prosecutions with no oversight by the attorney general (amendments to existing law); financial independence of house speaker; more effective public disclosure with the necessary amendment thus allowing the commissioner to refer cases directly to the independent public prosecutor; strengthening and proper staffing of auditor general including the authority to refer cases directly to an independent director of public prosecution; an ombudsman; contractors bill with a lien clause, and a contractor general act,” Minnis stated in his contribution to the 2016/2017 budget debate, dated June 20, 2016.

In an August 3, 2016 press release providing details of the FNM’s “Anti-Corruption Plan”, Minnis again said an FNM government would enact “a recall system for poorly performing MPs – to ensure that MPs faithfully serve the people who elected them”.

However, yesterday Bethel said of the recall system: “Many things get spoken of in campaigns but there’s no legislative move in that direction right now.”

He added, “I’m not aware of where this has been done in any Commonwealth country and we have no plans at this moment to move on that. I have no draft legislation at all on this matter. That’s all I can say.

“I make no judgment on the rationality of a recall or whatever. All I know is that I’m not aware of it having been done in any Commonwealth country and I have no draft legislation on hand with regard to that, so it’s not something that is on the agenda at this time. It may well come forward at some later time, but it is not at this time on the agenda.”

On the issue of campaign finance legislation, Minnis said last week that his administration has “seven more years” to bring such legislation — another item he had promised to deliver on if elected in 2017.

Bethel previously told The Nassau Guardian that campaign finance legislation is currently a “priority” of the Minnis administration. 

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