Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday denied that Senate President Katherine Forbes-Smith is in a conflicted position as coordinator of hurricane relief efforts in Grand Bahama.
“In her direction of the relief efforts in Grand Bahama, it is she who, with the support of relevant ministers and especially the prime minister, commands, marshals and mobilizes the efforts in the executive on the ground, not the other way around,” Bethel said during a contribution in the Senate.
“Further, the president has not been paid a red penny for her sacrificial service. The suggestion that the president has thereby become some sort of pawn of the executive is entirely unfounded and is laced with a maliciousness which is unbecoming of senators towards each other, and which is unbecoming of the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) in any capacity.”
On Sunday, PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell accused the Senate president of being in a conflicted position in serving as hurricane relief coordinator and presiding over debate in the Upper Chamber on hurricane-related legislation.
“Ultimately, she should decide whether she is fish or fowl: Senate president and guardian of the legislative branch of government or a member of the executive of the country,” Mitchell said.
“She must not serve two masters.”
However, yesterday, Bethel questioned the PLP’s motive as it relates to Forbes-Smith.
“I have no doubt that it is to seek to remove the most effective leader of hurricane relief ever to exist in the most critical island of Grand Bahama,” Bethel said.
He added, “Indeed, I would not be surprised if the president were to shake off the mantle of leadership in this place, so as to fully embrace the mantle of leadership on the ground in her home island, without having to sit here and listen to baseless attempts at character assassination from this place.”
When contacted by The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Forbes-Smith neither confirmed nor denied that she intends to step down as Senate president.
On September 15, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis raised concern with the government’s decision to appoint Forbes-Smith, noting that such an appointment would “violate constitutional norms”.
“We would not tolerate the speaker of the House working for the government and so the president of the Senate should not be working whether for pay or without pay,” Davis said.
In its ongoing criticisms of Forbes-Smith, the PLP may rely on a constitutional provision that seems to suggest that the Senate president should not work directly with the executive.
Article 44 (3) states, “The Senate shall not elect a Senator who is a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to be the President or Vice-President of the Senate.”
The article goes on to state, “A person shall vacate the office of President — if he is appointed to be a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.”
AG says Forbes-Smith not being paid for NEMA post