Allegations against the now former minister of immigration

Dear Editor,

I read with increasing concern the things that were said and written about two incidents which occurred earlier this year.

The first occurrence in point of time was about the minister intervening in the attempt by officers of the Department of Immigration who were intending to place some 65 Chinese persons in the government’s Detention Centre because they had no work permits and some allegedly did not have identification.

I will make no comments on the alleged facts since they have not been ventilated in a court of law.

In all the discussion, there was not a single reference to the fact that every person in The Bahamas who is accused of a criminal offense is presumed to be innocent unless that person has been proved or pleaded guilty of such offense – see Article 20 (2)(a) of the constitution.

That article applies even to a person holding the office of minister in any government of The Bahamas. That provision also applies to any person which would include the 65 Chinese persons – once they are on Bahamian soil because of the simple fact that they are persons.

Further, there was no mention about the law which gives the minister charged with responsibility for the Immigration Department certain powers as well as duties in regard to immigration matters — see the Immigration Act and the Regulations made thereunder. Nor was it made clear that the minister and the attorney general (under the Crown Proceedings Act (Ch.68)) may be vicariously liable for defaults by members of the staff of that department and that the minister is answerable to Parliament for any failures on their part.

It also appears that those criticizing him for his intervention in preventing those 65 Chinese persons from being detained at the Detention Centre without having been given due process of law by having them appear before a magistrate and giving them an opportunity to answer a charge whether of illegal landing or of working without a valid work permit, have not considered the fact that if he had not done so, he himself may have been held liable for their unlawful detention since they had not, as far as the discussion went, been taken before a court of law.

So soon have some leaders and members of the public forgotten the decisions of the courts of this country – including the Privy Council – in Takitota’s case among others, in which a large sum of money in damages was awarded to Mr. Takitota for unlawful detention.

I say that because I have not seen a statement anywhere that those 65 persons had been brought before a magistrate’s court.

The second incident was one in which the minister of immigration swore in a widow and her children as citizens of The Bahamas at her husband’s funeral.

The question has to be asked whether there was any law, or rule, or regulation which forbid the minister doing so. So far, I have not seen anyone refer to a relevant rule of law which he had allegedly violated and I am not personally aware of any such rule in our law.

In fact, it is the minister who, by the constitution and the statute (the Nationality Act) has the power to swear in citizens and the public servants subordinate to him can only do so because in the law they are required to assist him in carrying out his functions.

I noticed in the newspaper article when the story first broke, that a former minister of immigration stated that he never personally swore in anyone as a citizen but left it to the civil servants who were authorized to do so.

That statement left me, as a person who is somewhat familiar with the law governing both immigration and citizenship as well as that governing the exercise of power by ministers and persons subordinate to them under, for example, General Orders — very puzzled, because as indicated earlier the powers of the law are to be exercised by a duly appointed minister under the statute as well as the constitution – see, for example, Articles 72(1) and 88 of the constitution as well as General Orders.

In addition, it was that same minister who, in 2017, created a separate body to allegedly clean up the backlog of outstanding applications for citizenship(?) who was informed by me that he could not delegate to a body outside the Cabinet, the power to decide whether or not citizenship of The Bahamas should be granted to any person which the Parliament had delegated to the Cabinet – because “delegatus non potest delegare” — a person to whom Parliament delegates a power to do anything cannot delegate that responsibility to another person who is not contemplated by the parliamentary delegation of power.

Madam Editor, I think it is clear that I am not bound to swear to the dogmas of any partisan political party. But I firmly believe that the entrenched human right of every person in The Bahamas to be presumed innocent of any criminal offense until proven guilty, should not lightly be ignored by anyone in authority for as I believe we say in this country, “Today for me; tomorrow for you” and “You ain’t pass nothing ‘til you die”.

“For what it is worth”, as the late P. Anthony White used to say.

Yours faithfully,

Joan A. Sawyer

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