Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister’s criticism of a Supreme Court justice’s ruling on shantytowns were “completely inappropriate for a member of the executive,” Wayne Munroe, QC, said yesterday.
On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson ordered the government to “cease and desist” further demolitions in shantytowns on Abaco and ruled that the government must get approval from the court if it wishes to demolish structures in shantytowns on the island.
The following day, Bannister described the ruling as a “dangerous” and “a flawed decision” that is “wrong in law”.
But Munroe said, “We have a separation of powers.
“Order in the country depends on the public having confidence in the public institutions. I often don’t agree with judges’ decisions. I often think they are flawed. The place for me to argue that is in the Court of Appeal.
“It is almost as if the minister is trying to threaten the Court of Appeal and, in my view, his comments are contemptuous.
“They are in contempt of court. It is a comment about an extant matter in the court because I understand the attorney general indicated that the government will appeal. The rule that a lawyer, like Desmond Bannister, must know is that when a matter is sub judice, you do not express a view on the merits.
“If he says that the judgment is silly, it is dangerous, he is basically threatening the Court of Appeal to say they must overturn it. That’s a contempt of court.”
Munroe said Bannister should be dismissed from Cabinet.
He said the deputy prime minister should also be called to account for his contempt in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
“Could you imagine what he is saying?” Munroe asked.
“He is saying that this is silly. What is that saying to the Court of Appeal? This is silly, so you must overturn it, right? So, he has to be called to account and he should really be dismissed as a minister.
“… Good governance says that ministers of the government do not assail the other institutions of state. Certainly, they do not do so by contemptuous comments. So, he has to go.”
Shantytown residents, who are represented by Fred Smith, QC, are challenging the government’s 2018 policy, which sought to get rid of shantytowns in The Bahamas.
Implementation of the policy was halted after an injunction – banning demolition on New Providence and parts of Abaco – was granted by Grant-Thompson that same year.
The judicial review of the matter, which is before Grant-Thompson, will resume on June 15.