Katherine Forbes-Smith resigned as a senator and president of the Senate in order to focus on relief efforts on Grand Bahama following Hurricane Dorian, according to her resignation letter.
The letter, which was obtained by The Nassau Guardian, was dated November 27, 2019, and signed by Forbes-Smith.
It was addressed to David Forbes, who serves as clerk of the Parliament. Camille Johnson, secretary of the Cabinet, was copied on the letter.
In the letter, Forbes-Smith said, “As a daughter of West End, Grand Bahama, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, I was asked to spearhead NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) relief efforts on the island.
“I did so willingly and without hesitation as our fellow citizens were in desperate need. I am grateful to have volunteered my service to help my brothers and sisters and greatly appreciate all who have helped with the efforts and continue to do so.”
She continued, “We have an opportunity to put politics aside and do what is best for our nation, our citizens, our children and our future; to demonstrate true leadership and be role models for our future generations. In order to focus more fully on the recovery and reconstruction efforts, I hereby submit my resignation as president of the Senate and my appointment as senator.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that attorney Lisa Bostwick-Dean will replace Forbes-Smith as a senator, noting that the Senate will have to elect a new president.
Bostwick-Dean will be sworn in today at 11 a.m. at Government House.
Minnis also revealed that Forbes-Smith will serve as the managing director at the new Disaster Reconstruction Authority.
Forbes-Smith’s resignation came after members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) accused her of being in a conflicted position in serving as hurricane relief coordinator and presiding over debate in the Upper Chamber on hurricane-related legislation.
On September 15, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis raised concern with the government’s decision to appoint Forbes-Smith as coordinator, 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.
However, the government has adamantly denied any conflict.
Attorney General Carl Bethel, who leads government business in the Senate, said he had no doubt that the PLP sought “to remove the most effective leader of hurricane relief ever to exist in the most critical island of 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 in any capacity.”
In its 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.”
In a statement yesterday, PLP Senator Fred Mitchell criticized Minnis for “sneaking Mrs. Forbes-Smith out the back door” without acknowledging her “conflicting dual appointments and the offense caused to Westminster conventions”.
In her resignation letter, Forbes-Smith challenged senators and MPs in The Bahamas to “put our nation and our people first in your hearts and in your actions” as communities attempt to rebuild in the wake of Dorian.
“The harsh reality – that has been revealed post-Dorian – is that there are some who still put politics over country, party over people,” she said.
“In the wake of the devastation our nation endured, we must make earnest, worthwhile strides to push those political, self-serving tendencies aside and focus on serving all Bahamians, and especially those in most desperate need of assistance.”
The Category 5 storm impacted nearly 30,000 people on Abaco and Grand Bahama and killed at least 70.