Smith says DPM wrong to criticize court ruling

Fred Smith, QC, yesterday urged Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister to stop making comments that “undermine the independence of the judiciary”.

On Tuesday, Bannister said it is now “open season” for people who want to build homes illegally in The Bahamas, as he critiqued a Supreme Court ruling, which bans further demolitions in shantytowns on Abaco unless court approval is granted.

He described the ruling, which was delivered by Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson on Monday, as “a flawed decision” that is “wrong in law”.

Yesterday, Smith told The Nassau Guardian, “I urge Minister Bannister not to make comments which are more appropriate for his lawyers to make if they appeal. Judges’ rulings are to be respected. They are not flawed or incorrect until the Court of Appeal says so, and then, even the Privy Council can speak to what the Court of Appeal says.

“But for the executive, for Mr. Bannister, to be making mischievous, misleading, misconceived comments, which undermine the rule of law, which undermines the independence of the judiciary, which devalues a judgment of the Supreme Court, it should not be made. He should stop. 

“I urge Minister Bannister to cease and desist making comments that undermine the independence of the judiciary because let me remind him: fair but for the grace God goes I.

“When the FNM (Free National Movement) needs to go to court for something, they will want to uphold whatever judgment the court gives. Win, lose or draw, there should be respect for the pronouncements of the judiciary.”

Smith said it appears to be an “open season on the judiciary”.

“It’s a crying shame that our government doesn’t do something about it, instead they encourage [it],” he said.

“So, I urge the government to stop abusing the judiciary, who are only doing their jobs as independent members of the three-part system of government we have.”

Shantytown residents, who are represented by Smith, 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.

However, the government started demolition in The Farm shantytown in Treasure Cay in April. Officials said only homes that were erected after the ruling were marked for demolition.

Forty-five incomplete and unoccupied structures in the shantytown were demolished on April 22 and additional structures were demolished in the following weeks.

In her ruling, Grant-Thompson said, “As it relates to the purported actions of the government in demolishing homes of residents on the island of Abaco, the respondents (the government) claim that these acts are only being done to structures that are in violation of the law.

“The applicants aver that many of the structures were capable of being repaired since the passage of Hurricane Dorian and were not in breach or violation of any law, yet they were also demolished during these exercises by the government.

“In my view, the only way the court can ensure fair play until the conclusion of this matter is to have oversight of any action that is proposed to be done in relation to further destruction of homes on the island of Abaco. The injunction now fully covers Abaco.”

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government will appeal the ruling.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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