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BAR PRESIDENT CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

As a society we suffer generally from a basic failure of Social Studies in our understanding of the Constitutional Order . This is the view of the

President of the Bahamas Bar Association Kahlil Parker. He made  the statement   during his address to a room filled with eager law students from the Eugene Dupuch Law School at their annual dinner held at Luciano’s of Chicago Restaurant recently.

Mr. Parker covered pertinent topics not only law students should be vigilant of,  but every Bahamian; including  topics such as the order of how the constitution should be read,  the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.

He said in society we are guided and governed by rules and how we organize ourselves as a people and recognize ourselves in the organizational structure that we have established.

Mr. Parker  explained  how  the executive, legislature and judiciary work in conjunction of each other.   They primarily comprise of three co-equal; branches whose function is to act in counter balance to each other in pursuit of the best interest of The Nation.

Mr. Parker used current political agendas as an example to describe legislature. “Our political leaders have always emphasized generically that they “are accountable to the people”, whereas in actuality cabinet is constitutionally accountable, and answers to Parliament. This is how decades of so-called ‘gussie-mae’ cabinets have distorted our constitutional order.

“How can a legislature which is comprised of a significant majority of cabinet ministers or appointees be expected to hold the cabinet to account?” Mr. Parkers asks.

He stated that this long-standing practice violates the spirit of the constitution.

He further emphasized that legislature has failed to effectively employ the necessary tools at its disposal to ensure that the Executive is held to account by Parliament and thereby the public.

“There is little use of the Select Committee procedure to ensure public accountability and much of what happens in Parliament is prepared speeches and equally prepared insults.

“Parliament has not evolved into the deliberative body it is intended to be; in large part it has devolved into a political staged performance,” Mr. Parker said.

In a modern liberal society, it ought to be where the Judiciary and the Executive branches attain a united working relationship, but this is not the case.

“The Executive and the Judiciary does not have the financial protections and autonomy of administration one would expect in a modern liberal democracy”, said the attorney.

Introducing the benefits of law for society, Mr. Parker laments, “If it is that we are a nation of laws, then the law must apply equally to and for the benefit of all. It is that pursuit of equality of treatment and outcomes under the law which defines and determines our success as a nation.

“Although one should respect law enforcers, the question arises, do law enforcers respect you?  Or, do they exhibit a behaviour of entitlement and use their position to exploit individuals in their custody?”

Speaking to law students and novice attorney’s, Mr. Parker said, interviewing a client in a  police station ‘interview room’ asking your client ‘what did the police say when you were arrested? Were you cautioned, were you advised of the reason for your arrest and detention?’ 

Almost invariably you will be advised by your client that ‘all he say was ‘you lock up’ and they grab me and throw me in the car.’ For many Bahamians this is what they know of the law and therefore, as a direct result, they spend much of their time attempting to get around the law or avoid it,” said the Bar President.

Mr. Parker implores persons to challenge such micro-aggressions which add up to a comprehensive assault on the dignity of the person.  He reminded  persons that there is never a need for degrading or inhumane treatment of any human; there is never a just cause for the disregard for anyone’s constitutional rights.

“We are leaving the Age of Impunity behind and are entering an Age of Accountability. This is across both the private sector and the public sector. We ought to embrace these changes and reform our systems and institutions so that a slide into the patterns of the past is made all but impossible.

“I believe that legislated transparency and openness in both the Public and  Private sectors will be transformative. The regulation of banks, insurance companies, and large public companies is to a great  extent conducted behind closed doors with little or no public accountability and scrutiny,” Mr. Parker said.

He strongly feels that the Judiciary, one of the co-equal branches of government, is principally charged with the protection of the individual from the coercive power of the state.

“We must strive to ensure that we are playing our respective parts to ensure both the independence of the judiciary and equally,  that it is performing its intended constitutional function,” President of The Bahamas Bar Association said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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