Categorized | National News

MPs Reject Judge’s Ruling

Parliamentarians stood in unison yesterday to challenge a judge’s ruling against a Member of Parliament arguing that parliamentarian privilege should be held higher than the Supreme Court.

Various parliamentarians spoke out in the Lower Chamber yesterday against a recent injunction placed against MP for Marathon Jerome Fitzgerald for reading private emails of the environmental group Save The Bays (STB).

On Tuesday, Justice Indra Charles ruled that Mr. Fitzgerald breached the constitutional rights of members of the group and ordered him to pay $150,000.

She also placed an injunction on Mr. Fitzgerald to cease sharing information from those emails in Parliament without STB’s consent.

Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major called the injunction “astonishing.”

“I find this apparent violation astonishing. Parliament and its members have a right to privilege and the members of this house have been given the constitutional privilege to speak freely,” he said.

“This has been unquestioned for centuries. This is an accepted principle in the courts and parliaments throughout the commonwealth. As chair, I am unaware of any jurisdiction anywhere in the commonwealth where the court attempts to curtail the actions of parliament of any member.

“I have said, and will continue to say that once the rules of this House are observed by members of parliament and once the members do not use their privilege to abuse the publics trust, I will, as long as I am speaker of this house, continue to defend their right to speak openly and freely in this house. This is an uncompromising principle. It is a principle that should not divide any member. I strongly believe that the parliament and its members will be vindicated in due course.”

Mr. Fitzgerald for months held onto the claim that the group had plans to destabilize the government.

He also disclosed that some $8 million has passed through the account of the law firm Callendars and Co to be used by STB to destabilize the government.

The group had for months had argued that Mr. Fitzgerald invaded their privacy after releasing private emails in the House of Assembly.

Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell said the case is a serious blow for Parliament.

“The rights for our constituents to have members of this parliament who can speak freely in this place must be defended. Any member of Parliament with information in their possession has a duty to bring that case here and to present that case,” he said.

Mr. Mitchell said that any order to stop him from speaking freely will be ignored and he will continue to support the work of his colleague.

Mr. Fitzgerald also said that no one will stop him from speaking.

“The court should not and will not make an order that it cannot enforce. In my humble and legal opinion the ruling of justice Charles is one such order, it cannot be enforced,” he said.

“Mr. Speaker you alone can stop members from speaking in this place; so just as the other side is confident that order will be upheld in the higher courts, I am even more confident than they are that this judgment will be overturned in the higher courts.”

Member of Parliament for Marco City Greg Moss sided with the government insisting that the ruling was “scandalous”, “nonsense” and should be fixed to avoid constitutional crisis.

“For a member of the judiciary to overlook the constitution and then overlook the privilege act and say that they can come into this house and tell our members what they can say, that member of the judiciary is saying they can tell our members also what they must say,” he said.

“We have to cross party lines on this. We have to defend our powers and privileges. We may disagree on other things but we cannot disagree on the court statement that we make laws in this house for the peace, order and good governance of our country and we do so without fear or favor of anyone in the courts.”

Mr. Fitzgerald has made it clear however that he will be pushing for an appeal against the ruling.







Written by Jones Bahamas

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