Categorized | National News

Speaker Defies Injunction

Speaker of the House Dr. Kendal Major along with several other Members of Parliament yesterday spoke out about their disdain against the recent injunction posed against members of parliament.


Dr. Major said he believes the order goes against parliamentary privilege and all Members of Parliament should be outraged.


“In my view the order violates the principles of separations of powers, critical to a parliamentary democracy and should attract outrage from every member of this place and every senator in the other place. In short it is a blatant breach of parliamentarian privilege and utterly disdainful at many levels,” Dr. Major said.


“As chair I defy this or any attempt by any court to direct or affect in any way the conduct of our business in this place. I have the honour to preside over this House and this junction and therefore would jealously guide its rights and its privileges.


“In future, members who attempt to table documents unverified will not be allowed unless it satisfies the standards of authenticity and reliability. Members have the freedom to raise any matter however, it is the domain that determines their level of palpability.”


He added that free speech will not be stifled and the chair will take exception to any persons or grouping seeking to suppress freedom of speech in Parliament.


“The court injunction does not affect what is done in Parliament. Parliament cannot be injunctioned by the courts. While the injunction may have desired effect on “anyone and persons alone members of Parliament do not fall into these categories and are therefore free to speak as they wish,” Dr. Major said.


Last week, an injunction was issued by Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles, which prohibited MP for Fox Hill and Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell and MP for Marathon and Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald from further disclosing information on environmental group Save the Bays (STB) inside or outside of Parliament.


Dr. Major added that in order for the system to work, there must be mutual cooperation and respect between the various branches of government.


The speaker of the house was not the only Member of Parliament to speak out against the recent injunction.


Member of the committee for privilege and MP for Central and South Eleuthera Damien Gomez also expressed his disdain and confusion in the granting of the injunction.


“This is the first occasion that I am aware of that a Supreme Court judge has actually told members of parliament what they cannot say in the House of Assembly. I am indeed very surprised by that,” Mr. Gomez said.


“One must wonder what was submitted to the court because none of the papers have actually been circulated. I’m not sure why I was being notified. It just came out of the blue.”


According to Mr. Gomez, the attorney general was served just before the hearing began and a copy of the notice was left at the reception desk so he said it can be assumed that it was never the intent of the applicants to properly give notice of the hearing.


Deputy Prime Minister Phillip Davis said integrity of the courts must be kept.


The injunction was granted after Minister Fitzgerald read out personal emails of STB directors. In a filed affidavit, STB Chairman Joseph Darville said STB members felt distressed after an invasion of their privacy.


After Justice Charles made the injunction, Ministers Fitzgerald and Mitchell in a joint statement on Friday, fired back at the injunction stating that they will not be stopped and Legal director of STB Fred Smith cannot stop them.


Legal Director of STB, Fred Smith QC, said that when the time comes for a full hearing on the environmental group’s application before the courts, STB will argue that parliamentary privilege cannot be used by the executive branch of government to infringe upon the constitutional right of individuals to privacy.


The motion filed by STB called for Ministers Mitchell and Fitzgerald, within seven days or according to a timeline fixed by the court, to turn over the originals and any copies of the group’s private correspondence in whatever form they are held. It also called for the MPs to delete all electronic records and testify under oath as to who the information was shared with and in what manner.


The injunction is to be upheld until May 12th at 11:00 a.m., and prohibits the MPs and anyone acting directly or through their employees and or officers or other agents to release information in Parliament of outside of Parliament.


Both MPs have denied having unauthorized access to the emails and stated that they were protected by parliamentary privilege.



Written by Jones Bahamas

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