Categorized | National News

Former AG: Referendum Illegal

Just days after the nation’s chief admitted that next month’s referendum is unconstitutional former Attorney General Carl Bethel went a step further and said the entire process is illegal.

Mr. Bethel, who previously served as attorney general in the Ingraham Cabinet, said the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) web shop referendum does not meet the necessary legal criteria since there is no bill passed by Parliament which seeks to amend the Constitution.

He noted that the parliamentary commissioner is authorised to conduct Local Government elections by virtue of the provisions of section 17 (2) of the Local Government Act.

“Other than for the purposes of elections to the House of Assembly, the holding of a constitutional referendum or the conduct of local government elections, the parliamentary commissioner has no lawful power to conduct any election,” Mr. Bethel said.

“There is no lawful way for the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner, his staff or any other agencies of the government to expend public funds, and taxpayers’ dollars, to conduct an illegal consultative referendum or any other kind of non-constitutional plebiscite.”

He continued, “The astonishing incompetence of the PLP is that matters should or could have been allowed to unravel to such a degree that the prime minister could set and publicly announce the date for the holding of an illegal referendum.”

He questioned where Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson was throughout the entire ordeal and whether she failed to advise the prime minister of the correct process.

“Were they abroad, sleep-walking or AWOL? In a Cabinet which is stacked to the gills with learned and experienced attorneys-at-law, including the prime minister and deputy prime minister . . . how could this imbroglio have happened? Did some of those who must have known better keep silent in order to embarrass and subvert their leader?”

“The first duty of any cabinet minister, including the prime minister, is to know the full extent of his authority. The second duty is to know the legal limitations on such authority.”

Mr. Bethel, who is also a former Free National Movement (FNM) chairman and MP, said in an unfolding scenario of “astonishing incompetence” the PLP Government has embroiled the nation in an “unnecessary, divisive and meaningless” exercise to legitimate what appears to be the re-payment of campaign debts.

The former attorney general said Mr. Christie, recognising his error, has tried to “weasel-out” of the conundrum by now declaring that he will hold an “opinion poll” rather than a referendum.
“The question is then who will conduct and also insure the integrity of such a poll. Who will ensure that every vote counts and that some operative is not stuffing the ballot boxes in a back room? Who will ensure that there is a fair count of all ballots? It cannot be the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner. It cannot be the PLP party’s machinery and operatives? How will the Government lawfully pay for this exercise from the Public Treasury? I listened to the last budget debate. Nowhere was any public money appropriated by Parliament to pay for the costs of holding any nationwide opinion poll,” he said.

“The government should stop, review and cancel this march of folly, and find another lawful and legal way to resume its preferred role of being a latter day Pontius Pilate, by effectively washing their collective hands of a divisive decision.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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