NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While Attorney General Carl Bethel lambasted the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) on the floor of the Senate last Friday for boycotting Senate and House of Assembly proceedings, the PLP on Sunday said the Free National Movement (FNM) was seeking to confuse the issue of why the boycott is actually taking place.
At last Friday’s Senate proceedings, Attorney General Carl Bethel expressed concern that the boycott was a tactic to intimidate the government and the country’s ‘prosecution services’. He said the opposition’s actions were absolutely unacceptable in a civilized democracy.
“If there are legal disputes in the courts, they are fought in the courts,” Bethel told the Senate.
The PLP’s boycott came on the heels of the arraignment of former Urban Renewal Deputy Director Michelle Reckley.
Reckley was arraigned in a magistrate’s court last week Wednesday with five others over a litany of corruption charges, including money laundering, extortion, fraud and abetment to fraud.
During the House of Assembly proceedings last Wednesday, PLP leader Philip Brave Davis made an attempt to speak on a point of order, but his request was denied by House Speaker Halson Moultrie. This led Davis and his colleagues to walk out of the Lower Chamber, later advising the press that they would boycott proceedings.
“We will not rest until tyrannical attitudes and practices are forever vanquished from this society,” Davis told the media at last week’s press conference.
The same process was followed by PLP Senators who boycotted proceedings last Thursday and Friday.
On Sunday, PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell said the boycott comes as two ministers of the government, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands and the Minister of National Security Marvin Dames were judicially condemned for their conduct while in office at the close of the Frank Smith trial.
The case of former Senator and Public Hospitals Authority Chairman Frank Smith wrapped up earlier this month.
Smith was on acquitted of bribery and extortion charges, following a trial that lasted nearly two years.
While giving her final summations of the trial, Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt was critical of the actions of Sands and Dames.
Ferguson-Pratt said she found some of their actions wholly inappropriate and gave rise to the appearance of political favour.
Shortly after Smith’s acquittal, Attorney General Carl Bethel expressed that the Crown is expected to challenge Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt’s decision to dismiss the Frank Smith and there are plans to appeal.
But on Sunday, the PLP chairman said the appeal, no matter its outcome, will not change the judicial judgment issued to Dames and Sands.
The PLP suggested that in face of the magistrate’s findings, the men should either resign or be dismissed.
According to the PLP, the Attorney General’s conduct is also under the microscope.
“The PLP has called for his [the Attorney General] resignation having regard to the conduct of the case COP vs Frank Smith by his department,” the PLP said. “That is the issue. This is not about the PLP and its conduct. This is about the FNM and its conduct.
“It is quite simple: resign or be dismissed. He [the attorney general] should encourage his colleagues to [resign] and not try to make this a story about the PLP.”
The PLP said its boycott last week is also a gesture of defiance to say that there cannot be business as usual, and the Attorney General has no say in what the PLP does or does not do.
“He must answer for his own conduct,” the PLP said.
“When it is judged in the best interests of the country and the point is sufficiently made, our leader will lead his colleagues back into Parliament and not before.”
“A broad coalition of Bahamians do not support the conduct of the Attorney General, the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security. It threatens the rule of law. It is inimical to the better administration of justice. They are embarrassing our country.
“Once again, we call on these ministers to resign or be fired.”