NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The fate of a landmark Supreme Court citizenship ruling now solely rests in the hands of the Privy Council after the Bahamas Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the government’s request to stay its ruling.
The attorney general was named as the applicant.
Shannon Tyreck Rolle, Lavaugn Shawn Rolle, Mayson Juno Pierre and Nikey Pierre were named as the respondents, with attorneys Wayne Munroe, QC, and Bridget Ward representing the respondents.
Court of Appeal Justices Sir Michael Barnett, Jon Isaacs, Maureen Crane-Scott, Roy Jones and Milton Evans ruled on the matter.
The government had applied for a stay of the appellate court’s June 21 decision, which by majority dismissed the government’s appeal and affirmed the decision of Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder, and has been granted leave to appeal to the Privy Council.
In its decision yesterday, the appellate court awarded costs to the respondents, ruling that in the “interests of justice, the pending proceedings before Winder J are stayed pending the outcome of the attorney general’s appeal to the Privy Council”.
“Winder J has effectively imposed a stay of the proceedings in his court pending such ‘further representations’ that may be made,” read the ruling.
“I understand the judge’s terminology to mean and to include appeals against the legal position he established.
“To be clear, Winder J has not yet made any of the declarations sought by the respondents, and the majority judgment of the court merely affirmed his interlocutory understanding of the import of Article 6.
“Any declaration Winder J may ultimately grant will be subject to the outcome of the appeal the appellant is preparing to launch before their lordships in the Privy Council.
“The case before Winder J has yet to conclude.
“In the premises, I am not satisfied that the appellant has demonstrated that we ought to grant a stay of our judgment under sections 6 or 5(b) of the order.”
Isaacs ruled that there was no basis for the court to insert itself into the process moving toward a hearing by the Privy Council.
He noted that in the government’s effort to convince the appellate court that the interests of justice require a stay to preserve the status quo, it filled three affidavits that were “abject failures” in convincing the court.
“They evince no more than the usual level of interest members of the public may have in a case of some public importance, and cannot give rise to a belief that unless somehow checked, great damage will be done to the polity,” read the ruling.
Counsel for the government advised it was prepared to suspend the deportation of people who claim Bahamian citizenship pursuant to Article 6 of the Constitution, but Isaacs ruled that he does not believe that is a viable option as it opens the door for “everyone apprehended or approached” by any state agency, including the Department of Immigration, to state a claim to citizenship and cause there to be an investigation of the legitimacy of their claim, thereby allowing “otherwise undeserving persons to continue to reside in the country without let or hindrance”.
During the hearing, Munroe signaled a preference that the action before Winder continues with the second part of the case but the appellate court stood firm on insisting continuation of the case should await the determination of the Privy Council.
Attorneys Franklyn Williams, Kayla Green-Smith, Kirkland Mackey and Lukella Lindor represented the government.