Sunday, 17 February 2019

Opposition Leader on Aftermath of Frank Smith Case

I have called you here this afternoon to make the call for the resignation of two Ministers of the Government - Duane Sands and Marvin Dames - for their conduct in the Frank Smith case. The behavior of the Attorney General must also be reviewed and appropriate actions taken in accordance with generally accepted principles of ethical conduct having regard to the outturn of this case and specifically the cited conduct of his office during the Frank Smith case.

Having heard the decision of the learned Magistrate, I am reinforced in my previously expressed view that on two levels we have a problem with the administration of justice.
 
In this particular case, we have the conduct and the role of the Minister for the Police and the Minister for Health which are under scrutiny. Additionally and more generally, there is the question of the administration of justice.

The Magistrate said “The procedure that was adopted in this case as revealed by the evidence in my view was wholly inappropriate, to state it mildly...”
 
“Leading counsel for the Crown asserted that the Minister may have [and I quote] found a more discreet venue to meet the virtual complainant other than his constituency office. No doubt admitting that this conduct raises the appearance of this to a political favour…”

“The conduct of the Minister responsible for the Police agreeing to meet the complainant instead of directing his colleague to refer the complainant to the Commissioner of Police is unorthodox to say the least…”
 
Not to mention the persistent phone calls by the two government Ministers to the virtual complainant, Barbara Hanna, who was clearly avoiding the police.

The learned Magistrate recalled how the Minister of Health had been given a campaign contribution by the virtual complainant by the Minster’s own admission under oath. The virtual complainant had a pending application for an extremely lucrative contract before the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) and based on the sworn evidence, the Minister of Health, Duane Sands, awarded her that very lucrative contract and not the board. The Board had concerns about this award and referred the process of the award to the internal auditor to investigate for impropriety.
 

Concerning the conduct of the Attorney General, I note that lawyers are bound to act as ministers of justice before the courts. There is no doubt in my mind that both the Attorney General and lead counsel for the Crown should have stopped this case before it reached the stage of a no case submission. This is certainly an issue to look into to determine whether the attention of the ethics committee of the Bar Council should be engaged.

I call today on the Ministers to do the right thing, according to the conventions of the constitution. Failing to do so, the Prime Minister must act.

I described this earlier as an abuse of process. I repeat my deep concern about and fear for the poor citizens among us who do not have the resources to meet the full weight of the state in these situations.
 
More generally on the administration of justice, we have to be concerned that Ministers of Government would actively intervene in cases, acting out what seems to be a predetermined script written to fulfil a political narrative on corruption that was false from the start.
 
It says much about their moral and ethical character from the Prime Minister right on down to the ordinary back bencher of the FNM. It appears that they are willing to do anything to win an election, even if it means exacting victor’s justice on their political opponents. They would use the law and the police to exact vengeance on their political opponents.

At a time when our courts face a massive backlog in processing real criminal charges, it has been disgusting to see this attempt to use the judicial system to wage political battles. Everyone loses when false allegations are invented to score political points. It is terrible, obviously, for the innocent man and his family.

It damages our public institutions and our country’s international reputation to gin up anger and cynicism about public servants and it is a waste of very valuable and scarce time in our courts, which all Bahamians want to see focused on real crimes. It is also a waste of tax payers' money.
 
This is a profound departure from the political norms of our country, where the scores are settled at 6 p m on election day.

The extent to which the law and the police have been used and abused in this case including the manipulation of evidence, to cook the books so as to exact political vengeance is extraordinary. We cannot sit down and go quietly into the good night.

I want to thank Attorneys K. D. Knight QC, Able Don Foote, Damien Gomez Q.C. and Philip McKenzie for their successful work on this case.

I once again ask my fellow Bahamians to take note of how this matter was conducted and the extent to which Ministers of the Government were directly involved in this prosecution. This should cause us all to pause and consider who our leaders are and the true content of their characters.

We are soberly reflecting on this judgement and await the printed script for our public policy analysts to review and advise us further.

I ask and supporters to reflect soberly on what has happened and be on stand by for further advice.

There is something rotten in the Commonwealth.

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