Communication by Fred Mitchell MP On A Question of Privilege

Posted on: May 24, 2016

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Communication by Fred Mitchell MP
On A Question of Privilege
18th May 2016
House of Assembly
Nassau

Mr. Speaker,

I rise on a point of privilege.

You will recall that when the House of Assembly met over the
last few weeks, on each occasion I was out of the country on
official business. I spoke to you over the telephone giving you
my clear and unqualified response to a purported injunction
given ex parte by a Judge of the Supreme Court which was
seeking to prevent two Members of Parliament from carrying
out their constitutional functions in this House and in this
country. I now rise to speak on a matter of privilege at this first
convenient point.

I had the advantage of the benefit of your views and I have read
the texts of those statements made by you as Speaker with
regard to the purported actions of the Judge of the Supreme
Court. I had thought that this matter would have been properly
put behind us by a dismissal in the Courts by now of what is in
my view a total misconceived action on the part of some pretty
desperate people to stifle free speech and debate, sourced from
the very group that is calling for freedom of information.

Sadly it is not behind us and counsel has had to be retained in
order to deal with this matter in the courts. My own view is
quite clear again. The action is misconceived, foolish and the
decision is manifestly wrong in law.

The privilege which I have to speak in this House is an
unqualified privileged, not qualified in any way save for any
limitations which the Parliament imposes.

I wish to read into the record the law on this matter.

I start with the Constitution

Article 53: (1) Without prejudice to the generality of Article
52(1) of this Constitution and subject to the provisions of
paragraph (2) of this Article, Parliament may by law determine
the privileges, immunities and powers of the Senate and the
House of Assembly and the members thereof.

(2) No process issued by any court in the exercise of its civil
jurisdiction shall be served or executed within the precincts of
the Senate or the House of Assembly while it is sitting, or
through the President or the Speaker, the Clerk or any other
officer of either House. 54. (1) Subject to the proviso
Then there is the statute law Section 3 of the Powers and
Privileges Act which was passed pursuant to the Article of the
Constitution:

Senators and Members shall have the like privileges and
immunities as are enjoyed for the time being in the United
Kingdom by members of the Commons House of Parliament,
and without derogation from the generality of the privileges and
immunities conferred by this section, in particular shall have
such privileges and immunities as are provided hereafter in this
Act.

4. No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against any
Senator or Member for words spoken before, or written in a
report to, the Senate or the House respectively or a committee,
or by reason of any matter or thing so brought by him by
petition, bill, motion or otherwise.

There is no doubt about what those words mean. So the question
is: what is there for a court to consider in this matter.
I have had the advantage of conferring with and reading the
statement of the Member of Parliament for Marathon, my
honourable friend.

I wish to quote from his statement delivered in this Chamber on
On April 22 I and the member for Parliament for Fox Hill issued
the following statement:

Mr. Speaker I wish to indicate that the Member for Fox Hill is
away on country business and thus not able to be here today but
he has advised that in this matter I can speak for him. He will
address the issue at the earliest opportunity upon his return.
I repeat first of all what I said in our statement that no one can
deter this member when it comes to speaking freely on behalf of
my constituents or when my privilege has been assaulted.
I have the privilege of freedom of speech generally and
specifically there is immunity which attaches both on the
criminal and civil side for anything which I or any member says
in here.

Any injunction then which purports to restrict that seeks to do so
in vain. It is a well-known axiom of law that equity does not act
in vain.

Injunctions are an equitable remedy and thus I cannot see how
an injunction could have been granted since it is so obviously
contrary to law.

Put another way, given the constitution and the law, if we speak
in here as we will, how is their remedy to be enforced. The
judge by this order has set up a conflict between the two
branches of government: the legislature and the courts. Under
these circumstances it is clear who will lose.

One only needs to read carefully article 53(2) of the constitution
and then go to the Powers and Privileges Act to see we are
absolutely supported by the law in here.

This matter was first laid before the Committee on Privileges by
Resolution of this House on March 21st 2016.

Thus the false accusation made by the representatives of Save
The Bays and Mr. Louis Bacon against me personally that I or
Ministers of the government got unauthorized access to emails
of Save the Bays is now before the Committee of Privileges and
I expect The Committee to call all those who made such
outrageous accusations of criminal behavior against me and
other members to come and produce what evidence they have to
support their libelous and defamatory claims.

Mr. Speaker
I am now putting before this House for further consideration the
purported injunction and I am suggesting to this House that the
common law powers of contempt and the statutory powers of
contempt can lead to the judge, the lawyers Fred Smith and
Ferron Bethel to be brought before the Committee of Privileges
to determine whether this House should consider that they are in
fact in contempt of Parliament. I use as support the documents I
have tabled.

Mr. Speaker
These people are getting desperate to hide their scandalous
activities and schemes from the public and in their desperation
they have fallen into grave error. I should say it another way,
they messing with the wrong people! I said I’ve had enough and I meant it!

Mr. Speaker
I close by quoting from the 22nd edition of Mays on Parliamentary Practice:

“Subject to the rules of order in debate, a member may state
whatever he thinks fit in debate, however offensive it may be to
the feelings, or injurious to the character of individuals as he is
protected by his privilege from any action for libel as well as
from any questions or molestation..

Final legal recognition of the privilege of freedom of speech in
both Houses of Parliament is to be found in article IX of the Bill
of Rights 1689 which states “the freedom of speech and debate
or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or
questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”.

Mr. Speaker, I adopt those words as if they were my own.
I go further, I want to make this clear, I do not consider myself
bound by any injunction issued by any court in so far as it
applies to any attempt to stifle what I say and do in this place. I
will act accordingly.

I want to say also that those who for political convenience now
find this uncomfortable cannot have their cake and eat it too.
You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time.
The reasons for the privilege are manifold but I say this, those
who argued that it was fine to steal the private banking records
of customers of the Bank of The Bahamas and thought there was
nothing wrong with that because they believed by exposing the
private banking affairs of public figures, they were serving a
public good, have no legsto stand on in this argument. Those
published stolen Cabinet papers because they believed that it
serves a greater good also have no leg to stand on.

I assure the public that these documents which are before the
House are not purloined or stolen or unauthorized as the
progenitors of this foolish court action have sought to say.
I ask the public to consider this. When the facts reveal that there
was in fact a conspiracy to destabilize the Government, funded
by high net worth individuals, surely by the same reasoning you
argue that it was fine to publish stolen material, publishing this
material also serves the greater good. There is no question about
it.

The elements are all there. You have a Queen’s Counsel who has
been hired time and again by the same set of moneyed foreign
interests. He himself has urged people to sue the Government to
bankrupt the Government. He has pledged to run in the Fox Hill
constituency, funded by who knows and to what end. He now
has several legal actions against this member in the courts
against me he says in my personal capacity, the end point of
which is to bankrupt me personally.

This again is funded by whom and for what reason.
Mr. Speaker, I do not take thislightly and will fight this with all
my being, have worked hard to get to this High court of
parliament where there is a complete immunity for what I say
and do in this place. The action before the courts is a nonsense
and I hope the courts will see their way clear to deal with it
appropriately.

In the meantime, I again assure my constituents that I will not blink or stutter and continue to serve unswervingly their interest in
this place.

I wish to lay my remarks over for the further consideration of
the Committee on Privileges.

Thank you.

End

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