15 August 2016
On A Point of Privilege
Check against delivery
Joseph Darville writing in the press this morning and in a note sent to my e mail address has appealed to you as Speaker to stop what he says is “ madness”, that is the attempt inter alia to cause the officers of Save The Bays and their Attorneys to be summoned before the Parliament for contempt.
Firstly as I recall it, there is no such order by you.
He is wrong in that respect.
He is also wrong in seeking to cast what has happened with this matter as some crusade for the privacy of citizens of The Bahamas.
That is not only wrong but foolish and disingenuous.
This matter has gone way beyond the private legal action of Joseph Darville and Fred Smith. A judge of the Supreme Court has ruled that Members of Parliament can be injuncted from speaking in the House of Assembly. That is what this is about.
So suddenly, the defenders of freedom of speech are fine on freedom of speech so long as freedom of speech is defended for everyone except Members of Parliament.
The matters about which he complains have been lawfully referred to the Committee on Privileges which is now fully constituted and can sit to adjudicate the complaints of the Members of Parliament.
I remind everyone that the constitution gives Parliament the power to define the extent of the privileges of Members. Parliament has done that. That definition says that no sanction whether criminal or civil can arise from what is said in this place by members of parliament. For a judge to give permanent injunction saying that Members cannot speak about certain matters is anathema and not correct in law. It is also outside of the scope of the Judge’s power. To give effect to this injunction would be to give this judge the authority to in effect injunct Parliament and prevent it meeting.
Members of Parliament are bound to stand up to this. Parliament must renounce and dismiss this without equivocation.
In law and as it pertains to this matter, the Speaker is functus officio. Meaning that, having sent this matter to the Committee on Privilege the Speaker is relieved of any further action on the matter until the Committee reports. The matter cannot be called back to the Speaker, as Mr. Darville seems to think.
When a matter comes before the House, the Speaker takes a look and reviews the documents and decides whether its probative worth outweighs its prejudicial value. The power to make this decision is in the exclusive domain of the Speaker. In the case of the e mails, he determined its probative worth and in the larger public interest and tabled the e mailsMr. Darville and his compatriots ought to respect the ruling and the Speaker and move on.
Secondly, the matter was referred by resolution of the House to the Committee on Privileges so in any event it cannot be overruled by any other authority. Proceedings of the House are not subject to Judicial Review, this is an established necessity in order for the doctrine of the separation of powers to have its intended effect.
The public needs to be reminded that MPs of Parliament uncovered what they in their own deliberate judgment saw was a plot by rich foreigners connected with Louis Bacon to use the law firm of Callenders and Co in which Fred Smith Q C is a partner to pass the sum of 8 million dollars through that firm in the space of a number of months to destabilize the government of The Bahamas. Those MPs thought in the interest of the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas the matter should be brought to Parliament. That is the privileges that Members of Parliament enjoy.
That is also what this is about. The Committee has the power of summons, and witnesses are obliged to appear, in order to get to the bottom of that.
No member of parliament has violated any law to bring these matters to the House. As poorly written as the Judgment is, not even the Judge could find that as a fact.
It is my hope that every person involved will do their best to cooperate with the committee so as to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.