||Last Updated: Feb 13, 2019 - 2:52:21 PM
This is a very serious moment for our country.
We have always had a vigorous give-and-take in our politics.
All Bahamians know politics isn’t for the faint of heart.
But what we are seeing today isn’t politics -- it’s the criminalization of politics.
The current government appears determined to use the prosecutorial powers of the Crown to go after members of the opposing political party.
That’s not democracy. That’s not justice. That’s not The Bahamas – or at least, it never has been until now.
I want to emphasize this point: what we are seeing here is new.
It is new, it is dangerous, and it undermines the rule of law.
The case of Frank Smith has shocked the country. Evidence was invented and manipulated. The key witness in the matter called Mr. Smith, telling him he was being set up. Two members of Cabinet repeatedly called and met with this same key witness. The day before the same key witness is due to testify, she is given a $2 million government contract – a contract that was awarded without board approval, in a highly irregular manner. The internal audit of the mishandling of the contract award is being concealed.
$2 million from the government to a key witness, right before she’s supposed to testify.
Who would dare to defend such a thing?
As outrage began to mount, what did the government do?
Did they announce an independent investigation into the matter, the very least of the steps that should be taken? Did they announce the firing of the members of Cabinet involved?
No, they didn’t. Instead, the government announced it would appeal.
Understand this: they are appealing after the Chief Magistrate said there was not “a scintilla of evidence” to support the case.
After this, how can Bahamians have confidence in this government?
How can they trust that the government is using its vast prosecutorial powers fairly and impartially?
They cannot. Which is what makes today’s events a dangerous escalation.
What has happened here is clear enough. Embarrassed by the exposure of the egregious -- and quite possibly criminal -- behavior by multiple members of their Cabinet, yesterday they launched a new offensive.
The four defendants - Kylon Vincent, Stephanie Collie, Chris Symonette and Michelle Reckley - were taken to court deliberately after hours, even though the press had been notified at 9:30 a.m. this morning, so that the defendants could not apply for Supreme Court Bail and would have to spend the night in prison.
Additionally, the defendants were denied access to attorneys. Michelle Reckley was not allowed to be properly clothed nor bring her medication. The court dockets have no complainants listed on the docket so the defendants do not know who their accusers are.
Additionally, no meals were provided for the defendants.
Does the government not understand, after Frank Smith, how these abuses are viewed? Or, in fact, is that their goal — to send a message throughout the land, that political opponents will be treated in this manner? Are they celebrating their abuse of power?
In the past days, many members of the FNM have told me they are horrified by what is unfolding. I would say to them, now is the time to stand up for your country. Say to the Prime Minister’s face what you are saying behind his back. Let him know this is not a game.
These abuses of power strike directly at our confidence in the administration of justice, and when citizens do not trust that the rule of law is administered fairly, you have undermined a key pillar of our democracy.
I announce with no pleasure that the PLP parliamentary caucus will boycott the House of Assembly for a period in protest, to mark the seriousness of where we find ourselves as a nation.
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