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Speedy justice pledge falls short when judgment pay-outs take years, says leading senior lawyer who wants to find a solution to a decades-long problem

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‘It shouldn’t take the government years and years to settle a judgment against it when the very judgment was awarded because of inexcusable delay in the first place’ 

 

#TheBahamas, January 7, 2022 – The new attorney general Ryan Pinder came out guns blazing according to an Eyewitness News post online on November 1, 2021 with headline UNBUDGETED AND UNFUNDED: AG says judgments against govt ‘have to be paid’.

I could not agree with him more.

I am fully on board with the Attorney General calling out the last administration and exposing its failure to account for $1B in liabilities, including court judgments made against the government.

I would only caution that Sen. Pinder is swinging a double-edged sword. We all know that governments are continuous and it doesn’t matter when the failure started or who was responsible for it; it only matters who stops it and is competent enough to reverse the negative consequences it created.

Although I am optimistic about the pledge of millions of dollars in funding which is claimed to have been provided in the government’s supplementary budget to cover the costs of those judgments, I remain cynical about it.

As we enter the first quarter of 2022, where is the money for these judgments?  Who is receiving the favour of priority of payments as so many judgments with real priority remain outstanding while others were hurriedly and quietly paid just before Christmas? Why are the government’s judgment creditors still being told there is no money?

There are judgments for damages which were awarded against the government for its failure and breach of a citizen’s constitutional rights by causing unreasonable delays in the delivery of justice.

Article 20 of the constitution guarantees you a right to a fair trial and a trial within a reasonable time.

A still broken criminal justice system continues to result in protracted delays in matters being prosecuted, delaying in some cases vindication to the accused and the opportunity to get back to some semblance of the life you had before becoming a part of the system.

When you are compensated for this delay a part of the damages is exemplary damage to provide some incentive to the state to provide a criminal justice system where trials are heard in a timely manner. But what is the point of all of this emphasis on speed in the delivery of justice when there is no incentive to pay judgments in a timely manner and no consequences for their failure to do so.

When the government is ordered to pay they should pay and they should pay promptly. As citizens we have to pay utilities or face disconnection of services provided by the government if we are weeks late. As a business owner you can’t get business licenses renewed or a Customs bond renewal if you are a licensed manufacturer under the Act until you pay the government its taxes.

We expect the government also to learn from their mistakes, errors in judgment on flat out breaches of civil rights and liberties. So it shouldn’t take the government years and years to settle a judgment against it when the very judgment was awarded because of inexcusable delay in the first place.

It’s now all out in the open that the past government failed to budget for these judgments. Could this also explain why judgments under former governments also went unpaid for long periods of time, budget after budget after budget?

This type of inexcusable delay is not new. Successful Litigants against the government have been bowing and scraping at the feet of government personnel since time immemorial begging, following up or paying for favour to get money they are lawfully entitled to.

The question for us as citizens is whether any government’s failure to account for debts ordered by the court to pay was willful and contumelious.

Was this failure to settle these judgements tantamount to a system thumbing its nose at the judiciary and also to the Constitution?

To know that a debt had been ordered to be paid by the Court and to have the means and deliberately, willfully and contumeliously fail to make provision to pay would be circumstances for which, if done by an ordinary citizen, would expose him to penalty for Contempt of Court.

How do we punish this type of Contempt of Court committed by the government of the day? How do we hold government accountable for ensuring that the AG’s emphatic statement that these judgments “have to be paid” comes to fruition? How do we ensure that this government pay judgments and not mere lip service?  How does this government avoid getting sliced by the same sword it’s now wielding?

As 2022 rolls in, can we all now expect and demand that all judgments be allocated for in the next and ensuing budgets and supplementary budgets? Can we all now expect them to be paid promptly now that the AG and the PM have exposed this failing of the former government? Can we demand and expect that they will do differently? Is there something else besides advocacy that we in the legal profession can bring to the table to help solve this vexing problem and erase this sore from the health of our legal and judicial system?

Settling judgments should be an urgent priority for this and all governments. Unlike contracts where parties can negotiate themselves into and out of commitments, once the matter becomes a judgment or a court order there is a mandate of one of the three branches of government.

I am grateful that this Attorney General is committed to purging the government’s existing contempt of court in settling its outstanding judgment debts. As an officer of the Court there may be ways that working with the Attorney General can help to bring about reform in a meaningful way. However much of the heavy lifting has to be done internally.

Civil matters go to court that should be settled. Criminal matters are thrust needlessly into the system without ample regard for due process. Money judgments increase exponentially by interest added on with the passage of time. Matters linger in the system too long, and all of this is at the expense of the taxpayer.

These are but a few of the many ways in which delays in the delivery of our system of justice results in justice denied.

So let’s not whine about problems we can fix. Just fix it.

 

Photo Caption: Senior counsel and former President, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation   Tanya Wright applauds the attorney general for saying judgments against government must be paid, but wants to know where is the money which was promised to pay outstanding judgments, why there are years of delays as lives of those who deserve justice remain upended and what can be done to fix the system. If there is a problem, there is a solution, she says.

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Bahamas News

WHO says COVID deaths THREE TIMES higher

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

May 14, 2022 – Weeks ago the world marked an awful milestone 6 million COVID-19 deaths now the WHO says the real number may be almost three times higher.

In a recent press release the organization said new estimates from its data show that the full death toll or excess mortality associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million but might be as high as 16.6 million.

The organization explained that,  “Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.”

Basically the excess mortality rate tells us how many people will be alive were it not for COVID. It is important to know what that figures including spikes associated with omicron are not included in this data set so the number could very well be higher.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the organization.

South-east Asia and the Americas were the worst hit by the pandemic in terms of death toll.

WHO data shows 20 countries, containing approximately 50% of the global population, account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for the January 2020 to December 2021 period.

These countries are: Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States of America (USA).

 

WHO COVID DEATHS Photo caption:  File photo in Jakarta;  at a time when there were fears about running out of space to bury its dead.

(Supplied: Arbain Rambey)

 

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Bahamas News

Two Babies die from toxic Similac, TCI Ministry of Health asks stores to pull bad batches off Shelves

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – Two infants have died as a result of bad baby food, and the Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health renewed calls to stay away from Similac and several other baby formulas.

The warning for parents over fears of contaminated baby food came in a press release on Monday and advised all local suppliers, healthcare facilities and parents to read the labels and check for a list of brands and batches.

“Discontinue the sale and/or use of certain batches of powdered infant formulas manufactured by Abbott, namely: Similac, Alimentum and EleCare.”

The products were recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration after consumers complained of illness in infants from Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport.

The TCI Health Ministry advises that the bacteria can cause rare bloodstream and central nervous system infections and has been associated with severe intestinal infection and blood poisoning, especially in newborns.

In the worse cases, two babies in the US have died.

The ministry statement said: “Consumers are advised not to use the recalled products if the first two digits of the code are 22 through 37 and the code on the container contains K8, SH or Z2 and has an expiration date of April 2022 or later.”

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Bahamas News

Pineapple Fest Makes Return this June         

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#TheBahamas, May 13, 2022 –  The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation (BMOTIA) is excited to announce  the return of the  Annual Pineapple Festival following a twoyear hiatus due to Covid-19.  Deemed by organisers as the “sweetest” festival in The Bahamas, the 33rd Pineapple Festival will take place 3 – 4 June  in charming Gregory Town, Eleuthera.

The annual Pineapple Festival, created in 1987 to honour pineapple farmers of Gregory Town and their contribution to the farming industry, would have marked 35 years if not for the pandemic. Agriculture heritage, in the settlement often referred to as “Pineapple City”, is the focal point of the weekend festival where locals invite visitors to indulge with them in  the naturally sweet like sugar, tropical taste of pineapples.

Festivalgoers will experience lots of food, lots of fun,  interactive games and musical entertainment  for people of all ages to enjoy. For the kids, there will be “Kids World” filled with fun games and sports to enjoy all day long.  Fierce culinary competitions, pineapple eating contest, plaiting of the pineapple pole are just a few of the activities persons can take part in at at this sweet island festival.

The two-day concert segment of the festival begins on Friday, 3 June,  and will be headlined by

Eleuthera’s very own in-house band, Team Blue Waters, with exciting performances by Ebony, Puzzle, Stileet and many more popular local performing artists. On Saturday, 4 June, the final day of the concert, musical entertainment will continue with a second performance by Team Blue Waters,  and new performances by Sweet Emily, Funky D and Cupid.

This years 33rd Pineapple Festival is sponsored by Disney Cruise Line, Aliv, Team Bluewaters,

Daddy Joe’s, The Cove Eleuthera, Kalik and The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources.

For more information, contact the Eleuthera Tourism Office at 242-332-2142 or visit

tourismtoday.com or bahamas.com

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