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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

Agreement inked between Bahamas and Dubai

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#DUBAI, UAE, January 18, 2022 – A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Hon. Fred Mitchell and His Excellency Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, today in Dubai.

The signing of this MOU begins a fruitful relationship between The Bahamas and the UAE. The UAE government is committed to providing technical assistance through their Technical Assistance Programme.  Embedded in the agreement, is a provision that at least fifty percent of the participants in the training programme are women.

Both The Bahamas and UAE are committed to working together on several fronts for the mutual advancement of both countries. The exchange of information will be invaluable as The Bahamas continues to push through the setbacks of the pandemic toward national and economic growth.

 

Photo Caption: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas the Hon. Philip Davis, centre, Minister Mitchell, left, and HE Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan Al Nahyan.

(Photo/OPM Communications)

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Bahamas News

MP’s Graduate with Parliamentary Governance Certificates

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January 18, 2022 – The Caribbean Democrat Union (CDU), in partnership with the Conservatives Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) Programme, held an Online Graduation Ceremony on Friday January 14th 2022 for fifteen (15) Members of Parliament who successfully completed a one year certificate programme in Parliamentary Governance with McGill University in Canada.

This professional development certificate programme is recognized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and provided MP’s with important theoretical and practical knowledge in executing their roles and responsibilities as legislators. Sponsorship for the MP’s was provided by the Conservatives WFD Programme.

The successful graduates included:

  • Tracy Panton– MP Albert, UDP, Belize
  • Shyne Barrow – MP, Mesopotamia, UDP, Belize
  • Senator Hon. Sheena Pitts – UDP, Belize
  • Kerensia Morrison – MP St. Catherine North Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Tova Hamilton – MP, Trelawny Northern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Dr. Michelle Charles – MP, St. Thomas Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Tamika Davis – MP, Hanover Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Rhoda Crawford – MP, Manchester Central, JLP, Jamaica
  • Anne Marie Vaz – MP, Portland Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Krstyal Lee – MP, St. Anne North Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Robert Miller – MP St. Catherine South Eastern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Heroy Clarke – MP, St. James Central, JLP, Jamaica
  • Dwight Sibblies – MP, Clarendon Northern, JLP, Jamaica
  • Morland Wilson – MP, Westmoreland Western, JLP, Jamaica
  • Senator Hon. Shevern John – NDP, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The Online Graduation Ceremony was attended by The Most Hon. Andrew Holness Prime Minister of Jamaica, Maria Miller Conservative MP UK, Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday Leader of the Opposition St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Patrick Faber Leader of the Opposition Belize, Carola Weil Dean of Continuing Studies McGill University, Nick Francis Secretary General CDU, and other officials from the UK Conservative Party’s International Department and Faculty and Staff from McGill University.

Mr. Nick Francis in his remarks at the ceremony noted that this initiative was birthed through greater engagement and consultation with stakeholders in the region in light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and he was grateful to the administrators at McGill University for partnering with the CDU and the Conservatives WFD Programme to make this online training possible.

Hon. Patrick Faber and Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday extended congratulations to the graduates and expressed gratitude to the Conservatives WFD Programme, the CDU and McGill University on this successful collaboration to enhance parliamentary democracy in their respective countries.

A second cohort of trainees will commence the Parliamentary Governance Certificate with McGill University in March of this year and will include young prospective MP’s.

Quotes:

Dean of Continuing Studies at McGill University Carola Weil extended congratulations to the fifteen (15) MP’s for successfully completing the yearlong certificate programme in Parliamentary Governance and noted that this was an “important step towards the continuation of good governance and democracy around the world”

In addressing the graduates at the ceremony, Prime Minster the Most Hon. Andrew Holness noted his expectations that the training received will help to inform their advocacy, guide their involvement in policy development, and “contribute to a new cadre of political representatives that will always strive for the highest standards of excellence in governance, in parliamentary practice, and in political representation.”

Conservative MP Maria Miller UK in a pre-recorded message to the graduates (the majority being new female MP’s) noted that in light of the challenges facing women in politics, “the Conservative WFD Programme is committed to strengthening democracy by creating a much more inclusive, accountable and transparent political system.”

 

Press Release: CDU

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Bahamas News

PM Davis’ Remarks at Wreath Laying Ceremony – Majority Rule Day 2022

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Happy Majority Rule Day to all and thank you for coming

I thank the organizers of this wreath laying ceremony because this auspicious occasion is a symbolic reminder of the significant role the Progressive Liberal Party and the Father of the Nation played in bringing about one of the most consequential and transformational events in our history, eclipsed only by the abolition of slavery in 1834.

With the addition of National Independence on 10th July 1973, these three epic events changed the course of Bahamian history forever and etched in the annals of history the Bahamian national identity and the depth of our indomitable spirit.

We must never grow weary of telling our story lest we lose our identity and heritage as a people.

Further — and more nationally — as a free, modern, democratic and independent state, history must record that Majority Rule Day is also an occasion where all Bahamians come together to reflect on and celebrate the enduring principles of democracy.  Today then, I stand with my Bahamian brothers and sisters from all walks of life in memorializing this day as a seminal moment in the ever-evolving Bahamian story.

MAJORITY RULE IS A MAJOR TRIUMPH FOR DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM, HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES THAT WE HOLD NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS.  THESE PRINCIPLES ARE ALSO THE CHIEF PHILOSOPHICAL CORNER STONES AND PILLARS ON WHICH THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT AND WILL SUSTAIN US FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

We must never allow our detractors to minimize, trivialize or relegate this great day and event to the scrap heap of historical irrelevance. To do so is to dishonour the vision, memory and legacy of those great courageous souls on whose shoulders we stand.

We cannot and must not conveniently disinherit our glorious legacy because our truth is inconvenient to some.

A cause rooted in social justice, freedom fighters courageously stood in the vanguard of change – unyielding in their demand that all were created equal — with God-given rights to human dignity without regard to race, gender, colour or creed. This stand of conscience galvanized a nation, a generation of Bahamians, and in the process significantly reshaped the character and national identity of The Bahamas forever.

I pay tribute to the many unsung heroes and heroines whose endearing and enduring legacies of selflessness and shared sacrifices remain the gold standard of our national culture in both public life and in the way we conduct our personal affairs with one another.

I continue to draw, conviction, inspiration and influence from the passion of the Suffragettes, the labour movement, the church and from countless Bahamians who put it all on the line to secure a more perfect Commonwealth.

Speaking of passion, conviction, inspiration and influence, I wish to take a moment to recount the role the late Sir Sidney Poitier played and the contributions he made during our journey to Majority Rule.

As a Bahamian with dual citizenship, Sir Sidney used his celebrity status in the struggle for civil rights —  fighting racism, bigotry and injustice in both the United States and The Bahamas.

Many Bahamians still recall his speaking to the issue at a reception in his honour to the then United Bahamian Party (UBP) government in recognition of his Academy Award for ‘Lilies of the Field.’

A well-known story in PLP circles is his assistance to the Progressive Liberal Party in the run up to the 1967 general elections. There is an iconic photo of Sir Sidney and Sir Lynden at the back of an open limousine celebrating the 1967 victory.

May he rest in peace.

As a beneficiary of their sacrificial work, I thank them all — Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Randal Fawkes, Sir Clifford Darling, Dame Doris Johnson and Sir Sidney Poitier — for their passion, faith, perseverance and uncompromising commitment to social justice, democracy, freedom and a sense of fair play.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege to stand on their broad proverbial shoulders to continue their invaluable work in building a stronger and more perfect Commonwealth to positively impact the lives of generations yet unborn.

Our cause is indeed national, inclusive and intergenerational in its nature, range and scope.

On behalf of my wife Ann Marie, my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, my government, the officers and members of the Progressive Liberal Party, I extend best wishes and highest regards to the people of The Bahamas as we celebrate Fifty-Five years of Majority Rule.

May Almighty God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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