A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Admittedly, I was surprised that my column on the importance of specialized courts and the alleviation of the current case backlog and published in The Tribune on August 13, 2010, seemingly incensed at least one former Cabinet minister so acutely.
Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson wrote a letter, ubiquitously published in the major dailies and—I’m told—has been on a publicity tour and virally reproduced on several websites, criticizing me for a quote on the Coroners Court, while seemingly dismissing the entire article and obvious research. In her letter, she repeatedly stated and implied that I was not “minded to find out the facts and write the truth” and that my piece lacked “research.”
When taken as a whole, I found such tact—relative to my overall research— preposterous, particularly since my piece relied heavily upon the seminal work of noted law professor/author Rose-Marie Belle Antoine and featured distinguished legal theorists Boris Kozolchyk and Joseph Raz.
I bow to her knowledge as to the nature of the separation of powers. Frankly, the former minister has had firsthand experience with the debacle of former Registrar General Elizabeth Thompson, where an error in judgment subsequently caused the country precious money.
It is my fervent hope that she didn’t take what was meant as a plea to modernize and create a more efficient justice system as an attack on her tenure as Attorney General. At the time of writing, she was far removed from my mind. I am also hopeful that this spirited attack does not stem from my past analysis and/or criticisms of policies proposed by her or related happenings for which she had oversight or was a participant.
At one point in her letter, Mrs Gibson stated: “I was the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs at the time. I deplore Adrian Gibson’s irresponsible and untruthful allegations and aspersions against the Executive.”
Regrettably, the aforesaid is mere sensationalism and misinformation as I never sought to cast “irresponsible and untruthful allegations and aspersions against the Executive.” The objective of the column was patently clear.
As a student of law and a historian, I have an appreciation for the concept of the separation of powers. First coined by Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the separation of powers is a constitution doctrine intended to make certain that the functions, personnel and powers of the institutions of the state are not fused in any one body.
Whilst I accept Allyson Maynard-Gibson’s position as to the discontinuation of the Coroners Court in its capacity as a specialist court, I must state that the court is a creature of statute and therefore is also subject to changes and/or abrogation by the Legislature.
Regarding Mrs Maynard-Gibson’s comments about the Executive, there is local case law that should have demonstrated this principle of law. In D’Arcy Ryan v Minister of Home Affairs/Immigration, Mr Ryan—a “belonger”—was unconstitutionally denied his right to citizenship—contrary to the Bahamas Nationality Act (1973)—purportedly due to his political leanings.
Ryan’s case was heard by the Privy Council, which unanimously held that:
“On the facts disclosed to this court, no reasonable minister acting with due sense of his responsibilities under the legislation would, at the inception of these proceedings, have been justified in refusing the appellant’s application for registration as a citizen. In the facts as disclosed to us registration could be refused only by acting perversely”.
The late Sir Clement Maynard, Allyson Maynard-Gibson’s father and the then Minister of Immigration/Home Affairs, “acted perversely” and derisively disregarded the Privy Council’s ruling.
Upon reading Mrs Maynard-Gibson’s letter, where she asserted that I wrote “irresponsible and untruthful allegations and aspersions against the Executive,” one remembers studying this case, which was an affront to judicial independence and slighted the conventional notion of a separation of powers.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court justice—who made the original order to grant Mr Ryan’s citizenship—was caught-up in the midst of an attempt by the then Attorney General to have him disqualify himself from hearing an application to commit the Minister of Home Affairs to prison for contempt of court after his refusal to comply with the aforementioned Privy Council ruling. The judge held that it would be a dereliction of his duty and breach of his oath to accede to the minister’s request.
Moreover, in recent years, former Supreme Court Justice John Lyons contended—while on the Bench—that the ‘swift justice’ initiative, promoted by Allyson Maynard-Gibson during her tenure as Attorney General, was merely a “self-promoting piece of headline hunting.” Furthermore, former Justice Lyons condemned an internal report on the ‘swift justice’ initiative, likening it to a “school-master’s report or human resources manager’s report of what is happening in a named judge’s court.” Essentially, the report appeared to grade judges on the rate of convictions in their courts.
What’s more, many people know that according to the Constitution, the Prime Minister (a member of the executive), in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, recommends to the Governor General appointees to the posts of Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal. Even more, the Chief Justice is known to liaise with the Executive on administrative matters affecting the Judiciary.
In my previous column, I was simply pointing out the flaws in the judicial system and recommending likely overhauls and fixes, however it appears that Allyson Maynard-Gibson was the only one who took umbrage to it despite the fact that she was one of the better Attorneys General that we’ve had.
I thank Mrs Maynard-Gibson for her readership!