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Dame Joan blasts Ellis and Gomez

Former judge says bishops’ comments on Gibson divisive
  • Dame Joan Sawyer.

  • Neil Ellis.

  • Drexel Gomez.

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Aug 11, 2017

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Former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer yesterday accused Retired Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez and Senior Pastor of Mount Tabor Baptist Church Bishop Neil Ellis of seeking to divide The Bahamas.

She charged that the two clergymen are not qualified to speak on judicial matters and should “shut up and stay within their bounds”.

Gomez and Ellis have said they believe former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson was treated “inhumanely” when he was escorted into court last week to face bribery and extortion charges.

Gibson has a foot injury, his attorney Anthony McKinney said.

He did not have crutches when he was escorted to his arraignment.

In a message to his congregants that was widely circulated on social media on Sunday, Ellis said it “pained” him to watch videos of Gibson hopping up the court steps.

He suggested there was no need for the police to handcuff the former minister, as he was not a flight risk and had contributed greatly to the country.

When contacted by The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday for his views, Gomez supported the comments that Gibson was treated inhumanely.

But Dame Joan said, “If they are not going to speak the word of God, shut up.

“If you can’t speak about salvation, which is your prime responsibility, say nothing.

“You are not qualified to speak on any other subject. You are not economists.

“I don’t care how erudite you think you may be because you may have been to Durham University, or wherever.

“There are those of us who have university degrees, too, but we don’t use that as an excuse for meddling where we are not entitled to be.

“Stay within your bounds, then we don’t have to bother with you.

“I detest your trampling the word of God into the mud by your behavior and your pronouncements, allegedly from the pulpit.”

Dame Joan was a guest on “The Nahaja Black Show” on Sports Radio ZSR 103.5.

“Their behavior is pitting one side against the other,” Dame Joan said.

“Not everyone is a PLP. Not everyone agrees with what they say. People can think for themselves. They can judge for themselves. Who are they to say what is cruel and inhumane? That is for a court to decide.

“If there is a problem, bring it up in the court. Professionally and as a former judge, I think it is awful that they should not do that.”

When asked why she found it awful, Dame Joan said, “They represent themselves to be men of integrity.

“They are now saying to the public that the present government, in doing this via the police, are acting inhumanely towards their opponents.

“The trouble with that is that they are judging the present government without evidence. Judge not lest ye be judged.

“They should have stayed out of it. Pray for the man…”

Dame Joan charged that the clergymen should be men of peace and speak of God’s salvation, not politics.

“They must tell the people about Jesus’ death on the cross for all of us,” she said.

“They must tell them about the need for repentance on a daily, hourly, minutely basis. They should not be involved in politics nor in things before the court.

“They are not qualified to do it. They are not lawyers. They are not judges. Who made them judges?

“It is an offense to God, as far as I am concerned. God does not ask us as Christians to sit in judgment on our brothers without evidence.

“Who are they to sit on judgment of God’s people?”

Last Thursday, Gibson was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, 15 counts of extortion, 16 counts of bribery and one count of misconduct in public office — 36 counts in total.

When Gibson presented himself to the Central Detective Unit (CDU) to meet with police last Wednesday, he did not use crutches.

The next day, after he was transported to the magistrates’ courts, Gibson exited a police car using crutches. He used those crutches to enter the nearby police station.

A short time later, he exited the station in handcuffs and no crutches. He had to hop up the stairs to court.

McKinney told The Guardian, and later the court, that Gibson had injured his foot during a recent boating trip and that it was “not the result of any brutality”.

In a letter to his congregation, Ellis said he watched several videos of Gibson being escorted to the court and found them “painful”.

“I have spoken with several individuals who personally observed what happened. My pain deepened, not just for the well-being of Mr. Gibson, but for the common good,” he said.

In his interview with The Nassau Guardian, Gomez said Gibson should have been treated in a more humane manner.

Dame Joan said neither Gomez nor Ellis was outside court.

“Neither of them could say they were to see him,” she said.

“Neither of them mentioned the fact that he had been to [CDU] the day before without crutches.

“They are saying that because he was handcuffed and was injured that, that is cruel and inhuman. Really?

“What about the hundreds and thousands of young men and women who have been hauled into court by police, from time immemorial, in handcuffs, and some of them later on with ankle chains on, shuffling?

“We, as judges, used to tell them that they can’t bring them in court with those things on. They had to release them outside the court door, because a man charged with a criminal offense must stand before the court free of restraint." 

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