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Rollins: Speaker has lost appearance of impartiality

PAIGE MCCARTNEY
Guardian Staff Reporter
paige@nasguard.com

Published: Feb 17, 2017

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Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins said yesterday House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major has lost any appearance of impartiality or neutrality after allowing debate to begin on the Constituencies Commission report despite the legal action taken against it.

The House of Assembly approved the report on Wednesday night.

Rollins spoke with reporters outside Ansbacher House following the first hearing of an application for judicial review on the constitutionality and legality of the report.

“The mere fact that we have through our constitution a commission that requires the speaker to serve as chairman [of the Constituencies Commission] is further proof that the failure to pass the referendum in 2002 that called for the creation of an independent boundaries commission was indeed a disservice to our democracy, because the speaker and what he did yesterday [acted as] a mere appendage of the executive.”

Rollins and Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn submitted to the courts that the report is void because it violates a provision in the constitution that states that a report shall be completed once every five years.

Attorney Michael Scott represented the parliamentarians before Justice Ian Winder.

Scott said his clients firmly believe the action taken to challenge the legality of the commission’s report will deepen democracy.

“I fully agree with that and calling for an independent boundaries commission is an enlightened view,” he said.

“What my clients feel is that they are taking a stand on behalf of all Bahamians, particularly you young Bahamians, because if we don’t take steps like that now, to solidify, crystalize and improve our democracy, at the end of the day all of us really have nothing,” he said.

Attorney Loren Klein, who represented the attorney general’s office in the court matter, argued yesterday that even if the court accepts that the report was late, that does not make it invalid.

Scott disagreed.

He said for far too long successive governments have taken the view that it’s okay to do things the wrong way.

“What the government advocates are saying basically is that it doesn’t matter if you are late in filing a constituency report because that should not stop the process,” he said.

“What we’re saying is that the constitution speaks for itself and if it says you do these things within five years, you must do these things within five years.

“For none of us, there is no legitimate expectation in being sloppy and not doing things the right way.”

Article 70(1) of the constitution of The Bahamas states the commission “shall in accordance with the provisions of this article, at intervals of not more than five years, review the number and boundaries of the constituencies into which The Bahamas is divided and shall submit to the governor general a single report either (a) stating that in the opinion of the commission, no change is required, or (b) recommending certain changes, and the governor general shall cause such report to be laid before the House of Assembly forthwith”.

The new boundaries report is dated February 8.

The date of the last Constituencies Commission report was November 16, 2011.

The report was completed nearly six months ahead of the May 7, 2012 general election.

Prior to that, the Constituencies Commission completed its report on March 13, 2007, just weeks ahead of the May 2 election.

Before that, the Constituencies Commission reported on November 7, 2001, six months before

the May 2, 2002 election.

And before that, the commission reported on January 21, 1997. The election was March 14, 1997.

Justice Ian Winder is expected to hand down his decision on whether there are grounds for a judicial review into the constitutionality and legality of the report on February 21 at 2 p.m.

 


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