Friday, April 19, 2024

House split


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PARLIAMENT REMAINED deeply divided across party lines late into last night during debate on an amendment to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act that could facilitate eminent Barbadian lawyer Marston Gibson assuming the position of Chief Justice within weeks.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who led Government’s arguments, stressed legislation would not be kept that prohibited any Barbadian from contributing to his or her country’s overall development.
He said it was untenable that a Pakistani lawyer who did not understand English qualified under existing legislation to be Chief Justice of Barbados, but an eminently qualified Barbadian was barred because he had not practised his profession in a Commonwealth country for the15-year period stipulated under current law.
Gibson has practised in the United States – a non-Commonwealth jurisdiction.
Brathwaite said the amendments were to bring clarity to existing legislation and argued the issue should not be politicised.
He suggested the Opposition’s objection to the amendments appeared to be “payback” for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) objection to the appointment of Sir David Simmons to the office of Chief Justice mere months after leaving political office.
Brathwaite pointed out he had seen nothing in law to justify criticisms of Gibson’s appointment.
“The DLP objected to Sir David, so we will oppose your appointment,” Brathwaite described the Opposition’s motivation.
He said the principal amendment to Section 7 of the Act would see the inclusion of the words “Common Law” to the existing “Commonwealth” jurisdiction.
But Deputy Opposition Leader Dale Marshall stated he found it “offensive” that the bill was being tacked on to the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure after a week of intense debate.
He said it was unfortunate Government was amending legislation simply to accommodate one man. He added it was irrelevant that the amendment would accommodate other Barbadians in the future.
Marshall stated Government had “spitefully” refused to extend Sir David’s tenure as Chief Justice, but stressed the Opposition was not against the amendment because of anything done to him.
He said the administration of justice had been brought into disrepute.
Noting three time periods up to March 31, 2011, in which Justice of Appeal Sherman Moore had been appointed to act as Chief Justice, Marshall suggested he had been “humiliated” by Government and treated as a “loopy dog”.
“What’s wrong with the judges in Barbados that meet the criteria [to be Chief Justice]?” Marshall asked, noting the Supreme Court of Judicature Act had been amended six times since 1991 but the qualification for judges had never been tinkered with.
Marshall said Government had included “Common Law” in the legislation but could bring no indisputable list of Common Law jurisdictions.
He suggested there were some who considered the United States both a civil and common law jurisdiction and therefore a mixed jurisdiction.
During her contribution to the debate, former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley revealed that late Prime Minister David Thompson had, as required by law, consulted her on Gibson’s appointment and she had offered no objections.
But she stressed she was not aware there were issues pertaining to his appointment. She noted relevant letters to her did not have a curriculum vitae and her assumptions were made in good faith.

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