June 10, 2021
ATTORNEY and activist Fred Smith has come out hard against a Cabinet minister's criticism of a Supreme Court's ban on demolishing shanty towns in Abaco pending the outcome of a judicial review, saying the remarks were "scandalous".
Mr Smith has called on Minister of Works Desmond Bannister to apologise to the courts, retract his words and wait for the matter to be resolved in the legal system.
He spoke to this newspaper a day after Mr Bannister criticised a Supreme Court ruling that banned the government from further demolishing shanty town structures across Abaco. Mr Bannister said the ruling sets a “dangerous” precedent that has “usurped” the power of the Ministry of Works.
The Deputy Prime Minister also said the decision would create “open season” for anyone to illegally build on land that they do not own. He added that the ruling “doesn’t make sense” and is not “worth the paper it is written on”.
Earlier this week, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson ordered an extension of an injunction already in place to include all unregulated communities in Abaco. The injunction prohibits the government from evicting shanty town residents and disconnecting services in their communities.
The government also has to “cease and desist” from “any further interference” with the respective communities until the outcome of a judicial review. The ruling also stops the government from demolishing structures without first getting approval from the court.
Mr Bannister referred to Justice Grant-Thompson’s ruling as “a flawed decision” and “wrong in law”.
Mr Smith, who represents the applicants in the matter, defended the justice’s ruling.
“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments which are scandalous and they bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” he said. “The fact that the Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas can actually say that a judgement written by a justice of the Supreme Court is, and I quote, ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’, unquote, is a slap in the face of the judiciary.
“It is a disgrace to our democracy. It’s shocking. I want the Deputy Prime Minister to remember that when the FNM is not in government they will need to rely on an independent judiciary to determine cases. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
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