* Court of Appeal verdict shifts focus back to government
* Judicially condemned Cabinet Ministers must resign or be terminated
* FNM found wanting on transparency and anti-corruption pledge
* Government must account to taxpayers on legal and forensic costs
* Scandal cannot be swept under the proverbial rug
* DNA stands by call for Vote of No Confidence in Prime Minister
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has reviewed the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal in the Frank Smith matter. According to court documents, the appellate court dismissed the argument made by the prosecution that Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt erred in her ruling that Ms. Barbara Hanna was not a reliable witness and therefore, there was no case to answer. While the Court of Appeal acknowledged that the Chief Magistrate made some procedural missteps, they concluded that there was an 'abundance of examples of doubtful testimony' from Ms. Hanna.
It is the DNA's position that we will not speak to the truth or falsity of the allegations made by Ms. Hanna against the former Public Health Authority (PHA) Chairman, Mr. Frank Smith, considering that based on her testimony during cross-examination she was considered by the Chief Magistrate to be an unreliable witness. This is also against the backdrop that the prosecution provided no further substantial evidence to make a determination for a case to answer.
In a previous release issued by our Spokesperson for Good Governance – Mr. Geoffrey Deleveaux on 3 February 2019, we highlighted the 'gross incompetence and clumsiness displayed by the entities involved in making and arguing the case on behalf of the Crown'. The unethical conduct and political interference of the executive arm of government has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in this case and other cases before the courts. While we in the DNA support the prosecution of public officials who appear to have abused their authority or broken the law, we do not support phishing expeditions and the wastage of taxpayers’ funds. The government must now fully disclose how much this exercise, other legal matters involving external counsel and all forensic audits have cost taxpayers to date.
It was abundantly clear throughout the trial and recorded in transcripts that Ms. Hanna was an unwilling witness who did not initiate these proceedings of her own will and was coerced to testify in this case. In her words, she was ‘being used’. Furthermore, the subsequent granting of a contract to Ms. Hanna without Board and Cabinet approval as well as inconsistencies in phone records used, demand that answers be provided by the government.
Now that the Court of Appeal has ruled on this matter, we renew our demand for Prime Minister Minnis to have his Ministers, Marvin Dames and Dr. Duane Sands do the honorable thing and resign or be terminated for their participation and behavior in this matter. It is disheartening that an administration that postulates commitment to transparency and accountability with a promise to 'weed out corruption' has been found wanting in an embarrassing predicament. This scandal must not be swept under the proverbial rug.
The DNA stands by its demand during our call for action and 10 days of activism that a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister should be moved in the Parliament. We note that after much persuasion, the Leader of the Official Opposition has followed our lead and has finally committed to move this motion at the next sitting of Parliament. The Bahamian people deserve better governance.
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Democratic National Alliance