Opposition says speaker must do the right thing
Speaker of the House Michael Carrington recused himself from presiding over Parliament when sittings resumed today, over concerns about a civil case ruling against him.
But a senior attorney has suggested there is no legal basis for keeping Carrington out.
Parliament’s Committee of Privileges is to make a determination after Carrington – who chairs that committee – vacated the chair when newly appointed Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly Santia Bradshaw raised the issue that she said was “of public concern”.
When Parliament opened just after 10 am, Bradshaw rose to alert her colleagues to a recent civil judgment against Carrington, an attorney-at-law, who the High Court had found failed to disburse funds to his wheelchair-bound client, John Griffiths, for the sale of land at Dayrells Road, Christ Church.
Bradshaw said the matter caused “some concern in various circles as it relates to the honourable members and their ability to feel comfortable with the Speaker being able to preside over this particular Chamber”.
“I believe that the honourable Speaker should perhaps be given the opportunity to explain to the Chamber the circumstances surrounding this judgment or, at the very least, recuse himself of the position until such a matter has been determined by the court,” said Bradshaw who is also an attorney-at-law.
After the St Michael South East MP made her case, Carrington indicated that if she intended to discuss the matter he would recuse himself.
He then gave way to Deputy Speaker Mara Thompson and left the Chamber for the remainder of the sitting.
When he was approached by Barbados TODAY, Carrington declined to comment on what had transpired.
“I do not discuss my clients’ business with anyone,” he said.
Commenting on the Speaker’s decision to recuse himself from presiding over today’s sitting, Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop said that from a legal perspective Carrington was not obligated to step down at this point in time.
He told Barbados TODAY that the only thing that could bar him from continuing in the post was if he was convicted or criminally charged.
However, the senior lawyer explained, the case at the centre of the matter was a civil one and in the absence of any criminal charge or conviction, any decision to step down would be left to Carrington’s conscience.
Another attorney, known for his constitutional knowledge, said Carrington’s situation was more complex than most people realized and was likely to cause “a lot of touble”.
He declined any further comment.
Speaking to the media during Parliament’s lunch break, Bradshaw said she believed “there are certain answers which the public would wish the Speaker to share with them”.
“There is a certain confidence that I think is expected that not only the members of Parliament must have in the Speaker of the House but also that the public must have in what is considered the highest court of the land. The question was basically raised to allow him to address the Chamber on this matter. This matter is still before the courts and therefore I am not in a position to say much more on that as you would appreciate. However, I do believe that it is now left with the Speaker to determine whether he would either return to the Chamber or rather, as I called upon him to, temporarily remove himself from the Speaker of the House,” the Opposition MP said.
Pointing out that the Committee of Privileges to which the matter has been referred is not only chaired by Carrington but is made up predominantly of Government MPs, Bradshaw said she hoped the issue would be addressed urgently.
“The Chamber has indicated that there would be a Committee of Privileges meeting but we are asking ‘when will it meet?’” she said, noting that a previous disciplinary matter involving the parliamentary representative for St Joseph, Dale Marshall, and St Philip West MP Dr David Estwick, had not yet been taken before the committee.
“We in the Opposition have asked that [the Speaker] addresses his mind to what may be the right thing to do. I think we can do no more as an Opposition party,” she said.
Bradshaw added that if the administration failed to act on this issue, the public would be led to draw its own conclusions.