Break the silence, Mr Speaker
A former head of the Bar Association believes Speaker of the House Michael Carrington has a duty to explain to Barbados the circumstances surrounding a publicized legal dispute with a former client. But retired jurist and former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Cabinet Member Sir Frederick Smith has argued that the furor is much ado about nothing.
“I am waiting with bated breath for Michael Carrington to break the silence,” attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY, a day after the Speaker vacated his seat when Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly Santia Bradshaw raised a recent civil court ruling against him.
Pilgrim said his legal colleague was duty bound to provide an explanation to Barbadians, having been elected to serve.
“He needs to tell the people of Barbados why this article is wrong and if it is wrong, how it is wrong. Tell the people of Barbados that’s not what happened, that it is bad reporting. He needs to come out and say something, so the people of Barbados can feel happy about who they elect to put in Parliament,” he said.
“He owes it to the people he represents in St Michael West, to tell the people why that is not true.”
The attorney-at-law conceded that there was no legal obligation for Carrington to step down from office but insisted that public officials must be able to stand up to scrutiny.
“The Parliament is there to guide us morally and to guide us legally. In other words, if we believe that people were immoral we won’t put them in Parliament, so there’s no obligation on him to resign . . . but your conscience must be your guide. If we elect you to go in that House to represent us and you cannot stand up to scrutiny who have to go and it applies to all of them in there,” he insisted.
Pilgrim cautioned that if Carrington chose to remain silent, there would be serious fallout.
“He has the right to remain silent but he must know that if he remains silent in this situation, the court of public opinion is going to form an opinion about him,” the lawyer said.
“If he doesn’t break that silence he should go. I really feel that something has to be said and done.”
Meantime, Sir Frederick commended Carrington from recusing himself, but said the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) should be the last to try to move Carrington from his position, considering a previous BLP administration had chosen a convicted criminal as Speaker of the House.
Bradshaw had suggested that the Speaker explain the circumstances surrounding the court judgement, since it was a matter that 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”.
However, in a brief interview today, Sir Frederick told Barbados TODAY: “I agree with him recusing himself but the BLP should be the last . . . to quarrel with him . . . . I was Leader of the Opposition when Burton Hinds [a BLP parliamentarian] was appointed Speaker and he had been to prison.”
Recalling that at the time he objected to Hinds being appointed Speaker, he added: “He [Hinds] had been to prison so the BLP should be the last to quarrel about a Speaker who has to pay back money. He hasn’t been to jail, he has to pay back money!”