Leaders at odds over court matters
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley are at odds over what constitutes contempt of court.
Stuart argued that public comment and the publication of information in legal cases – some of which have not yet gone before a judge – that have taken place are dangerous practices and constitute contempt.
“I have noticed in recent times that a certain amount of disrespect is being directed at the judiciary of Barbados . . . when a small coterie thinks that they don’t have to respect the courts of law anymore and that documents that are filed in the courts for adjudication can be thrown in the public domain for consumption, even before judges have a chance to look at those documents and to evaluate them or to adjudicate on the matter before them,” he said.
“Fortunately, we in the Democratic Labour Party have walked uprightly in this regard, and I urge you to continue so to do,” said Stuart on Saturday at the opening of the relocated Democratic Labour Party St Michael West Central constituency office.
But Mottley last night accused him of being hypocritical, while pointing out to supporters at the Barbados Labour Party meeting at the St George Secondary School that senior Government ministers have openly spoken on matters before the court.
“This is the same Freundel Stuart who sat by and watched ministers on the front bench [of Parliament] quote documents from the case involving George [Payne] and Eddy [Edmund Hinkson]. It wasn’t contempt then,” argued Mottley.
She said DLP parliamentarians had also spoken on matters concerning a court injunction brought by Opposition member Kerrie Symmonds against a Cabinet decision allowing B’s Recycling to operate in St Thomas.
“All of a sudden, when the public, and in particular the [CLICO] policyholders of this country are being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the Prime Minister steps in to remind us of contempt,” Mottley noted.
The arguments put forward by Stuart followed the publication of documents in some sections of the media about the collapsed CLICO Barbados Holdings.
However, he did not identify any court cases, and simply stated that the action was being taking by a small group of persons.
“Alarm bells must be rung when people, any small coterie of people . . . when the self righteous in that coterie can feel that they can tell a court what it must do or should do in its adjudication with matters. Those are danger signs that have to be watched,” Stuart said.
The Prime Minister agreed that residents should be free to discuss decisions by the court, but said he was “a little uncomfortable when we’ve got to the stage were people feel that court documents can be thrown into the public domain even before judges have a chance to look at them”.