Justice for John

Arthur: Priority should be helping man in dispute with Michael Carrington

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has suggested that this country’s leader and the disciplinary committee of the Barbados Bar Association need to step in to deal with the legal dispute involving Speaker of the House Michael Carrington.

Arthur said while Carrington, an attorney-at-law, has not been convicted of any crime, it would be in Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s best interest to get involved since the matter could hurt the ruling Democratic Labour Party.

A High Court recently found that Carrington failed to hand over to John Griffiths, an additional $210,000 remaining from the sale of his late aunt’s property at Dayrells Road, Christ Church. The judge had ordered Carrington to give an account of the funds and pay what was due, with interest.

Former Prime Minister  Owen Arthur
Former Prime Minister
Owen Arthur

Arthur insisted that the “victim” in the situation was 78-year-old Griffiths and “our first effort should be to say everything that needs to be done should be done to make sure that Mr Griffiths gets his money and that all other Barbadians in a similar position are not savaged, whether by politicians or anyone else”.

“I believe that both sides of the House and . . . the Bar Association that has a disciplinary committee should be saying ‘look, let us first of all deal with the victim, make sure that this person gets back [his] money and then we can play the politics’,” he told reporters.

“It seems to me that nobody is paying attention to the fact that there is a victim in this matter. I have to ask ‘are any arrangements being made for the victim in this matter to have justice done on his behalf?”.

Arthur questioned the effectiveness of the decision by parliamentarians from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that he once led, to walk out of any sittings that the Speaker presided over.

“You can’t get justice done on the victim’s behalf by myself as a politician and others by just walking out of the House,” he argued.

“I’m here today because I would like to participate in the debate in Parliament. That debate is an important debate . . . It’s historic . . . I don’t feel that you can punish the Speaker by absenting yourself from doing the people’s business as a form of punishment,” Arthur added, referring to the debate on amendments to the Offences Against the Person Act that would remove the mandatory nature of the death penalty for murder.

Although he recused himself from the chair on the first sitting of Parliament for the year – after the Opposition’s objections – Carrington has refused to budge from his seat since then.

Michael Carrington
Michael Carrington

His decision was supported by Prime Minister Stuart and other Government MPs.

Arthur today sent a clear signal about his stance on the issue when he took his seat in Parliament, while the Opposition benches were conspicuously empty.

The veteran parliamentarian described the matter as a difficult and sensitive one, particularly because it was being played out in the law courts as well as the “court of public opinion”.

And while he noted that the rules and laws of Parliament now applied since the issue was brought before the House, Arthur did not agree that it should have been referred to the Committee of Privileges.

The decision to refer the matter was made by St John MP Mara Thompson who deputized for Carrington when he vacated his chair after his matter was brought to the House’s attention.

Arthur said he expects the committee to rule that the matter was not properly before it since it did not represent a breach of the privileges and powers of Parliament.

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur
Owen Arthur

“I am surprised that it went to the Committee of Privileges because . . . 59 (3) of the Standing Orders says that that committee is for something that amounts to the breach of the powers and the privileges of the House. This matter concerns the Speaker not so much as a member of this House but in his professional capacity. So does it amount to a breach of the privileges and powers of the House?” Arthur questioned.

“There’s a Parliament Privileges and Immunity Act. Section 6, I think, speaks of the conduct of members and whether the conduct of members constitutes contempt for Parliament . . . Members’ conduct only represents a breach of Parliament where the member is convicted of an offence. The Speaker, in this matter, had a judgment issued against him that requires him to account for funds but he has not been convicted of a criminal offence.”

Arthur further pointed out that “Section 5 of the Parliament Privileges and Immunities Act gives immunity to members of Parliament from being arrested or imprisoned for any civil process, save and except where you have committed an offence involving the contraction of debt”.

“The Speaker has not been convicted of any matter that would cause him to be punished under that section of the act [either],” Arthur added.

The St Peter MP, who resigned from the Mia Mottley-led BLP last year, was adamant that he would not support the actions of any parliamentarian that would be deemed professional misconduct.

He brushed aside suggestions in some quarters that Carrington appeared to be acting above the law.

Arthur also warned that it would be dangerous for the House to treat the matter as a moral one.

Asked if the issue of morality could be separated from the role of the Speaker of the House, he said “yes”, insisting that the controversy involved Carrington in his professional capacity as a lawyer.


4 Responses to Justice for John

  1. Peter Marshall
    Peter Marshall January 28, 2015 at 3:29 am

    No one cares about the victim , the same goes for the CLICO debacle where there are hundreds of victims

  2. Perro Holloway
    Perro Holloway January 28, 2015 at 6:46 am

    The opposition was voted in to do a job and right now I a citizen need them to have a voice on what concerns me in parliament and being outside is not representing that interest I understand the issue with the speaker but debate and passing legislation is more I.poetant to me

  3. Maxine Baker January 28, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Let those who have ears hear.

  4. Carl Harper January 28, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Mia Mottley is “walking on thin ice” on the ongoing boycott of the House, so too is Michael Carrington for not recusing himself from the Speaker’s chair until his private matter is concluded in the High Court and/or in the Committee of Privileges.

    While the first two walkouts and political maneuverings by opposing MPs might have hit their intended mark, the Opposition must be careful it does not lose public support by not attending to the people’s business. It is always good political tactic to register disapproval in a dramatic fashion and place your opponent on the defensive. Given that the public is incensed with Speaker Carrington and is pounding him daily in the Press, blogs and social media, Mottley much not allow the spotlight to turn on her group for the wrong reasons and provide an easy escape route for Carrington.

    Carrington may not resign amid calls from sections of the public and will defiantly remain in his chair, so a better approach is to let the court of public opinion and the law court determine his eventual fate. Other parts of the world he would most likely be neatly attired in an orange jumpsuit. Mottley is too intelligent a QC and experienced a politician to know she cannot rely on the Committee of Privileges to help her on this issue.

    Speaker Carrington is perhaps even more nervous because his unwillingness to step aside is not sitting well with the public. Barbadians do not take kindly to persons “taking advantage” of children, the elderly and the disabled (physically or mentally challenged persons), and will reserve the harshest rebuke for those who fail to live up to honest, ethical and moral expectations. Worse yet is when such a person is the holder of high public office charged with overseeing and maintaining proper conduct in the hallowed chamber.

    The Honorable Speaker once chided Opposition member Ronald Toppin for saying that the finance minister’s “morning words did not match his evening words”. That is Bajan vernacular for calling someone a liar. 

    Carrington informed Toppin that he should withdraw his remarks and indicated to him that they would be struck from the records. This incident demonstrates the very high ethical standards demanded by the Speaker Carrington. One writer said, “It reflects also his position as one who consistently seeks to uphold and maintain the highest standard of morality and integrity within the most revered House of Assembly.” So, how could Carrington fall short on these virtues when they apply to him, personally? 

    When opposition leader Mia Motley told Speaker Carrington that he had a “moral duty” to recuse himself until the High Court concluded his personal matter, he replied that she said he had no morals. And therein lies the problem. 

    Carrington does not appear to understand the seriousness of his wrongdoings and clearly believes he is beyond reproach. Since the court gave him 28 days to resolve the outstanding legal matter and that has expired, it makes one wonder if Carrington believes that he is above law.

    The Speaker is aware of the snail’s pace with which the Court and Committee of Privileges move, that he could be in recusal for quite some time to come. This may not be so farfetched, given that a case was recently adjudicated right here in our Barbados law courts after 30 years.

    In another incident, it was alleged and reported that fellow MP for St Philip West, Dr David Estwick, while in the precincts of Parliament, displayed a firearm while looking at St Joseph representative Dale Marshall in a “menacing manner.” That matter, having been referred to the Committee, has not been heard in more than two years.

    If Dr Estwick’s matter is any reflection of the non-functioning Committee of Privileges, Carrington may never return to his position in the House if he continues to recuse himself at every sitting, hence one can see the reason he is not eager to vacate the Speaker’s chair. 


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