WHY IS JUDGE UN­DER AT­TACK?

An on­line pub­li­ca­tion claims lo­cal of­fi­cials are help­ing a bil­lion­aire prop­erty owner dig up dirt on Jus­tice In­dra Charles. The Ba­hamas­based judge presided over Mart­i­nus v At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Saint Lu­cia in 2002!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Fea­tured in our cen­ter pages is a bur­geon­ing con­tro­versy that has at­tracted in­ter­est not only in the Ba­hamas but also through­out the United States, although (sur­prise! sur­prise!) not in Saint Lu­cia—at any rate un­til now. The is­sue in­cludes a multi­bil­lion­aire named Peter Ny­gard, the Ba­hamas govern­ment (rem­i­nis­cent of Jack Gryn­berg!), the Ba­hamas seabed and a judge. For de­tails, please check our re­pro­duc­tion of two items orig­i­nally pub­lished in the pres­ti­gious U.S. pub­li­ca­tion Van­ity Fair. My con­cern here is for our al­ready bro­ken jus­tice sys­tem, the of­fi­cially en­cour­aged pres­sures on our ju­rists and the of­fi­cially demon­strated lack of re­spect for the ju­di­ciary. Re­cently Chief Jus­tice Dame Pereira not so sub­tly spoke of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence with the dis­pens­ing of jus­tice in the re­gion, per­haps in­ad­ver­tently con­firm­ing pop­u­lar sus­pi­cions.

Then there is my par­tic­u­lar con­cern for Jus­tice In­dra Charles of the Ba­hamas Supreme Court, an old friend, cer­tainly no stranger to Saint Lu­cians older than 25 years. She had presided over the fa­mous 2002 case of Mart­i­nus Fran­cois ver­sus the At­tor­ney Gen­eral that cen­tered on whether our con­sti­tu­tion em­pow­ered fi­nance min­is­ters to guar­an­tee loans for pri­vate en­ti­ties with­out the prior au­thor­ity of par­lia­ment. It cer­tainly was no sur­prise that the cur­rent chair­man of the op­po­si­tion Saint Lu­cia Labour Party, also host of Straight Up, con­sid­ered Jus­tice Charles’ lat­est brouhaha with in­cum­bent politi­cians wor­thy of his spe­cial at­ten­tion this week. (More than once he re­minded his au­di­ence that he was read­ing on-air from an on­line pub­li­ca­tion— which brought to mind Ti­mothy Poleon’s pre-elec­tion read­ing dur­ing a Newsspin episode of an on­line item ref­er­enc­ing the re­vo­ca­tion of Richard Fred­er­ick’s U.S. visa—and the con­tin­u­ing con­se­quences suf­fered by Poleon.)

Ac­cord­ing to the cited Ba­hamas re­port, Jus­tice Charles “is the sub­ject of a com­mit­tee of par­lia­ment which is ex­am­in­ing a re­cent rul­ing given by her on the priv­i­leges of Mem­bers and the use of pri­vate emails in par­lia­men­tary de­bate . . .”

The ar­ti­cle claims that when a cer­tain web­site is opened to the ques­tion of whether CARICOM is be­ing used by the Ba­hamas govern­ment in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Jus­tice Charles, a pic­ture ap­pears of Keod Smith, de­scribed as a bar­ris­ter rep­re­sent­ing prop­erty owner Peter Ny­gard in a dis­pute with the govern­ment’s Save The Bays project. More­over that Smith “along with a senior of­fi­cer of the Ba­hamas po­lice force were ob­served by the Saint Lu­cia au­thor­i­ties con­duct­ing a series of in­ter­views and in­ter­ro­ga­tions at govern­ment of­fices in the cap­i­tal and around the is­land on the char­ac­ter of a for­mer judge of Saint Lu­cia, In­dra Charles who is now a judge in the Ba­hamas.”

The pub­lished story al­leges “some very dis­turb­ing ques­tions have been put to cit­i­zens of Saint Lu­cia and Mr. Smith is recorded in con­ver­sa­tions where he de­scribed him­self as a lawyer for Peter Ny­gard, who re­cently demon­strated an in­ter­est in a stem cell hospice on the is­lands of Saint Lu­cia and St. Kitts. A for­mal state­ment is be­ing made to the Saint Lu­cia govern­ment to en­quire into the role it may be play­ing in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The Saint Lu­cian au­thor­i­ties have iden­ti­fied the two Ba­hami­ans who vis­ited Saint Lu­cia and var­i­ous of­fi­cials to sup­ply them with in­for­ma­tion of a pri­vate na­ture on Mrs. Charles.”

Does any­thing about the above sug­gest black­mail, co­er­cion, in­tim­i­da­tion and an at­tempt to in­ter­fere with the course of jus­tice? The on­line pub­li­ca­tion goes on to ques­tion “why the Ba­hamas govern­ment seems to be aligned with Ny­gard in this case with STB, which rep­re­sents the prop­erty rights of the Ba­hamian peo­ple to their seabed. Why are mem­bers of govern­ment show­ing so much in­ter­est in this case? Do they also have some­thing to hide?” The ar­ti­cle also claims “mem­bers of the Saint Lu­cia Bar As­so­ci­a­tion are ask­ing ques­tions about an in­ves­ti­ga­tion” and that a note “was in­ter­cepted” which re­flects sev­eral con­cerns.

The pub­li­ca­tion, like the host of Straight Up, ad­vised that Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet “must speak to and avoid the ap­pear­ance of our [sic?] is­land’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in this clearly un­sa­vory and un­con­sti­tu­tional en­croach­ment on the ju­di­ciary of Saint Lu­cia and the Ba­hamas.”

I queried sev­eral govern­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter, about the on­line pub­li­ca­tion. I also spoke to one mem­ber of the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion. They were un­aware of the Ba­hamas con­tro­versy and strongly de­nied pub­lished as­ser­tions the govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia was in any way in­volved. My at­tempts at con­tact­ing Jus­tice Charles proved fu­tile. I did not con­tact op­po­si­tion sources, hav­ing al­ready heard from the host of Straight Up.

Jus­tice In­dra Charles: Is there a well or­ches­trated of­fi­cial con­spir­acy to sully her rep­u­ta­tion so as to af­fect the out­come of a high pro­file court case in the Ba­hamas?

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