From the time Government announced its fingerprinting plan on March 1 this year, attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong was among the first objectors, arguing strongly that Barbadian nationals should not be made to lift a single finger, even if non-nationals have to be screened at the island’s ports of entry for security reasons.
However, today, Comissiong’s objection quickly turned to dismay and disgust, as he formally served notice on both Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite of his plans to take them to court over the issue.
Comissiong, who intends to file a lawsuit against the administration before the end of this week, had earlier written to the Prime Minister on March 15, 2016, warning him of the legal ramifications should any Barbadian who refuses to be fingerprinted be denied entry to their homeland.
However, in a response issued three days later on Stuart’s behalf, Tim Maynard, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and Security, formally advised Comissiong that even though Government had put off implementation of the plan indefinitely and was prepared to undertake a “thorough re-examination of all the legal issues” surrounding the implementation of the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations 2015, it was not about to scrap the move.
But insisting that the plan to fingerprint Barbadians is “fundamentally wrong”, Comissiong today dispatched a second letter to Stuart – the latter more strongly worded than the first.
In it, he warned that the regulations “were not lawfully enacted”.
“It is my intention therefore, to place this matter before the Supreme Court of Barbados,” said Comissiong, who also hand delivered a similar piece of correspondence to the Attorney General this morning.
The threatened lawsuit is due to be brought against the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister responsible for Immigration, along with the Attorney General and the Chief Immigration Officer for “enacting the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations 2015, and in using the said regulations to specify that all persons [including citizens and permanent residents of Barbados] shall be obligated to provide Immigration officers with biometric data whenever they leave or enter Barbados”.
In his latest correspondence to the Prime Minister, Comissiong said he was “appalled” that the Stuart administration had sought to “foist such an egregious and unconstitutional imposition” on the people of Barbados without any discussion whatsoever with them.
“I consider it fundamentally wrong for the Government of Barbados to oblige citizens of Barbados to be fingerprinted whenever they enter or leave their own native country,” he said, arguing that it was also fundamentally wrong for Government to pass any law or regulation that prohibited its citizens from being able to leave or return home if they refused to be fingerprinted.
“Not only is this fundamentally wrong, but it is also in breach of the Constitutional rights of the citizens and permanent residents of Barbados,” he emphasized.
The prominent lawyer also said he was “greatly dismayed” that Government did not even see it fit to have discussions on the matter in Parliament.
In fact, Comissiong said he was “horrified that the Stuart administration flouted and totally disregarded the clearly established legal procedure for enacting such regulations”.
“As far as I am concerned,” his letter added, “what is required here is not a mere postponement of the implementation of these regulations. These regulations need to be totally nullified and their illegality and unconstitutional nature need to be confirmed by the Supreme Court of Barbados. It is my intention therefore to place this matter before the Supreme Court of Barbados,” Comissiong warned.