The Supreme Court decision against Government’s controversial plan to fingerprint Barbadians leaving and entering the country has been described as comforting by one of the biggest opponents of the planned move.
Former Attorney General Dale Marshall told Barbados TODAY Thursday evening he was delighted at the court’s judgment which deemed the Immigration (Biometric) Regulations 2015 “null and void” and “unconstitutional”.
In February this year, Government announced plans to fingerprint all arriving and departing passengers at ports of entry here as of April 1, with the exception of children and diplomats.
The announcement was met with immediate rejection from some sections of society, including attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong, who filed a legal challenge back in March.
Following today’s proceedings, which were heard in chambers by Madam Justice Pamela Beckles after Government failed to file a defence within the required 28 days, Comissiong told reporters he was not surprised at the ruling.
Commenting on the outcome, Marshall told Barbados TODAY he wished it had not gone to court and that Government had listened to residents and shelved the plan.
“That being said, it is a comfort for me as a Barbadian that law courts are there to serve us. In many respects we have challenges with our judicial system in terms of delays and so on, and I am happy that this particular matter has gone to court and has been dealt with, with the kind of dispatch that it deserves,” Marshall said.
However, the former Attorney General warned Barbadians not to see the court’s ruling as “an all out victory”, since the Freundel Stuart administration could try again.
“The court has ruled that these regulations are to be struck down. I believe it was on procedural grounds so it then would leave it open for the Government to do it ‘the right way’ next time. So we may still be in the same place in another two months or three months. So I hope that Barbadians will not see this as an all out victory,” Marshall told Barbados TODAY.
“I think we have to prepare ourselves to fight with Government on this issue because from hearing them speak they were resolute they were going to be introducing fingerprinting. Therefore the fight is not over yet. This is the first skirmish. I fully anticipate that they will come again and try to, well this time they will follow the correct procedure and try to enact the same regulations,” he warned.
Stressing that he was not fully apprised of the judge’s ruling, Marshall said he suspected it was done on “procedural objections and not necessarily substantive objections”.
“If that is correct, if the Government tries to introduce it [again, it] is still open to objectors to file a new application to the court, this time on the basis of constitutional motion and also challenging the regulations for conflicting with our international human rights obligation. So it is still open to a further challenge,” the attorney-at-law observed.
“I honestly fear that the Government will find another way to reintroduce this measure. Certainly listening to the Prime Minister and other ministers of Government speaking in Parliament it was clear to me that they were adamant that they were going to go in this direction no matter what,” he added.