The legal fraternity is being accused of conflict of interest in its criticism of Minister of Housing Denis Kellman in connection with the Hyatt Centric controversy.
Kellman Tuesday lashed out at the Bar Association, which had earlier strongly criticized the minister, who had recently described those opposed to the hotel project on Bay Street, The City as enemies of the state.
The legal body also defended the rights of attorney-at-law David Comissiong to challenge Government’s decision to grant permission for the construction of the US$100 property.
However, Kellman told Barbados TODAY he found it in poor taste that the association would come out in defence of one of its own against someone who was not a lawyer.
In any event, the Member of Parliament for St Lucy said, he never made any such accusation against Comissiong, and it really was the media that had spread such untruths about him.
“That is a conflict of interest, they are supporting a lawyer against a non-lawyer. That is their interpretation, and as I said before I never called anybody name. This is a legal matter and they are strengthening my case and they have now joined the newspapers in accusing me of something I did not do,” Kellman insisted.
While not mentioning Comissiong by name, Kellman had told a recent sitting of Parliament that anyone who stood in the way of the multi-million dollar project “should be seen as an enemy not only of the state, but must be seen as an enemy to the people” living in the London Bourne Towers, near the site of the proposed hotel.
It was a clear reference to the attorney-at-law and social activist, who had secured an injunction suspending the permission granted by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to a company led by businessman Mark Maloney to build the 15-storey hotel, without first conducting an environmental impact assessment.
Comissiong, who had cited several other reasons for his objection – including that Stuart had relied on an outdated Physical Development Plan – had also been severely criticized by other members of the Stuart Cabinet, including Minister of Industry Donville Inniss, who hinted that race was at the foundation of the challenge, an apparent reference to the fact that Maloney is white.
In a statement Tuesday, the Bar Association did not mention Kellman by name but said his comment was unjustified and an affront to the civil liberties of Barbadians.
“Enemy of the state is normally a term reserved for a country, government, group or person that has been engaged in hostilities or treasonous acts against the state and is not a term to be used lightly. The unjustified use of such a term may be seen as an unprovoked attack on the civil liberties of the individual which have been jealously guarded and preserved by successive governments in Barbados as well as by our judicial system,” it said.
“By its nature, it is an aggressive statement intended to offend or alienate the person or group to whom it refers. The right of a citizen of Barbados to seek judicial review of administrative decisions or actions of public officials is a lynchpin of our justice system and is necessary for the protection of our democracy and the rights of the individual enshrined in our Constitution.”
The legal body questioned why Kellman would seek to pull down one of the fundamental means of redress available to the average Barbadian, stating that the judicial review was “a remedy which should be welcomed by any progressive democracy as an avenue to protect the rights of individuals or citizens generally”.
“In the premises, the comments of the minister are ill advised, untimely and unfortunate and portrayed Mr Comissiong, a citizen of Barbados and a member of the Barbados Bar Association, in an unflattering and undeserved light for exercising his fundamental legal right through the law courts to ensure that transparency, accountability and due process are observed in respect of important governmental affairs,” the statement read.