Attorney General Dale Marshall and political leader of Solutions Barbados Grenville Phillips II are each vehemently denying their involvement in a legal matter challenging the Opposition Leader’s legitimacy is conveniently linked to the ongoing by-election campaign in the St George North constituency.
However, they have pointed fingers at each other as they seek to defend their respective handling of the constitutional challenge.
Over the weekend, a report was published highlighting Phillips’ application for Judicial Review of the process followed when Bishop Joseph Atherley, who crossed the floor after the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) election whitewash in 2018, was appointed Opposition Leader by the Governor General.
Earlier this year, he contended that Atherley, who is also the leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP), did not have the “support” of another MP, as stipulated in Section 74(2) of the Constitution of Barbados.
Moments after securing the nomination to contest the rural seat, Phillips questioned whether the AG’s Office had conveniently “leaked” his application before the High Court in the midst of the ongoing St George North by-election campaign.
However, in a subsequent interview with Barbados TODAY, Marshall argued that the timing of last week’s hearing was purely coincidental as the date had been set months before.
He also explained that the challenge submitted by Phillips was a public document accessible by all Barbadians and, therefore, could not have been leaked.
“It is silly because the Registry set that court date in July. So when Mr Phillips filed, the Registry set the date and gave him back his documents to be served. The Registry had no knowledge of a by-election to come… At that time, I don’t even think [outgoing Member of Parliament] Mr Gline Clarke had anything in his mind about retiring from politics,” Marshall told Barbados TODAY.
“Mr Phillips needs to understand that in our system of justice, documents that are filed in litigation are public documents. So, any citizen of Barbados has the right to walk into the Supreme Court Registry and, except in family law matters, you are able to… request a copy of the documents. That is the nature of our High Court Registry because justice is something that flourishes in the light of day. So, it is not a question of leaking any document to the public or to the Press,” he added.
In response to the report on Phillips’ application, Bishop Atherley had implied that the Solutions Barbados leader’s motive for bringing the action “at this particular time” may have been prompted by another person or entity as the November 11 by-election draws nearer.
This conspiracy theory was however dismissed as “irresponsible”. In fact, Phillips claimed he did not intend for the matter to be dissected in the public, as he was merely asking for an interpretation of a single word in the Constitution.
However, he shared concerns about the timing of the newspaper article.
“I did not put [the documents] on a truck and it did not fall off of a truck. I hand-delivered it to the Attorney General’s Office. They stamped it and the only person that has the copy [pictured in the article] is the Attorney General,” Phillips told Barbados TODAY after filing his nomination papers today.
“Even though the Leader of the Opposition is behaving badly and making his irresponsible insinuations, I understand his concern about the timing. But what he should have done is to ask me whether anyone is motivating me to do it and I would answer ‘no’. And that is the truth. He could have asked me a question, instead of putting garbage out there,” he asserted.
Later in the day, Marshall showed up at the Valley Resource Centre along with a BLP entourage in support of the party’s St George North candidate, Toni Moore.
When pressed about the timing of unfolding events, the Government’s chief legal advisor indicated that the media most likely became aware of the challenge last Monday, when it was called for the first time in court and adjourned by High Court judge, Justice Margaret Reifer.
“If Mr Phillips feels that there should be something secret about his claim, then perhaps he needs to think seriously about what he is doing, because litigation is public,” explained Marshall.
“That is why in any court case, whether civil or criminal, unless special rules apply, the Press and members of the public are entitled to be in court. So I would have to ask Mr Phillips’ motives if he feels there should be something surreptitious about his claim against the Crown. I am certainly not of that view and, like I said, justice is a transparent process, and therefore he clearly does not understand how our legal system functions.”