By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AMID continued silence from Prime Minister Perry Christie over Jerome Fitzgerald’s admission that he solicited lucrative contracts from Baha Mar, former President of the Court of Appeal Dame Joan Sawyer insisted there is no way the Cabinet minister can justify his actions, which she sees as an alleged breach of the Prevention of Bribery Act.
Dame Joan said corruption and “wickedness” under this government is applauded, making the Christie administration the “worst” government she has ever seen.
The former judge also said she was “shocked” by The Tribune’s revelation yesterday that a company owned by Mr Fitzgerald’s mother was given National Insurance Board (NIB) insurance contracts two months after the 2012 general election without the matter going out for bidding.
However, Mr Fitzgerald has said his mother’s company has held contracts with government and quasi-government agencies for at least 15 years prior to his entry into public life as an appointed senator in 2007.
There is nothing to suggest that Mr Fitzgerald or his family members have done anything wrong in relation to the NIB insurance contracts, and there is no evidence - unlike in the recent Baha Mar controversy - that he sought to lobby for his mother’s company to get the business.
Meanwhile, Dame Joan said while it was possible that Mr Christie did not know about Mr Fitzgerald’s perceived impropriety, she said the probability of this was “unlikely”.
Speaking of the country’s leadership prospects, Dame Joan said Mr Christie’s recent actions have shown a “flippancy of mind and a lowness of character” and likened Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis to a “donkey”. She said if God used this animal to warn people in the Bible, then He could “make something out of Dr Minnis”.
During an interview yesterday on “The Nahaja Black Show” on ZSR radio, Dame Joan weighed in on a wide range of national issues including the impending general election, Baha Mar and the revelation that “shameless” Labour Minister Shane Gibson received $94,000 from Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard for reported campaign donations and community initiatives.
According to the Prevention of Bribery Act, it is an offence to gain an advantage by receiving “any gift, loan, fee, reward or commission consisting of money or of any valuable security or of other property or interest in property” of any kind.
It goes on to state that an advantage also means “any office, employment or contract; any payment, release, discharge or liquidation of any loan, obligation or other liability, whether in whole or in part.”
Dame Joan said yesterday: “I was shocked and the only thing that I was able to see was that his mother was given a contract from National Insurance. I don’t blame him for taking care of his father and mother, I believe in the fifth commandment.
“But I do have a problem with him using his office for your personal benefit or the benefit of your family. It is completely unethical. It is deeper than the Constitution. It is a matter of conscience and good conduct.
“It is (an alleged) breach of law that could be tried in court, but guess who has the say? The Attorney General (Allyson Maynard-Gibson). The Attorney General of course you know is not like (former Attorney General) Paul Adderley.”
She explained that Mr Adderley was from the “old school”.
During a later segment of the show she added: “There is no way he (Mr Fitzgerald) can justify what he has done. Is it possible that the Prime Minister didn’t know about these things? Anything is possible. Is it probable? Unlikely.
“Does the Prime Minister himself have any relative who has a contract with Baha Mar and does that not put him in the same position?”
Dame Joan went on to make several piercing observations of the men at the helm of the country’s three major political parties.
Her comments seemed to give the impression that she was endorsing the FNM.
“I don’t care what they say about me. I worked with the UBP from 1958 until 1967. I worked with the PLP. I was in the government service with them with Sir Lynden Pindling until they changed in 1992. I continued to work with the government service until the FNM changed. I worked with the first so-called new PLP with their first term. I worked with the FNM when they came back in 2007 until they left in 2012.
“I have seen all complexions of governance in the last 50 plus years in this country. And this I will tell you is the worst government that I ever seen in this country. Because the corruption is looked at and not even winked over (but) applauded. Wickedness is applauded.”
Pointing to Mr Christie sticking up his middle finger at a political event in February and his comments in April that it could be easy to “piss away” public funds, Dame Joan said each scenario was a testament to the Prime Minister’s character.
“To me that shows a flippancy of mind and a lowness of character that is unbelievable for leadership. Second thought? Second chance? In another country? You think it could happen in America? They voted for (President Donald) Trump but they impeached (former President Bill) Clinton.”
She added: “I don’t look at Dr Hubert Minnis’ personality and so on. What I look at is I say ‘Lord you were able to use a donkey to warn so perhaps you can make something out of Dr Minnis.’
“Because that’s what I say about myself. I tell people if God can use a donkey he can use anyone. He used me, a donkey, to bring the Privy Council out of London for the first time in its history, why can’t he use Dr Minnis?
“I am saying it the way I see it,” Dame Joan also said.