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My Right to Fairness by: Hon George A. Smith

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cialis sales stuff times;”>My Right to Fairness

by: Hon George A. Smith

 

“I pass with relief from the tossing

sea of Cause and Theory to the firm

ground of Result and Fact.”

                      Sir Winston Churchill

 

          On 24th December 2015, I was given an unexpected gift in the pages of The Tribune.  Adrian Gibson in his column, ‘A Young Man’s View’, regurgitated portions of the 1984 Commission of Inquiry Report as it related to me.  Quite frankly, I share the view of several who told me that they felt that Mr. Gibson’s article was unprovoked, unwarranted, one-sided and over the top.

 

          On several occasions over the past 31 years when I was tempted to respond to references of the Report directed at me, I was persuaded to let the matter rest. But thanks to Mr. Gibson and the fact that whenever I am asked by a reporter to comment on topical matters of national import, my detractors castigate the content of my remarks, often with cryptic and cynical references to the Commission’s Report.

 

          Mr. Gibson quoted extensively from the Commission’s Report about Norman’s Cay, Carlos Lehder and Edward Ward. I will clearly demonstrate that the conclusions of the Commission about me, were unfair and unjust, having regard to its terms of reference.

 

Norman’s Cay

 

          I first went to Norman’s Cay, located in the northern Exuma chain, during the 1967 general elections campaign. At that time, the Cay belonged to the Bethell Estate.  

 

There was an airstrip used by the public and other property owners in that part of Exuma.  There was also a dock, a club house, a provisions store and a number of residents and workers living on the Cay.  The Bethell Estate later sold the Cay to foreign interests.

 

After my election in 1968, as was required of any Member of Parliament, I visited all areas of the constituency as often as I could.

         

          Sometime in 1978, I was informed that a client of Kendall Isaacs & Co. and Guardian Trust has gotten the Central Bank approval to purchase large sections of Norman’s Cay.  I was invited to meet the new developer and did so.  I briefly saw Carlos Lehder on two separate occasions over the next two years.  I was never requested to do anything on behalf of Lehder by himself, his legal or his financial representatives.     

 

          The use of a helicopter was made available to me during several election campaigns by my Party and on one occasion following a sea tragedy near Farmer’s Cay, I chartered a helicopter to assist with the recovery effort.  Anyone who knows the proximity of Highbourne Cay to Norman’s Cay will tell you it would be foolish to use a helicopter when a boat is considerably more convenient.

 

          The Commission wrote much about two vehicles.  The facts regarding the first, is simple. An offer was made and rejected.  The Commission suggested that the offer was a bribe, but did not state what was to be procured from me in return.

 

           As for the second vehicle, which I purchased, the Commission went to great lengths to refute my assertions as to the origin of the funds used to purchase that vehicle. The Commission made no ‘direct’ suggestion as to the source of any funds, but chose to “infer on a balance of probabilities that the funds for purchase of the second vehicle came from the Lehder organization.”

 

          What baffled me is that the Commission concluded that I ‘corruptly ‘accepted funds from known drug smugglers.  That conclusion was patently false and unquestionably without any factual basis.  The Commission failed to state what I was required to do for the ‘corruptors’.  I will return to this when I address the Edward Ward allegations.

 

          It is strange that a Commission on drug trafficking paid so much attention to the evaluation of a vehicle.  In this regard on 4th September 1984, Hollingsworth & McKinney, attorneys-at-law, wrote the Comptroller of Customs as follows: –

 

          “We act on behalf of Mrs. Lourey C. Smith (nee Carroll) and we are instructed to inquire of you with regard to a vehicle which was imported in Mrs. Smith’s maiden name during June 1979.

 

          You may recall that evidence was brought before the Commission of Inquiry which indicated that there was some discrepancy with regard to the valuation of the vehicle.

          You will recall that an Officer of your Department very kindly assisted in the preparation of the relevant documentation.

 

          Our client is most desirous of determining whether there is any obligation on her part which needs to be discharged.  In this regard, our client is anxious to deal effectively with this matter and we would appreciate your kind and early attention.”

 

          The Comptroller of Customs replied on 13th September 1984 in the following manner:-

 

          “VEHICLE IMPORTED BY MRS. LOUREY C. SMITH (NEE CARROLL) JUNE 1979

 

          This refers to your letter dated 4th September 1984 which relates to the above.

 

          While you did not specifically identify a particular vehicle, I suspect that you were referring to the vehicle mentioned during the recent Commission of Inquiry’s hearing.  If my assumption is correct, then I must inform you that we have not yet received copies of any relevant documents which would show the vehicle in question was undervalued.

 

          I want to make it quite clear that I have been given no official direction (from my authorized body) on this matter, hence, the situation may seem as one likely to tax your patience when deciding on a proper course of action.

 

          In any case, please feel free to contact us again if you find it necessary.”

 

The Edward Ward Matter

 

          In what can best be described as an appalling abuse of power, the Commissioners went to Miami to hear from Edward Ward who was incontrovertibly established to be a self-confessed drug smuggler who was still serving a jail sentence in the United States for his crimes and was a party to a plea-bargaining arrangement with the U.S. authorities.

 

          Edward Ward alleged that he gave me $100,000 on a houseboat at Paradise Island in the presence of Everette Bannister.

 

          It should be noted that when Ward, who claimed to have seen me previously at Norman’s Cay “campaigning”, was asked to describe me, he described me as “a black man, round face and a sharp dresser”; – “I believe he had a full head of black hair medium height and slightly overweight”. Such a description of me at that time was incredibly inaccurate.

 

          Ward was never asked to identify me before the Commission as the person to whom he had paid the $100,000 as was done in other instances, if only using photographs. I should point out that my attorneys were never advised in advance that such evidence was to be given at the Miami hearing.

 

          The Commission chose to disregard Ward’s blatant contradictions, with the consequence of having someone who served at Cabinet level, being served up as the sacrificial victim of an adverse finding.  Factual inconsistencies, notwithstanding the Commission decided that I would be that victim.

 

          When the Commission rejected the evidence of my brother, they rejected the evidence of a distinguished and decorated soldier, who had earned the right to be believed over a known and self-confessed, convicted criminal.

 

          The Bahamas Attorney General accepted the recommendation of the Commission and on 23rd January 1986, a case was brought to Court against me. Following the evidence, I was discharged.  I attach a transcript of that case.

 

          Following the Report of the Commission, the eminent jurist Paul L. Adderley, stated that the Commissioners “failed to exercise the required prudence” and that their findings related to me “were an act of gross injustice”.

 

          The Commission was most unfair to Mr. Idris Reid, who spent his entire adult life in exemplary public service.  He showed me kindness and consideration, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

          Mrs. Lourey Smith (nee Carroll), a proud Bahamian lady and mother, with a successful career  of many distinguished years in the Law, has always maintained the highest ethical standards and the abortive attempts by the Commission to impugn her character and reputation can best be described as a fanciful frivolous frolic devoid of any foundation whatsoever.

 

          The Commissioners findings lack reasonable factual foundation and their unscholarly approach was unfair to me and an injustice to themselves. The Bahamian people were entitled to a better Report.

 

          The Commission has caused me many, many sleepless nights.  I have suffered so much for so long and have lost many opportunities.  I am scarred but, still not shattered.  I have been knocked down but have refused to stay down.

 

          I am most grateful to the people of Exuma. In large measure, they have been the source of strength during my ordeal.  I remain devoted to them. 

 

         I am often reminded of the Psalmist who admonished:

 

                                  “Commit your way unto the Lord.

     Trust in Him and He will act.  He

     will bring forth your vindication

     as the light, and your right as the

     noonday.”

 

          May love, mercy and peace rule in our Land!