The Senate and the House of Assembly are supposed to be the freest forums in the country. Basically, you can say whatever you like in there without any legal consequences. There are however certain rules of decorum. One of them is that you refrain from personal attacks. Carl Bethel, the Attorney General, continually runs afoul of this convention and then likes to pretend that it was all an innocent mistake. In fact, it is a pattern of conduct. On Thursday 25 March 2021, the Senate exploded in a furious row when in responding to an argument about the PLP, the Minister claimed that he was concerned about Mr. Mitchell’s age and that he might blow a gasket. Mr. Mitchell was not amused. Here is the transcript of what happened as reported by the Nassau Guardian:
Bethel made a comment about Mitchell’s age that he later withdrew, prompting Mitchell’s ire.
“You going to get personal now,” Mitchell shouted.
“You want to go down that road? You want to go down that road? Do you want to go down the personal road, because I could match you, you know?
“I could match you right now. Right now. Every nasty blow you throw, I’ll cut you down. I’ll cut you down if you want to go down that road. So get that nastiness, personal stuff out of here. It doesn’t belong in here.”
Bethel said, “Please. You’re going to cut me down? I’ll cut you down too. Let’s go then.”
Mitchell retorted, “Absolutely. If you try that crap, I will do so.”
Just after the two senators settled down, Bethel said the PLP means Grand Bahamians no good.
“I will say to the people of Grand Bahama, just watch them,” he said.
“They do not have anything good in mind for you.”
Bethel added, “The PLP has nothing good in their hearts for Grand Bahama, any part of it.”
Mitchell, jumping out of his seat, said the Minnis administration has done nothing for the island in its four years in office.
“You have done nothing, nothing, nothing,” he said.
“You have done nothing in four years. No hospital beds, no hotel. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
But when Bethel asked for the protection of Senate President Dr. Mildred Hall-Watson from what he called Mitchell’s “pusillanimous” behaviour, tempers flared again.
“Madame President, I am asking for the protection of the chair from this pusillanimous behaviour,” he said.
When Mitchell asked Bethel to repeat what he said, Bethel told him to Google the word.
“You calling me a coward,” Mitchell shouted.
“The last thing I am is a bloody coward, now. Don’t go there. I keep telling you to stop it.
“…You attack me personally about age and now you are attacking me…get out of here.”
Hall-Watson then asked whether the Senate should suspend, but Bethel said that was not necessary, before reasserting his opinion that the PLP does not mean Grand Bahama well.
Bethel said he was being “relentlessly shouted at and heckled” during his contribution.
However, Mitchell accused Bethel of being “nasty”.
“He is misrepresenting what has happened in here this morning,” Mitchell said.
“I have never made a personal attack against the leader of the government business, never, ever. I wouldn’t go down that road.
“I have sat in this place from the time he came here, one brickbat after the next. And I have been silent in the face of it. My age is irrelevant. It’s a nasty, filthy thing to say; nasty and worthless.”
While Bethel said he was only expressing concern for Mitchell’s health, Mitchell said: “No, you’re being slimy. That’s what you’re doing. You’re being slimy.”
In spite of the heated exchange, the bill was passed in the Senate yesterday afternoon with opposition senators abstaining from the vote.