A Supreme Court judgement declaring Holy Cross Member of Parliament Sidney Stubbs bankrupt contains 'a number of irregularities' and will be challenged, the Guardian was told Sunday.
The bankruptcy order was handed down on Tuesday by Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Thompson.
Advising that attorneys for Mr Stubbs are expected to appear in court this morning to address the matter, Earlin Williams, one-time consultant to the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation once chaired by Mr Stubbs, said that over $100,000 for which Mr Stubbs was indebted, has been "paid in full."
Lawyers for the creditors were fully aware, as early as Wednesday of last week, that the debt had been discharged, he said.
Sources, however, stated that no monies had reached the creditors, and as the court had no knowledge of the funds being paid the order was being "perfected."
Mr. Williams' statements came within less than an hour of the Free National Movement renewing its call for Mr. Stubbs to resign his parliamentary seat, which he won in the May 2 General Elections.
At a press conference held at the FNM's Mackey Street headquarters, Party Leader Senator Tommy Turnquest said his organization was "disturbed and disquieted" that for more than three days after the disclosure of Mr. Stubbs' bankruptcy, the Bahamian people had yet to hear any official statement from the Progressive Liberal Party Government.
"That a sitting MP should be declared to be a bankrupt by the Supreme Court is a most serious development. It strikes at the very heart of the honour, integrity and responsibility expected of Members of Parliament by the Bahamian people, and demanded by our nation's Constitution," Mr. Turnquest said.
Under the Constitution, a MP cannot be a bankrupt individual.
Surrounded by party officials and members, Mr. Turnquest said, "The reported response of Mr. Sidney Stubbs, when confronted by the news of the disclosure of his bankruptcy to the general public, is also troubling in that, most of all, it revealed a total lack of knowledge or appreciation either for the legal consequences of a bankruptcy order, or for the provision of the Constitution. Mr. Stubbs' reported explanations are unconvincing and do not establish innocence."
The provisions of the Constitution are clear on the matter, he said, as Article 49 (2) of The Bahamas Constitution provides that:
"If circumstances such are referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(e) of this Article arise because any member of the House is ... declared bankrupt...and it is open to the member to appeal against the decision (either with the leave of the court or other authority or without such leave) he shall forthwith cease to perform his functions as a member of the House, but, subject to paragraph (3) of this Article, he shall not vacate his seat until the expiration of a period of thirty days thereafter..."
Article 49 (3) makes provisions relating to appeals, and the duty to vacate the seat in the House of Assembly in the event of failure of the appeal process.
While noting that it was clear that Mr. Stubbs must "cease forthwith" in performing all functions as an MP, "it was most alarming that despite this clear Constitutional prohibition, he was reportedly a part of a Parliamentary Delegation that traveled to Freeport the day following the Declaration of Bankruptcy by the Supreme Court."
He said that for Mr Stubbs to travel, at government expense, and participate as a member of a Parliamentary Delegation in these circumstances was "unconstitutional and unlawful".
'Violation' of Constitution
"An MP who is directed by the Constitution to cease to perform such functions forthwith, and does not do so, is breaking not just any law, but is breaking the highest law of the land," Senator Turnquest said.
According to the FNM, the mere payment of a debt, if in fact it was made, does not discharge a bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act. A Bankruptcy Order can only be discharged by a Court Order after special legal proceedings set for in the Act.
"It is our position that Mr. Stubbs is, and remains, a bankrupt; and will remain as such until the courts say otherwise," Mr. Turnquest declared.
Stubbs 'will stay'
However, according to Mr. Williams, with the debt having been satisfied and Mr Stubbs' attorney pursuing redress on the irregularities which brought about the bankruptcy order, "Stubbs will remain the MP for Holy Cross and he will be seeking re-election whensoever the prime minister seeks to call fresh general elections."
Mr. Stubbs wanted to reassure his supporters and constituents that, "His seat is not in jeopardy, his parliamentary career is not in jeopardy and he will continue to provide parliamentary service and community service to the people of Holy Cross," Mr. Williams stated.
He said Mr. Stubbs was alarmed that the Free National Movement, "which has always been lurking in the wings behind this entire matter has now come out of hiding, ironically this Holy Week, to throw their hat in the ring on something which is so frivolous."
"The bottom line is that the FNM should not seek to score political points on a matter which they are fully aware is being moreso politically motivated than it is being driven by any national concern," Mr. Williams said.
Although, he could not say the exact amount of monies owed, he did note that it was in excess of $103,000, that would cover an initial $55,000 loan, the interest which had accrued, and the attorney fees.
In a statement to the Bahama Journal, Mr. Stubbs said some years ago he signed a promissory note to make good on the funds allegedly used to benefit the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr. Turnquest called for an immediate legal investigation into an allegation that a false financial statement had been made to the Parliamentary Registrar in the last General Elections.
"It is clear that Mr. Stubbs has been judged to be a debtor by the Supreme Court in the 1996 case (N0. 1105 of 1996), and owed Ms. Gonzales more than $55,000. This debt was enshrined in an Order of the Supreme Court of The Bahamas. The Order stated that Sidney Stubbs owned money to Ms. Gina Gonzales. Yet, Mr. Stubbs decided to suppress the fact that he was a judgment debtor. It appears that he may have conveniently left this debt out of his Public Disclosure," Mr Turnquest said.
"This being the case, the financial statement made by Sidney Stubbs when he was a candidate for election may be false. We therefore call on the relevant law enforcement agencies to properly investigate," Mr. Turnquest said, adding that "the election laws of The Bahamas would mean nothing if people are allowed to get away with making false statements to create a false impression of substance in order to dupe voters into electing them. Yet nothing is heard from the PLP or the government."
He brought into question the prime minister's Code of Ethics.
But, Mr. Williams said, "When it comes down to those type of allegations Mr. Stubbs would rather not comment, but Mr. Turnquest would do well at this time address the allegations made against him in the 2002 General Elections."
Nevertheless, the FNM said: "No bankrupt individual is permitted by the Constitution to besmirch the sacred halls of the House of Assembly. The Bahamas and Bahamian people deserve better. The Free National Movement calls on the government to uphold and to protect the Constitution of The Bahamas."
Since being elected to Parliament, Mr. Stubbs made headlines when he fired several BAIC workers known to support the FNM; was accused of wasting taxpayers' funds by taking unnecessary trips and abusing corporate credit cards, and resigned amidst controversy over a number of Korean boats.
But through all of this, Mr. Williams contended, Mr Stubbs showed that he was made up of much "stronger" stuff, and had "anticipated that this would come to this because he always recognized that somewhere lurking in the wings was a political machine and political interest."
Keva Lightbourne, The Nassau Guardian