Judicial review to be held over land grab commission legality
A Commission of Inquiry into allegations of land grabs will undergo a judicial review to see if it acted inside the law, it was revealed yesterday.
Khalid Wasi, also known as Raymond Davis, and Myron Piper were successful in their argument before Assistant Justice Hugh Southey that the commission had acted illegally when it denied them the chance to testify at it.
The two claimed that the scope of the commission at first – which was set by David Burt, the Premier – was too broad and that it acted beyond its powers when it redefined what its remit should be.
But Mr Justice Southey rejected a fourth ground for the review – that members of the commission had conflicts of interest because of their links to the legal profession, banks and real estate brokers.
Mr Justice Southey ruled that the two had failed to provide any evidence to back up the claim.
Mr Wasi and Mr Piper asked for a review in January last year, claiming the commission was a sham and that commissioners had failed to act in an impartial manner.
But it has taken more than a year for a hearing to be held – because all the full-time civil judges in Bermuda, including Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, had conflicts of interest.
Mr Justice Southey, a deputy High Court judge in England and an Acting Justice in Cayman, was appointed to Bermuda’s courts by Rena Lalgie, the Governor, last month.
Ms Lalgie made the appointment after Mr Wasi and Mr Piper wrote to her to ask that an independent judge be brought in to hear their case.
Mr Wasi and Mr Piper had named Mr Burt and the commission’s chairwoman, former judge Norma Wade-Miller, as respondents in the case.
But it was agreed at yesterday’s hearing that the commission as a body should be the respondent rather than individuals.
The commission was established in 2019 to examine historical thefts of property and to “identify any persons, whether individuals or bodies corporate, responsible for such historic losses of citizens’ property”.
Its findings were presented to the House of Assembly last December after the panel had heard testimony from scores of witnesses over the course of a year.
The report is scheduled to be debated by MPs during the present Parliamentary session.
Mr Justice Southey rejected a request from Mr Wasi and Mr Piper for an injunction to stifle all matters related to the commission, including Parliamentary debate.
He pointed out that the inquiry had ended and that he did not have the authority to issue orders to Parliament.
The review will be held on July 11 and is expected to last four days.