houseofassembly

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

houseofassembly

Moultrie Calls Out PM and Abruptly Adjourns the House. Here’s Why

In a surprising move in the House of Assembly today, House Speaker Halson Moultrie suspended the House session, setting a new date for parliamentarians to meet after the clerk tested positive for COVID-19.

But before adjourning the House, he openly rebuked Prime Minister Hubert Minnis and Government Business Leader Renward Wells for permitting the House to meet despite the positive case among staff and the parliament not being sanitized before meeting.

Moultrie said he reached out to both Minnis and Wells to determine if House should still meet today, and determine the measures staff should take, only to receive a message from Minnis saying, “noted.”

Another staffer, who Moultrie said should have been in quarantine, Asharan Lightbourne was “called upon to be here this morning, in breach of the request or the instruction of the speaker that [she] should be in quarantine,” he said.

The big picture

Since the advent of COVID-19, Moultrie has been calling on the government to pass a resolution to meet in hybrid form or virtually to prevent chances of more parliamentarians from contracting the virus. But those calls were not adhered to.

Why it matters

A staff member tested positive for the virus. Though not identified, it is believed to be the chief clerk as he was noticeably absent today. The Speaker described the staffer as the “closest person to him in the House.”

The staffer came to work on Monday and Tuesday showing symptoms of the virus, but returned home early after not feeling well. However, came back to work last week Wednesday when parliamentarians met.

His positive diagnosis was revealed yesterday.

What Moultrie is saying

Moultrie said parliament is in breach of its own order. “This is my final straw when it comes to the disrespect of the speaker. According to the rules, when the behaviour of a member is creating disorder, the speaker is authorized by rule 88, subsection 9 to adjourn the parliament until the circumstance is fixed,” he said.

“I don’t pick fights or wars, but if you want war, you will get a war. If you don’t want a war, don’t start one.”

Referencing Minnis who earlier stated that he read a book on wars, Moultrie continued, “So don’t come in this parliament talking about reading books of war. More than one person in this parliament read books of war.”

State of play

Because of the adjournment by Moultrie, the next session of the House will be May 3 at 10 am.

Johnson Calls on Davis to Apologize to Forbes

Yamacraw MP and Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson defended Progressive Liberal Party MP for Mangrove Cay, South and Central Andros Picewell Forbes who announced on Monday that he would not offer himself in the next General Election on the PLP ticket.

Johnson called on PLP Party leader Philip Davis, who was not in the House during the first session today, to apologize for the treatment of Forbes.

Johnson said, “…South Andros deserves better,” as Forbes looked on.

The big picture

Forbes said he will not offer himself as a candidate in the 2022 General Election due to a lack of confidence reposed in him from Party Leader Davis. Forbes said it remained uncertain if the party would renominate him for the next general election, as constituents too, pondered his ratification since prospective candidates were seen canvassing his constituency.

“After all the questions in Mangrove Cay last week, when you were giving it your best from meager resources, and all these questions are still abound after all these years, after some discussion and prayers with my family, I said farewell.”

Forbes said he wished that Davis would “simply go on the ground in the community and [say] you support me.”

What Johnson said today

“To martyr an innocent man like this when all you had to do was stand up and say, ‘This my man. This my man.’

“He (Forbes) shouldn’t be going from house to house and finding out that different people calling him. It ain’t right to him and it ain’t right to other people. And South Andros deserves an apology. And I pray that he finds it in his heart to forgive him (Davis).

“All leaders have to be like that. If you don’t want people. And you know you don’t want them, let them know.”

What Davis has said since

Davis told the Nassau Guardian that Forbes’ “nomination was never in doubt,” adding that all incumbents in his party would be renominated if they desired.

“So he is now deciding not to continue of his own,” Davis said.

Davis said  Forbes had his support which should have “convert[ed] to the ground, but then he assessed the ground and that was his finding.”

Davis’ Lack of Confidence Causes Picewell to Walk Away

South and Central Andros MP Picewell Forbes said PLP leader Philip Davis, has not reposed confidence in him, therefore he will not offer himself in the 2022 General Election.

Forbes said he needed to see confidence from the leadership. “A simple go on the ground to say you support me,” would show Davis’ faith in him, he believes.

Standing in the House of Assembly on Monday morning, Forbes said his final goodbyes before walking out to a standing ovation by House members.

Why it matters?

Prospective candidates for the PLP, hoping to be ratified, have been scouting the Mangrove Cay, South and Central Andros constituency.

And back in November, Monique Pindling, daughter of former Prime Minister Lynden Pindling publicly confirmed her bid for that constituency on the PLP ticket.

The big picture

Forbes is a 13-year veteran of the House of Assembly and remained one of four PLP parliamentarians who retained their seats in the 2017 election. He along with party leader Philip Davis, deputy leader of the party Chester Cooper, Glennys Hanna Martin,  and recently joined Vaughn Miller made up the official Opposition.

What Forbes said before he left

Forbes said as MP for South and Central Andros, he has faced questions from his constituents who have asked him about the number of people his party has sent to canvass the area ahead of the General Election.

“To every house, you go to, the question is being asked, ‘Are you running? How many persons are the PLP going to put on the ground against you? When is this issue going to be cleared up?’

“When you continue to go back and forth on this, ..and after all of the questions in Mangrove Cay and you have given it your best, …and all these questions still abound, after all these years… farewell,” Forbes said to reporters.

Worth noting

Forbes still remains a member of the PLP to date. He did not announce a resignation but indicated that he will mull over further decisions and his connection with the party.

 

Moultrie Quashes Former Speaker’s Ruling. Power Is Restored to PAC

House Speaker and newly independent Member of Parliament Halson Moultrie returned to the House of Assembly on Wednesday after resigning from the Free National Movement. In the first session of the House, he restored power to the traditionally powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Why it matters

Image result for plp house of assembly speaker kendal major
Former House Speaker and PLP MP Kendal Major

Moultrie’s actions canceled the ruling by the Former House Speaker and PLP Member Parliamentarian Dr. Kendal Major, who prevented the Public Accounts Committee from investigating a leaked audit report into Urban Renewal 2.0 in 2015. Once the Free National Movement came to power in 2017, it said the block by Major impedes the powers of the committee.

The big picture

Moultrie has long argued that the legislative branch needed independence as it was encroached upon by the executive branch of government.

And this is Moultrie’s way of making the parliament which is the legislative body, independent and democratic.

What are the powers restored to the PAC

The power to:

  • investigate all past, current and committed government expenditure
  • approve subjects and witnesses for examination and compel their attendance without government direction, intervention, or advice
  • make a recommendation and publish conclusions and reports
  • hold government accountable for its spending of taxpayers’ money and its stewardship over the public’s assets
  • televise hearings on the Parliamentary channel
  • probe matters
  • compel ministers to attend the Public Accounts Committee

Moultrie Resigns FNM To Become Independent Parliamentarian

House Speaker and Member of Parliament for Nassau Village has formally resigned from the Free National Movement, becoming an independent member of Parliament, according to a letter seen circulated on social media.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the FNM, Sefrent Rolle, Moultrie says “with immediate effect, I formally end my seven-month consecutive withdrawal from the  Free National Movement, by tendering my resignation thereby cancelling my membership.”

The big picture

Moultrie joins Centerville MP Reece Chipman and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller in resigning from the party to become independent parliamentarians. Miller has since joined up with the Progressive Liberal Party.

Why it matters

Moultrie in recent times has publicly criticized the government, citing his convictions on the lack of autonomy and independence of the legislative body.

In the resignation letter, he makes mention of the faults he has with the party, again citing, “convictions on fundamental essentials of democracy and good governance such as the separation of powers, autonomy and independence of the legislature and judiciary, accountability and transparency, freedom of information and respect for the constitution.”

Natural Resources Committee on Its First Site Visit to Andros

The House of Assembly Select Committee on Natural Resources made its first site visit this past week to North Andros.

Why it matters

Many Bahamians have been calling on the government to ensure Bahamians benefit from the country’s natural resources. Thus, a committee was appointed by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, the latter part of 2020 to examine the country’s natural resources.

The committee promises to make various site visits and make a report to the country on its findings.

What happened on the first official visit

  • The Committee spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday until departure late afternoon making site visits.
  • Wednesday was on-land natural resources for the most part including: Morgan’s Bluff, Well Fields, Red Bays (sponge and fish) and Charlie’s Blue Hole.
  • Thursday was marine natural resources.
  • North Andros resident and Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association President Prescott Smith took the Committee on a tour including the Barrier Reef, the Great Bahama Bank, the Tongue of the Ocean, Stafford Creek and Flats. A delightful highlight of the tour was when about 10 dolphins, including a baby dolphin, swam alongside the boat and jumped out of the water!

The Committee members making the trip:

Michael A. Foulkes, Chairman, Shonel Ferguson, Picewell Forbes, Vaughn Miller and Reece Chipman.  Accompanying the Committee members were Carlton Bowleg, MP for the area, and Rashad Flowers, Assistant Clerk, House of Assembly.

Worth noting

The Committee will continue its work this week in New Providence while making plans for the next site visit in Grand Bahama in February.

Moultrie in Spat With Davis Denies Reports of Minnis Acting Like a ‘Demigod’

House Speaker Halson Moultrie  said the media reports that he referenced the competent authority as a “demigod,” is “false.”

Moultrie’s comments came in the House of Assembly on Thursday during the debate on the extension of the emergency order to January 31.

Opposition Leader Philip Davis while arguing against the renewed emergency order, said it gave the impression that Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was someone of divine status.

Davis said, “There is a view emerging that the member (competent authority) might be a demigod.”

The issue is, the label “demigod” was attributed to Moultrie as reporters spoke to him on the sideline of a constiutency event. Moultrie then called for the autonomy of Parliament, which he believes is held hostage by Cabinet.

He told reporters at the time, “We have developed situations where the leader or the prime minister in these jurisdictions can function like a demigod–like a person who is maximum leader, a person who could dictate.”

When PLP Leader Philip Davis used the term to describe Minnis in the House, Moultrie then presumed that Davis was underhandedly using the words attributed to him as quoted in the newspaper, to describe the competent authority.

Moultrie said, “You are sliding down a slippery slope. It is clear what the honorable member for Cat Island and San Salvador is attempting to do. And what you are attempting to do, you are trying to attribute something to a member in this parliament (Moultrie himself) that was falsely reported in the newspaper. And so I would advise you to…

Davis then interrupted and said, “I said emerging. I never attributed that comment to anyone. I didn’t ask. I said a view is emerging that the member may be a demigod. I attributed that to no one.”

“If you feel as if I’m talking about what you have been saying, that’s not it.”

Many Bahamians have expressed issue with the competent authority as they say he is operating without the consent of the Cabinet and solely by his own authority.

Moultrie Hands Over Office Key. What Changed and What Happens Next?

House Speaker Halson Moultrie turned in office keys to the chief clerk of the House of Assembly after 3-years of complaint about a ‘run-down’ office space.

Since Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced that Cabinet will not meet in its office due to a leaking roof, Moultrie renewed a call for the government to renovate his office, giving an ultimatum.

Moultrie promised that he would hand in the keys on October 31st, if nothing was done to correct a leaking roof, mould, lack of bathroom facility and running water and an office that he says is deemed a security risk.

And he did just that on Friday.

Leader of Government Business Renward Wells said in the House, that the government would address Moultrie’s concerns. But that has not happened yet as most members remain quarantined. Minister of Works Desmond Bannister promised in 2017 that the the ground floor of the Senate building will be renovated to accommodate the Speaker’s office.

Is Halson Moultrie still Speaker of the House?

Yes. Moving out of an office space has nothing to do with his position as House Speaker. He has not resigned from the position. So, he remains Speaker.

In fact, Moultrie said he has no intentions on resigning. Halson said, “I made it very clear that I will not be resigning as Speaker.”

The parliamentary proceedings will continue and Moultrie will continue to function with respect to the administrative functions.

However, if the government wishes to have Moultrie removed, house meetings will be discontinued for a given period of time and house will bring a vote of no confidence against him.

Can Moultrie resign from the FNM party and continue to serve as Speaker?

It was surprising for many to hear Moultrie lambast his government for its handling of the issue and some members of the public suggested that he resign from the party while sitting as a Speaker.

But this cannnot be done. Moultrie serves at the priviledge of the Prime Minister who appointed him. If Moultrie resigns from the party, he will be removed as Speaker of the House.

He was elected from among the members of parliament who won their seats in the 2017 general election.

At the next House’s sitting, Moultrie will still be speaker.

House Speaker Gets No Sympathy From the Public

As House Speaker Halson Moultrie awaits for government to address a litany of concerns at his office, such as no running water, no bathroom facility, a leaking roof, and the presence of moulds, the public shows no pity.

In recent days, House Speaker Halson Moultrie decried the condition at his office, warning that if the government does not address his concerns, he would “turn in the keys,” by the end of October.

How did that come about?

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed a structural issue at Cabinet saying that his government hopes to relocate soon due to a leaking roof at Charlotte’s House, as the building where ministers meet, has already been condemned.

Moultrie then raised his concerns and rebuked the government for overlooking his office. He said if the executive branch will not work in his best interest, he will not be attending the office space.

“A man should never respect any other man above himself. So God is not a respect of persons. I will not sit and accept such a circumstance,” he said.

Should we feel sorry for Moultrie?

Some social media users showed no empathy for Moutrie, saying Bahamians have been dealing with situations like his for many years.

Shane McDonald said, “I’m glad that’s happening to him. Now he will see just how the Bahamian people feel.”

Scott Lowe said, “How many Bahamians have to walk to the corner pump to get water every day and this man wants fancy kitchen and private bathroom, all because he holds a ceremonial position in a farce of the government.”

One person identified as Monique Pratt-Ferguson said, “Ok, now it’s a big deal. Persons have been working in government facilities for years in those conditions. Now it hits home, it’s a problem.”

What’s Going on in the Bahamas and Why People Oppose Intended Continuation of Order

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis proposes an extension of the emergency order to November 30th.

He announced the possible extension in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, which will be debated at the next sitting of the House.

Why is it still necessary?

The order has been extended numerous times since its implementation in March. And since then, COVID-19 cases have risen exponentially in the country.

Grand Bahama and Bimini have seen cases lowered as a result of the order, but New Providence and Abaco have seen a surge.

Presently, there are nearly 6000 cases in the country, of which, over 2,000 are active, the majority in New Providence.

There are 124 total COVID-19 deaths.

Health Minister Renward Wells said for the past 30 days, the country has averaged 1.5 COVID-19 deaths each day.

The emergency order has allowed government to place stricter measures on New Providence and Abaco since October 9, with the resumption of a daily curfew of 7pm to 5am and a two-week 24-hour weekend curfew beginning Fridays at 7pm and ending Mondays at 5am.

The PLP and some people oppose the continuation of the Order

PLP Leader Philip Davis said his party will not throw its support behind the government as it “control[s] the lives of Bahamians.”

He calls it “proclamation fatigue.”

Davis believes Dr Minnis “is trying the same old methods, as “the numbers keep going up in deaths and infections.”

“The Prime Minister does the same old things.

“The Bahamas has recorded more COVID-19 positive cases in the past few days than Barbados has recorded since the pandemic began in March of this year.

“We must change course,” Davis said.

Some people have taken to social media to voice frustration with the intended Order extension.

One frustrated social media user said, “Every time I look, this man want an extension. We will soon have to run away from this country and seek asylum somewhere else.”

Finnel Williams addressed Minnis, “You had 7 months. Why are you still repaating the same speech you did in March.”

Princess Bethel said the country should simply adjust and “live with” the virus.”

She said, “If the Bahamas leaders don’t learn to live with COVID, we gonna be in trouble, cause we’ll be lockdown forever.”

However, some people like Ozzie Poitier supports the move saying other counties have had to implement strict measures as the virus surges. He tells fellow users, “It’s clear yall ain’t see what’s going on in other countries and what their leaders are doing.”