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houseofassembly

Saturday, May 21, 2022

houseofassembly

The Emergency Order Was Amended. Is There Still A Competent Authority?

The House of Assembly passed an amendment to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Special Provisions) 2021 in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, seeking to end the Emergency Order which expires on Saturday. But not without question from the Opposition, who queried the controversial title of the competent authority.

The Emergency Order was implemented by the former Minnis administration. This bill seeks to replace it with a few changes.

Who gets the new power?

The title of the competent authority is no longer a part of the new bill. Instead, powers lie within the Ministry of Health which has control of the ongoing pandemic. Particular powers are also given to the Minister of Health Michael Darville who can shut down businesses, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, if it does not adhere to the regulations or if there is an outbreak.

Under the former administration, Former Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was criticized for the title, which gave him sole powers, on the advice of medical officers, to operate in that vein.

What are the new changes and how will they work?

Aspects of the Emergency Order will come to an end which includes the curfews. However, Bahamians will still be required to wear masks, sanitize, and socially distance themselves.

Businesses are still required 50% occupancy and admittance of patrons showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Businesses must give a protocol document pertaining to its guidelines for operation as approved by the Ministry of Health.

What do others think?

Former Cabinet Minister and Marco City MP Michael Pintard supports changes to the bill but worries that the Minister of Health, Michael Darville may now run the risk of becoming the new competent authority, due to his new duties in the bill.

Pintard thinks the powers are too broad and are similar to powers Minnis once held, which the PLP, when it was in opposition, readily criticized.

“The competent authority, if you’re not extending the emergency powers, should come to an end … in the shortest possible period of time. It was only designed for a short period of time,” he said.

 

Minnis Sworn in as Opposition Leader

Former Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was officially sworn in on Friday as Leader of the Opposition.

When Parliament meets, Minnis will be joined by other opposition members including St. Anne’s MP Adrian White, Long Island MP Adrian Gibson, East Grand Bahama MP Kwasi Thompson and Marco City MP Michael Pintard, Central Grand Bahama MP Iram Lewis, and St Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright.

Following swearing-in ceremony, Minnis said he hopes the government continue with plans to recruit young Bahamians for further education abroad for leadership positions in government entities. Minnis said he will hold the government accountable.

The big picture

Following last week’s General Election, the Minnis led adminstration lost, only winning 7 out of the 39 seats, after battling the fallouts of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Progressive Liberal Party led by former opposition leader, Philip Davis won the 32 seats.

Why it matters

Since the defeat of the Free National Movement, council members met to determine the future leadership of the party. After a vote, the party decided to keep Minnis as leader until November when a convention is held. A new leader will be picked to lead the party forward. Minnis said he will not contest the leadership post.

 

No One Shows Up for Moultrie’s ‘Open Parliament’

After House Speaker Halson Moultrie planned another session of ‘open parliament’ ahead of the General Election, no one showed up in Parliament Square.

Moultrie planned a second ‘open parliament’ for Wednesday, after advertising on social media, despite the dissolution of the House of Assembly.

The flyer advertising the ‘open parliament.’

Controversial Moultrie told Eye Witness News yesterday that the intended event is “the opportunity for the common man to come forward, to demand accountability, transparency, good governance, minimize corruption and access information. That is what open Parliament is all about,” he said.

“This open Parliament would be all about allowing the people to put on the record publicly their displeasure with the way this election is being conducted.”

However, no one showed up and people were seen packing up the empty chairs. Moultrie and Independent Centerville MP Reece Chipman were seen waiting for the expected crowd, but to no avail.

Moultrie’s first ‘open parliament’ was held on the same day the House was dissolved and was attended by various third-party members.

It is not known why Moultrie was not able to attract the crowd he did a few weeks ago.

The big picture

Moultrie and Chipman have broken off from the governing party and both are running as independent candidates in the upcoming General Elections.

Since their departure from the Free National Movement, Moultrie and Chipman have become outspoken and protested the policies of the government.

It remains to be seen if voters will stick with them when they cast their ballots.

Parliament Is Prorogued in a Shocking Move

Update: The Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle returned to the House of Assembly at two o’clock today, to read a second proclamation from Governor-General C.A Smith. Rolle announced that Parliament will resume on September 22.

The House of Assembly was prorogued this morning, one week after parliamentarians returned.

The Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle read the proclamation from the Governor-General.

“The Proclamation whereas by virtue of Article 66 (1) of the constitution, the Governor-General acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister may at any time by proclamation, prorogue Parliament. Cornelius A Smith, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, hereby prorogue Parliament as from the 18th day of August 2021.”

What it means

This means that the current session or a sitting of the House is suspended by an order of the prime minister.

The House was not dissolved, which would mean the House sessions have concluded and House business has come to an end.

The life of parliament still continues.

What the Speaker says

Controversial House Speaker Halson Moultrie said he was not surprised at the move as he had heard rumors of its possibility. But he called the move “unusual” since the Parliament reconvened last week to extend the state of emergency.

Moultrie, who resigned from the Free National Movement, said he had intentions to hold an ‘open parliament’ this morning where he said the public would express its grievances. The ‘open parliament’ was the Speaker’s initiative and was not supported by the government.

Third parties gathered in Parliament Square in preparation for the ‘open parliament’ but were left scrambling and confused after the proclamation of proroguing the House was read.

Moultrie said proroguing the House shows that Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is abusing his powers and the Cabinet is demonstrating it is ‘not answerable to the people.’

Moultrie said he will push harder for the separation of powers and for an independent parliament.

Parliament Passes Extension of Emergency Order to November 13

The House of Assembly passed the resolution to extend the State of Emergency to November 13.

At 10 pm, House wrapped up debate on the extension of the Order, with all government members agreeing to the extension.

Opposition members including Leader Philip Davis, Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller stood to oppose the extension.

What it means

The continuation of the Emergency Order means the competent authority has the jurisdiction to impose mask-wearing and social distancing measures with more restrictive measures like lockdowns and curfews.

The big picture

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalization cases continue to explode. Health officials reported 96 new cases for the country with a strong concentration of new infections in New Providence.

Health officials are also investigating two more deaths that are believed to be COVID-19 related.

On Friday past, a record high of 228 new confirmed cases were reported.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 16,011 cases were reported. 2584 cases remain active.

What’s next

The resolution will be moved to the Senate where it will be debated and passed.

Government Seeks to Extend Emergency Order One Final Time to Nov 13

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis tabled the new proposed extension of the Emergency Order for one final time to November 13.

The House of Assembly met for approximately half-hour to give notice of the new proposal.

Paliamentarians will meet again tomorrow to debate the resolution.

Speaking in a national address lastnight, Minnis promised it would be the last extension of the orders.

The Prime Minister said it was the intention of the government, that depending on the state of the pandemic, a move would be made toward ending the use of the Emergency Orders this month and to transition to a new legislative framework as more Bahamians were vaccinated.

Minnis said the surge in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have caused the government to temporarily adjust plans to immediately save Bahamian lives and to protect the economy.

“My government has set a plan to further combat this wave and to transition the country to a new post-Emergency Orders regime after this deadly surge subsides,” said the Prime Minister.

“As a result of the arrival soon of new vaccine supplies, we will be able to begin the transition process away from the Emergency Orders.”

Minnis said this is only a draft of the bill and will be tabled for widespread public consultation.

“We seek the advice of the Official Opposition. We would like the input of the religious community, businesses, NGOs, labor unions, other organizations and individuals so we can make the legislation more representative before final passage and enactment.”

To help control and slow the spread of COVID-19, Minnis also announced new curfew hours for New Providence and Grand Bahama, from 9pm to 5am; and on mainland Exuma and mainland Abaco, from 10pm to 5am.

The big story

The Bahamas has been under the State of Emergency since March 2020. Since then, the government has extended the order as COVID-19 cases rose in the country.

Photo credit: The Nassau Guardian

Parliament to Reconvene on Tuesday Instead

In a letter from the Chief Clerk of Parliament, the House of Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday and not September 22, as previously announced.

According to the letter, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis had spoken to House Speaker Halson Moultrie requesting that Parliament reassemble sooner “because of the resurgence of COVID-19.”

The big picture

Parliament recessed from June 21st to September 22, but House Speaker Halson Moultrie decried the decision.

Moultrie told reporters that the break prevents parliamentarians from effectively representing the concerns of their constituents and presented challenges by the House from supervising Cabinet’s activities and policies.

Moultrie then announced that he would hold an open Parliament in the Square starting Wednesday, for Bahamians to express their concerns and engage with the speaker or the clerk.

State of Play

The recent announcement by Chief Clerk David Forbes means Moultrie now has no need to hold the ‘open Parliament’ since House will reconvene on Tuesday.

 

 

 

House Wraps Up Budget Debate and Passes Compendium of Bills After All Night Session

Parliamentarians pulled an all-nighter to wrap up the 2021/22 Budget Debate and pass a compendium of bills in the House of Assembly on Monday.

It was after midnight when the House members finalized the Budget Debate and passed the eighteen bills.

This comes after nearly three weeks of debating the budget which the government argues will help the country recover and accelerate its economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic.

As parliamentarians struggled to remain awake since reconvening from ten o’clock on Monday morning, the official opposition members PLP Leader Philip Davis, Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, Englerston MP Glennys Hanna-Martin and Independent MP for Centerville Reece Chipman, labored on and picked the bills apart while questioning and attacking various clauses of the bills.

At times, weary-eyed government ministers defended their positions and by 12:20 am, all of the bills were passed which include:

  1. The Appropriation Capital Development Act 2021– the appropriation of the sums of 372,423,052 for and toward defraying the expenses the government for capital development
  2. The Appropriation Revenue Account Expenses 2021/22 –the appropriation of diverse sums of money for and toward defraying the expenses of the government and revenue account
  3. The Access to Affordable Hom Amendment Act
  4. The Business License Amendment Act
  5. The City of Nassau Revitalization Act
  6. The Customs Management Amendment Act
  7. The Excise Amendment Act
  8. The Family Islands Development Encouragement Amendment Act
  9. The Immigration Amendment Act to Provide for the Grant of Economic Permanent Residents
  10. The Provisional Credit of Value Added Tax and Business License Tax to Enable Businesses to Increase Staff Employment Levels
  11. The Spirits and Beer Manufacture Amendment Act
  12. The Real Property Tax Amendment Act

Parliamentarians will return to the House on September 21 at 10 am.

 

Moultrie Dramatically Recites His Poem About Vengeance

House Speaker Halson Moultrie incorporated a poem of vengeance in his most recent speeches in the House of Assembly on Monday.

After the presentation by Ft Charlotte MP Mark Humes during the Budget Debate, in which Humes conceded that he will continue living although he was not renominated by the Free National Movement, Moultrie commended Humes saying, “You seem so happy in your presentation” adding that he admired “the joy” which Humes showed.

Surprised that Humes expressed no ill-will toward the party despite not being ratified, Moultrie then quoted a recent poem he had written, that expresses his retaliation.

Here’s the poem Moultrie wrote and quoted in the HOA

Every man’s origin is the womb
And every man’s destiny in the tomb
Life is the interval that exists between the womb and the tomb
So it is between the womb and the tomb, let no man presume that D Halson Moultrie was sent here to be consumed
For such an assumption is a rebuttable presumption
And any perception of a threat could lead to the acceleration of your own death
And while I don’t advocate the commissioning of a kind, I will get on my knees and say to the mind, and God help you if I have to pray over you, Psalm one, zero, nine.

The big picture

Moultrie is known for launching tirades in the House, often expressing his displeasure for the “disrespect” he believes the executive branch of government shows the parliament.

In February, Moultrie resigned from the Free National Movement, citing his personal convictions, and later stated that he will run as an independent candidate for the Nassau Village constituency in the upcoming general election.

 

Photo credit: The Nassau Guardian

 

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