housespeaker

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

housespeaker

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.

Moultrie is a Case of Sour Grapes, Leaving a Bad Taste?

Since Independent House Speaker Halson Moultrie’s exit from the Free National Movement, he has created quite a stir, revealing a private conversation he’s had with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

Moultrie appeared on The Hit Back with Nahaja Black, disclosing the government’s intent to call an early election in 4 to 5 months, and further divulging Minnis’ plan to send him as an ambassador to London in an effort to shuffle the party and its candidates as it prepares for general election, whenever that may be.

Moultrie’s revelation comes after he resigned from the governing party, opting to become an independent member of parliament. He cited the lack of “autonomy and independence of the legislature and judiciary, accountability and transparency, freedom of information and respect for the constitution” as a reasoning for his departure from the party.

But his decision came as no surprise as Moultrie has often lambasted the government as House speaker, recently criticizing the government for the condition of his office, complaining of the mold and inoperable bathroom facility. He said he will not “sit here idly by as the presiding officer of this Parliament and accept such conditions.”

Moultrie once hit out at Minnis, while claiming there was no discord in the party, suggesting that the prime minister was acting like a “demigod – like a person who is a maximum leader, a person who could just dictate,” he told reporters in November.

Moultrie’s behavior is similar to that of former minister of Health Duane Sands, who turned on the party after his resignation from the Cabinet post. Though Sands remained with the party, he criticized his party at every term, questioning the government’s vaccine rollout plan and its emergency orders in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One month after his resignation in May, Sand’s derision for his party went as far back as the passage of the Hurricane Dorian, accusing the government and other ministries of deleting hundreds of names from the list of missing people, without explanation, although the apparent removal of names would have occurred when he was the minister of health.

But unlike Sands, Moultrie’s gripe with the party has done nothing to help his public image. He is already known as a poor representative for the Nassau Village constituency, where area residents feel like he has neglected them, providing no meaningful change for the area. If he was ratified as a candidate for the area, it is almost guaranteed the government would lose that seat.

Sands, on the other hand, has grown as a good representative for Elizabeth Estates, often seen canvassing and cleaning the area and seemed to be well-liked by the constituents. The government has a good chance of winning this seat, though he has yet to be ratified like other members of his party.

It remains to be seen what will be Moultrie’s next move, whether he will run as an independent candidate for the Nassau Village constituency or retire from politics, which may be a better option.

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.”

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.”

Here’s What Happened in the House of Assembly

House of Assembly Speaker Halson Moultrie said he tested negative for COVID-19 following sterilization of the House of Assembly after a staff member contracted the virus.

As only a small number of parliamentarians showed up at the House at Wednesday’s meeting, Moultrie said, “I am most grateful to the honorable members who decided to attend this morning to carry on the people’s business wich on occasion is time-sensitive.

“We are in compliance with the COVID-19 protocol as indicated. I requested of the staff as well as myself as recommended to members to take the COVID19 test.

“I have taken the test yesterday. The result is negative. The Clerk has taken the test. The result is negative. Several other members and staff will be taking the test today,” he said.

Why were some members not present?

On Tuesday, Moultrie announced that a parliamentary staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health initiated contact tracing to determine the level of exposure to employees.

The House of Assembly and Senate were deep cleaned and sanitized and persons who interacted with the employee were required to quarantine.

Who was absent?

Members of the governing party were noticeably absent with only a small number in attendance. However, no member of the opposition attended the House’s seating, as Independent MP Reece Chipman sat alone on the opposition side of the House.

This prompted a response from Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

“It’s unfortunate that the leader of the opposition is not here. We all know that the leader of the opposition had COVID and the leader of the opposition has antibodies. With all intent and purposes, the leader of the opposition is immune.

“He is the safest in this country at this time. He is immune and that immunity may last for 3 to 6 months. We don’t know the duration but we do know that he is the safest in this country at this time. So it’s unfortunate that he is not here,” Minnis said.

However, all members will be deemed present for Wednesday’s session.

What documents were tabled?

  • The Emergency Power Covid-19 Number 6 Amendment Order 2020
  • The Environmental Planning and Protection Extension of Application Order 2020

At the next sitting of the House on Wednesday 23rd, the House will debate the extension of the emergency order to October 31st.

Featured Photo: The Tribune