fbpx

parliament

Thursday, August 18, 2022

parliament

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 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.

 

What Cheque? Rolle Denies Any Financial Impropriety

Former Cabinet Minister Lanisha Rolle said a resignation letter released by Cabinet has caused her “hurt and harm.”

During her presentation in the House of Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, Rolle sought to clarify the rumors surrounding her resignation from her ministerial post as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.

“…I requested further clarification of the statement made by the Cabinet, which incorrectly insinuated that my resignation was as a result of some investigation. The good member for Killarney (Prime Minister Hubert Minnis) to some degree clarified in a public statement to the press that there was no investigation concerning this member. I thank him.

“Sometimes, however, what you give to the world, you can not take back. Appreciating the hurt and harm this has caused me, I do not wish on any other…”

The big story

In February, after Rolle, the only woman minister in the Minnis-led administration, submitted a resignation letter to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, Cabinet soon released a confirmation letter of Rolle’s resignation as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, stating that, “certain matters have been brought to the attention of the prime minister and are under investigation.”

Rolle was then replaced with Iram Lewis who now serves in the post.

What Lanisha Rolle says

“…No ministry I kept, held money. I want to make that clear because the public seems to think that there was some chest of money that a minister holds…What cheque? Ministers don’t sign cheques. Minister don’t hold cheques…No ministry I kept, held money…” she said.

Rolle said all financial transactions can be verified.

She then asserted that as a woman minister, she was bullied and was not protected.

“But I stood my ground. Even if I stood alone.”

Why it matters

Speculations swirled that Rolle was involved in some impropriety within her ministry, which led many people to believe her resignation was a result of financial wrongdoing.

Since, February, Rolle nor Cabinet has directly stated the reason for her resignation.

McAlpine Gloats Over His Social Media Popularity

Pineridge Member of Parliament Frederick McAlpine gloried that his popularity on social media trumps those of other members of parliament.

In a shouting match with National Security Minister Marvin Dames in the House of Assembly, McAlpine contested, “Every speech I put up gat 10,000 views, 10,000 views, 10,000 views. I’m waiting to see your page. I’m going to your page.”

What happened that caused the outburst

McAlpine jumped on an issued raised by Englerston Member of Parliament Gleny Hanna-Martin, claiming that police reservists were not paid the overtime for their work in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Dames refuted that claim, stating that officers were paid overtime based on his conversation with Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle.

Dames Response to McAlpine

Dames said, “Whenever I stand, and I speak to something, I have factual documentation to prove it. We’re taking advantage of this honorable house to mislead the Bahamian people, constantly, some of us. We have to move beyond that. We talk about we speak on behalf of the people. What people?”

Dames then asked McAlpine to bring his facts to the house instead of making baseless claims.

“That he’s speaking on behalf of the people. I have yet to see the people he’s speaking on behalf. Time will tell which people on whose behalf you speaking, because I don’t see [anyone] following you.”

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.”

Pintard Defends ‘Bahamians Only’ for Commercial Fishing

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard defended the Fisheries Bill that passed in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. Pintard appeared on Beyond the Headlines hosted by Clint Watson the next day, expressing disappointment in parliamentarians who referred to a clause in the bill as “discriminatory.”

But the agriculture and marine resources minister received support from local fishermen and organizations like The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance who called the new legislature “progressive.”  And The National Fisheries Association added that the bill is “comprehensive” and “put[s] Bahamians first.”

Why it matters

Local fishermen have long complained that foreign fishermen poach in Bahamian waters, depleting their catch while negatively affecting their livelihood. Reports show that many foreign fishermen from the Dominican Republic marry Bahamian women for work permits to be able to fish in Bahamian waters.

What the Fisheries Bill actually says

The Fisheries Bill 2020 regulates the fishing industry and prevents non- Bahamians from commercial fishing in Bahamian waters.

The clause in the bill that was criticized says, “No person shall engage in fishing or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel for fishing other than sport fishing in the fisheries waters; and use or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel licensed under this act for fishing other than charter sport fishing unless that person is a citizen of the Bahamas. 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest called the clause discriminatory

Peter Turnquest stood to his feet to ask, “Does that mean that spousal permit holders and permanent residents are likewise excluded from being able to fish? And if that is, in fact, the case, how do we square that with the constitution and general human rights? Because I would think that any spouse of a Bahamian should have the right to support their family in whatever their skill is and I think it’s a slippery slope because if you start with fishing, then is the hotel industry next?

“We do not want to continue to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Bahamian women in particular because let’s face it, that’s what we’re talking about.”

How Michael Pintard responded

  • “I am disappointed in some of the comments I have heard from policymakers who would represent a fishing community that requires assistance. We have one of the lowest subsidy packages for fishers. When I go into the parliament, I am fighting for those communities that I represent to make sure I give them the best possible chance of succeeding,” he said.
  • “While I will highlight like any other socially conscious Bahamian would, any adequacy in the bill, a disproportionate amount of my time will be spent fighting for those men and women who are in a country right now where thirty plus percent of the people are unemployed and need opportunities. I signed up to be a part of exploding opportunities for them as opposed to putting a damper on what we’re seeking to do in abroad way to make sure the Bahamas can take advantage of the resources that we have,” Pintard said.

The Fight for Aragonite. Is it Worth Billions?

A group of Bahamians led by Lincoln Bain, and backed by Centerville MP Reece Chipman assembled in Parliament Square on Wednesday morning, calling for the government to open investigations into the exportation of aragonite out of the country.

The big picture?

It is alleged that governments over the years have permitted only foreign companies to benefit from the sale of aragonite, which some people claim is worth millions of dollars and can add to the country’s economy, creating a new industry.

What they say

  • In its first gathering Down Town, group leader Lincoln Bain said the government should do what is right, saying, “We come in peace. When we come back, it will be a different story.”
  • He held up a black folder, containing what he says is, “evidence of the proposed document.”
  • He continued, “We know the value of our natural resources. You have been exploiting it. You have been mining it. You have been spending millions of dollars behind these same natural resources. And we know the truth.”
  • He said some U.S companies “may have been doing some things they should not have been doing” and the government should release reports on what companies have been mining.
  • Bain said he reported the matter to the Federal Trade Commission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he could not get help from the Bahamas government.

What Environment Minister Romould Ferreira has said

  • In 2018, a white paper was to be presented to Cabinet on aragonite. He said a study was to be conducted to determine the economic value and sustainability of the product.
  •  Ferreira said recommendations for the sustainable use of aragonite will be put forth because it is not sustainable over a human life span, saying it takes 100-2000 years for a grain to form.
  • He said the Bahamas can make more royalties from aragonite, but it will not make everyone a billionaire.

Ferreira explains the process of development of aragonite

US Company Dillingham Corporation mined since 1970’s

By-products of aragonite

  • limestone
  • chalk
  • pearl
  • bio-plastic
Prince William and Kate begin Caribbean Tour Minnis Touts Vaccine Rollout as Country Prepares for Pivotal Election