Commentary by Bradley B. Roberts
Former Cabinet Minister and MP
11th February 2018
I would be remiss if I did not weigh in on the House proceedings of last Wednesday, 7th February.
The biggest takeaway is that the Speaker does not know his role which is the protection of the freedom of speech of the minority who traditionally has its say while the governing majority always get their way. This ancient tradition and convention are understood by all except the current speaker of the House it appears. The Speaker behaved as if his primary responsibility is the suppression, oppression and silencing of the minority, especially if he was uncomfortable with the content of their expression.
In the case with the member for Englerston, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, she stood to her feet to seek clarification from the government on the termination of two Airport Authority Managers in Eleuthera. A legitimate question in light of two statements made by the Prime Minister. He told ZNS and BIS staff at a meeting that as long as public officers performed their duties, they had no fear of punitive acts of reprisals by the government based on their political association. The Prime Minister also assured the Leader of the Opposition that the two managers would not be terminated for political reasons. It appeared that while the Prime Minister uttered those words out of the left side of his mouth, he was approving their unceremonious dismissal from the right side of his mouth. This is disingenuous because at the very least, the words of the Prime Minister must be trusted.
The Speaker sought to silence Mrs. Hanna-Martin and since each member was sent to the House to speak on behalf of their constituents, the people in general and to hold the government’s proverbial feet to the fire, what is the point of remaining in the House if a member is denied the constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of expression? Hanna-Martin walked, was named and was suspended for two consecutive sittings. Clearly a case of overreach and abuse of power by the Speaker who used a canon when a swat would have done the job.
The Speaker became increasingly boorish, personal and vindictive when the Hansard, the official records of the House, proved that Hanna-Martin did not say what he accused her of saying. He took personal offence to a letter to the editor penned by the former Chief Clerk of the House, Maurice Tynes, an exemplary public servant who happened to disagree with the Speaker. The Speaker on Wednesday made a mockery of his office when in a tirade, he attacked the integrity of Mr. Tynes and the staff of the House of Assembly, and naming Mr. Tynes as an untrustworthy PLP operative and in doing so inferred that the other staff members were FNM operatives.
The Speaker went further – he launched very personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition, his wife, Senator Fred Mitchell and on the reputation of Mrs. Hanna-Martin. He also named and suspended the other three duly elected opposition members of the House as they were leaving the House. They are Philip Brave Davis (Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador), I Chester Cooper (Exuma and Ragged Island) and Picewell Forbes (Mangrove Cay, Central and South Andros). The last time I checked, any member was free to leave the precincts of the House.
THE SPEAKER’S TIRADE WAS INEXCUSABLE, UNPARLIAMENTARY IN NATURE AND PROVED THAT THE HON. HALSTON MOULTRIE IS UNFIT FOR THE HIGH OFFICE OF SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. HE FAILED TO DISCHARGE HIS PARLIAMENTARY OBLIGATION AND MUST BE REMOVED IN THE INTEREST OF PROTECTING THE INTEGRITY OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER. ADDITIONALLY, IN LIGHT OF THESE EGREGIOUS COMMENTS, HOW CAN ANY OPPOSITION MEMBER BE EXPECTED TO FUNCTION IN PARLIAMENT UNDER THE QUASI-JUDICIAL SUPERINTENDENCE OF MR. MOULTRIE? THERE IS NO CONFIDENCE IN HIS LEADERSHIP– ONLY CONDEMNATION – BECAUSE SPEAKER CLEARLY CROSSED THE LINE OF ACCEPTABLE PARLIAMENTARY BEHAVIOR!
What was also shocking and inexplicable was that the other House members cheered on Mr. Moultrie during his tirade in support of his un-parliamentary and dishonourable commentary and behavior. You mean to tell me not one of the 33 FNM members of Parliament could see and discern that the Speaker was out of order? Are they that drunk with power that their sense of reasoning was impaired? Do they all live in a cocoon and in an echo chamber where they can only hear and believe their own voices? These were the same people who were in the streets marching literally months ago for freedom and good governance and against dictatorship and tyranny. Maybe they did not believe one word they were saying.
There must be atonement and the Speaker must be held accountable for his un-parliamentary actions in the interest of the continued integrity of this ancient tradition and institution, one of the freer pillars of our beloved democracy.
Dr. Myles Munroe speaker Moultrie deceased spiritual Leader must have turned in his grave.