ANSWER TIME: HOA speaker cautions govt in for “surprise” in Parliament today

ANSWER TIME: HOA speaker cautions govt in for “surprise” in Parliament today
Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie said the government is in for a surprise in Parliament today, as he bemoaned the government’s continued absconding of the Parliament’s function and oversight on the second Wednesday of each month to have questions answered.

“This coming Wednesday, they are going to be in for a surprise,” said Moultrie, who appeared as a guest on radio talk show The Hit Back with Nahaja Black.

Last November, the speaker challenged the executive branch to answer questions put forth in Parliament.

At the time, the speaker said the government has a duty to the Bahamian people to answer questions for their stewardship and pledged to focus his attention on deepening The Bahamas’ democracy by “making certain things happen”.

He acknowledged that both the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the current administration have refused to answer any questions in Parliament.

He referred to his “obligation” to implement certain changes on Monday as the clock winds down to the general election, something he believes could be called in June of this year.

“[There was] urgency to be able to get some of [what] I believe should be done before June of this year,” he said.

Asked whether becoming the speaker impeded his abilities as an MP, Moultrie said while he wished to contribute to debate in the House of Assembly, he does not regret the chair as it allows him to “right the wrongs in the system”.

“For example, if I am able to make the Parliament function in its oversight role in terms of holding the government to account according to Article 72 of the Constitution, I think I will save The Bahamas millions and millions of dollars,” he said.

“If I am able to cause there to be the proper checks and balances on the executive function.

“Because right now, as it is or it was in particular with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) not being able to function, there was no way for the Parliament to exercise its oversight role of government expenditure.

“They were not forced to produce documents or answer questions and the second role of the Parliament in its oversight capacity, which we saw a mockery of the system last Wednesday, when the majority side was able to — based on some bogus rules, in my estimation, that the PLP put in place in 2005 — they are suffering from today.

“The majority party is able to decide the agenda despite the rules. Now, the bill that was before the Parliament, no one can convince me that was significant in terms of its passage. The Court of Appeal amendment bill was only making an adjustment for the Court of Appeal to hire a number of deputy or assistant registrars. Come on, give me a break; you are going to change the function of the Parliament, which is to allow ministers and the prime minister to answer questions?

“You want to vote not to answer questions — and the PLP, both of them, are guilty of this.

“In the previous session, the PLP never answered a question. As a matter of fact, they didn’t meet on the second Wednesday of any month to avoid answering questions.

“This time, if we meet on a Wednesday, the government always, by resolution, because the majority could determine that we are not following that particular agenda: ‘Rule 39 (2); we’re going to go with 39(1)’…

“That should only happen if what is happening is more urgent or necessary than the oversight function of the Parliament, which in most cases it is not.

“So, this coming Wednesday, they are going to be in for a surprise. You have to come to the House on Wednesday.”