Speaker’s stance was “noteworthy” and “absolutely correct”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former House Speaker Dr Kendall Major described the “very strange” and “unprecedented” adjournment of Parliament as “very unfortunate to democracy”.
In an interview with Eyewitness News yesterday, Major said: “What occurred in Parliament very strange set of circumstances and very unfortunate to democracy.
“I think the speaker’s principle stance was noteworthy and he’s absolutely correct.
“I think the position that he took was a very strong position and it’s unfortunate that it came to that level of what he would regard as disrespect or dishonor to the chair and to the office.”
Major continued: “It’s unfortunate that we see in broad daylight the example of a poor application of conflict and dispute resolution, operating at the heights level of government.
“This is not good and this is not good for our country, to be placed in a situation where a house to be abruptly adjourned because of the stance of the speaker, and not planned forthwith, disallowing for example the government’s agenda to not be brought forward.
He said that should not have happened.
House Speak Halson Moultrie advised on Tuesday that a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 was reportedly symptomatic during last week’s parliamentary sitting and had been in contact with the entire staff throughout that time.
However, he, along with staff members who were supposed to be in quarantine, were present for yesterday’s proceeding
Moultrie said despite his recommendation that the staff should be in quarantine; someone ordered the assistant clerk of the House to report to work.
The speaker said he contacted both Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Leader of Government Business Renward Wells, the Bamboo Town MP, on the course of action following the exposure of the House staff, but was given no response.
“Staffers of Parliament were assembled in these very chambers waiting for answers. We got one response in one word from the member for Killarney, and that was ‘noted,” Moultrie said.
He added that the House of Assembly has not been sanitized since the chief clerk contracted COVID-19.
In recent months, Moultrie has expressed dissatisfaction with the government on various matters, including the separation of powers of the executive and the legislature.
On Wednesday, Moultrie said: “Now, this to me was my final straw when it comes to the disrespect of this institution and the disrespect of the office of the speaker,” he said.
“Now, I don’t necessarily pick fights or wars, but if you want a war, you can get a war.
“They say if you don’t want a war, don’t start one. So, don’t come in this Parliament talking about reading books of war because more than one person in this Parliament reads books of war.”
Major insisted that while Moultrie may have been right in his position, but utterances of “war”, show a personal conflict between he and the executive, specifically Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
“It sends the wrong message because it speaks to the challenges that we’re faced with and it sends the message of I’m digging my heels in. you do what you have to do, I do what I have to do.”
The former speaker added: I think what you are seeing undergirding all of this is a personality conflict between the executive and particularly the prime minister and the speaker himself, that is where the issue and for parliament to work, there has to always be comity of understanding and mutual respect by both parties.
“The prime minister cannot have his way in parliament and the speaker must always be sensitive to the constitution and the agenda of how our order of government is set up.”