House speaker rules aragonite repeal bill has to be brought by Cabinet minister

House speaker rules aragonite repeal bill has to be brought by Cabinet minister
Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie. (FILE PHOTO)

McAlpine: Aragonite repeal bill now lies on the shoulders of Parliament 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A bill to repeal the Aragonite Mining Act has been moved under the purview of the Parliament Select Committee on Natural Resources.

The bill was laid by Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine last week on behalf of environmentalists and private citizens Bahamian Evolution, who have been demonstrating in Rawson Square over the past few weeks.

House Speaker Halson Moultrie clarified that under the constitution, the bill is considered a “money bill”, seeking to impact the “taxes, duties, levies, fees, charges and royalties due to the government, based on mining of aragonites and other materials”, which also impacts the consolidated fund.

Moultrie noted that such a bill cannot be brought by any entity other than a Cabinet minister.

Leader of Government Business Renward Wells moved that the bill be sent to the Select Committee on Natural Resources, which has been constituted to look into such issues.

He said: “The position of the administration has been and remains that we seek to be open and transparent with regards to the circumstances when it comes to natural resources…whether it’s the sea whip that we know has anti-inflammatory properties that is now being harvested by pharmaceutical companies, whether it’s the oil we’re about to drill for, whether it’s the salt in Inagua and elsewhere, whether it’s the aragonite from the 11 aragonite sites we have in-country, this House by unanimous consent turned all of those issues over to a bipartisan select committee of this House, to look into all of those issues, to be transparent.”

Wells insisted that the bill will not go to the committee “to die”.

However, McAlpine argued that most of the parliamentary select committees have not been functioning.

He noted, “The bill that I have laid in this House on behalf of the people is now on the shoulders of this House.”

The committee is chaired by Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes and includes Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Centreville MP Reece Chipman and South and Central Andros MP Picewell Forbes.

Foulkes insisted that the committee has been meeting regularly, and met as recently as last week.

Bahamian Evolution, which continues to lobby for the protection of the country’s natural resources, has also hand-delivered an order for a commission of inquiry to the governor general.