Speaker: Parliament likely to proceed today, despite Cabinet exposure

Speaker: Parliament likely to proceed today, despite Cabinet exposure
Speaker of the House, Halson Moultrie.

PM Minnis expected to address Parliament on PAHO/WHO recommendations

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — House Speaker Halson Moultrie said yesterday that it is likely that Parliament will meet quorum and be able to sit today, despite the exposure and quarantine of multiple Cabinet ministers.

Several Cabinet ministers have had to test and quarantine following their potential exposure to Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The prime minister reportedly had no direct contact with the minister.

The Cabinet held its weekly Tuesday meeting, virtually.

In an interview on ‘Beyond the Headlines’ with host, Clint Watson, Moultrie noted that while Parliament is expected to sit, all of the Cabinet ministers who came in contact with Ferriera will be in quarantine.

Moultrie explained that given the set meeting of Parliament, as speaker, he is unable to postpone the adjourned date.

“I was in communication with the prime minister, Dr Hubert Minnis,…and he has indicated that he will attend Parliament tomorrow,” Moultrie said.

“What I expect tomorrow is the number of ministers who were exposed to minister Ferreira’s positive [diagnosis] will be in quarantine.

“…It is likely that we will have a quorum tomorrow. If there is no quorum then the speaker will take his chair 15 minutes after 10am and we will adjourn to a future date.

“If there is a quorum, I expect that we will go through the order of business.”

House of Assembly requires nine members, and the speaker, to create a quorum.

Moultrie noted that the prime minister is expected to give a communication today.

He said: “It is likely that he will give an update on the COVID crisis, as well as his meetings with PAHO and the World Health Organization. It is likely that will be a part of his communication.”

The House speaker noted that given the continued challenges with the pandemic and the local spread of the virus, there is consideration being given to allow Parliament to meet remotely.

He said this has been under review since September 9 and a draft resolution is currently before Cabinet.

“It is very likely in these circumstances that would be a matter that will be addressed so that we could have a hybrid session, where some members can be in chambers face to face, while others could attend virtually,” Moultrie added.

“We have to make certain that we pass a resolution so that the participation of those persons virtually can be legal in its effects in terms of their voting and making up a quorum. We have to look at it seriously.”

The speaker said it is unclear whether or not this matter will be dealt with today.

Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday that PLP parliamentarians were still considering whether they will attend today’s House sitting.

Davis recently recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive in August..

Cabinet exposure 

Leader of Government Business Renward Wells is also among Cabinet ministers who have had to quarantine following exposure.

Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell will serve in the position in Wells’ absence.

Campbell told Eyewitness News that while he did attend the Cabinet meeting last week, he was not feeling well and his stay at Cabinet was very short. He said he had no exposure or contact with Ferreira.

He advised that while he believes the attendance will be limited, he is satisfied that they will meet the quorum to go one with business.

“It’s not a question of whether or not it’s wise to meet but the business of governance must continue,” he said.

“It’s probably a question of where these meetings ought to take place and so I think that is a subject that is up for discussion.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, who is also among the ministers who have been advised to quarantine, said he tested negative for the virus.

It is Turnquest’s third round of quarantine and fourth COVID test as a result of exposures during the pandemic.

National Security Minister Marvin Dames, Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle, and Minister of Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis have each tested negative for the virus following their potential exposure to the minister.

Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield has also recently tested negative for the virus in relation to a separate matter and is in self-quarantine.

The exact number of Cabinet ministers who had direct contact with Ferreira remains unclear.

Four parliamentarians, including a senator, have tested positive for the virus since August.

Last week, St Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 after he was exposed to a positive case during a meeting.

Several House of Assembly staffers have also tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.